The UNESCO Futures Literacy and Foresight team has been engaged in co-designing capacity building activities with stakeholders around the world, working with government ministries, UN agencies and community groups to advance abilities to creatively ‘use-the-future’ to address contemporary global challenges.
The team works with partners across geographies, contributing to the establishment of new learning and research spaces, the exchange of knowledge, and the development of new skills and competences on a vast range of topics, for instance: sustainable, educational, social, and regional futures, as well as systems innovation, human-tech relationship to futures, ethics and duties to the future and exploration of identities.
Flagship Event: World Futures Day
The 2nd of December 2022 marked the inaugural World Futures Day celebration. Adopted at the UNESCO General Conference in November 2021 with the support of the United Arab Emirates Delegation, World Futures Day marks an opportunity to recognise the importance of applying futures literacy and foresight to the global challenges of the present. The focus of the first World Futures Day was ‘Inclusive and Resilient Societies’. A series of hybrid panel discussions brought together global youth, academics, policymakers and experts from across the UN system to explore how futures and anticipatory approaches can be mobilised through the UN Common Agenda to design a more inclusive and equitable world. Conversations focused on Priority Africa; the role of youth, routes towards intergenerational equity, and planetary resilience. The day also offered an opportunity for UNESCO Chairs in Futures Studies to connect with one another, network and explore avenues to strengthen the Global Futures Literacy Network.
Collaboration with Higher Education Institutes
UNESCO has an ever-expanding network of more than 30 Chairs around the world who are working on Futures Literacy, Futures Studies and Anticipation.
Recently, the team has curated a group of world-leading futures literacy and foresight experts to co-design a master’s programme. A product of a partnership with the UNESCO Chair at Prince bin Mohammad Fahd University, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Masters in Science in Futures Studies will be the first of its kind in the region, providing students with the opportunity to advance their research skills, understanding of futures studies and prepare for an array of professional careers.
Moreover, in the context of the flagship programme Imagining Africa’s Futures (IAF) project, UNESCO curated a team to co-design a graduate course at Mohammed VI Polytechnic University in Rabat, organised multiple Futures Literacy Laboratories (FLLs) and futures capacity-building activities with youth across a number of countries in Africa. This includes a recent activity on exploring futures of professional insertion with students at the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University in Rabat (Morocco).
Futures Work across the UN
As the coordinator of the Foresight Network of the UN High Level Committee on Programmes -the main coordination and policy programming mechanism-, UNESCO has been promoting a capability based approach to futures, ensuring knowledge exchange, networking opportunities and capacity building activities on futures literacy including foresight to foster a culture of “futures-orientation” across the UN system and support HLCP’s analytical work. Since 2020 UNESCO in collaboration with various UN sister-entities has implemented more than 20 futures literacy labs and futures capacity building initiatives including a Pilot of Futures Masterclasses targeting UN officers. Working closely colleagues from UNDPPA, UNGP, UNEP, ILO and UN Habitat and external experts from UNESCO’s Global Futures Literacy Network, masterclasses on key futures methods and tools have been delivered covering Horizons Scanning, Scenarios, Speculative Futures and Foresight for System Change, with sessions on Participatory Futures and UNESCO’s trademark Futures Literacy Laboratories to follow.
UNESCO has also been appointed as co-lead of the UN Futures Lab foreseen in Secretary’s General Our Common Agenda Report, along the UN Global Pulse and the UN Development Programme.
The upcoming UNESCO-Prince Mohammad bin Fahd University Symposium (PMU) 2023 Symposium 2023 will address the need to better understand and use futures literacy and foresight, by focusing on assessment and evaluation frameworks for the impact of futures work. It will be hosted at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris on 21-22 June 2023. UNESCO Chairs and experts in the field are invited to an open dialogue and knowledge exchange, to establish the scope and purpose of this work, to map the existing and anticipated challenges and opportunities, and to recommend future research priorities. UNESCO has launched a public call for papers until 18 April 2023.
UNESCO Futures Literacy Summit 2020 (8-12 December)
WFSF Members participate in UNESCO International Expert Meetings. From 8 to 12 December 2020, the UNESCO High-Level Futures Literacy Summit provided testimonials from around the world that being futures literate changes what people see and do. From high ranking leaders in the public and private sector to activists, artists, students and professors, the Summit showed how people become futures literate and the impact it has on all aspects of life (click here to read more).
World Futures Learning Lab (LEALA) was a UNESCO Participation Program project approved in 2012-2013 with pilots in DR Congo, Cairo and Penang, and approved in 2014-2015 for pilots in Haiti, Mexico and the Philippines.
WFSF-UNESCO – Partners since 1974
“WFSF represents one of the most extensive and long-established international future studies networks. UNESCO maintains close and regular relations with it and has on many occasions supported its activities, both intellectually and financially.”
Cooperation between WFSF and UNESCO has taken many forms, including:
• UNESCO financed participants from developing countries to attend WFSF events until 1990;
• Introductory Courses in Futures Studies in the Asia Pacific Region (early 1990s), Budapest (1999-2005); Egypt, DR Congo & Malaysia (2013-14).
• WFSF Members participate in UNESCO International Expert Meetings.
• WFSF contributes to written consultations by UNESCO.
Joint WFSF-UNESCO publications include: The Futures of Culture Series (1990-1993) coordinated and edited by Professor Eleonora B. Masini, WFSF President (1981-1990):
Futures of Culture Volume 1, Eleonora B. Masini [Working Group on the Futures of Culture, Paris, January 1990]
Futures of Culture Volume 2: Eleonora B. Masini [The Prospects for Africa and Latin America, 1992]
Futures of Asian Cultures Volume 3: Eleonora B. Masini & Yogesh Atal [Futures of Asian Cultures, 1993]
UNESCO Participation Program
UNESCO Participation Program has funded several WFSF projects including:
• Futures courses for young people in Budapest from 1999-2005;
• WFSF World Conference in Budapest in 2005;
• An Online Centre for Pedagogical Resources PP: 2006-2007 (implemented 2008).
The aim of the OCPR in Futures Studies was to develop an interactive global repository to act as a hub to gather, store and interlink the diversity of futures pedagogical resources being created globally (including school, undergraduate, graduate, professional and lifelong learning). This encourages participation and collaboration in the ongoing establishment and development of the futures field, particularly through furthering access to leading-edge pedagogical research and practice.
UNESCO documents on Futures Studies from the UNESCODOC Digital Library: