9th UNESCO Youth Forum

Future Knowledge Laboratory

This year's 9th UNESCO Youth Forum takes place at a unique moment in time - just after the arrival of the new Sustainable Development agenda in September, and right before COP21 in Paris. To take advantage of this historical moment the 9th UNESCO Youth Forum has adopted a cutting-edge design that leverages how we think about the future to impact the actions we take in the present.

What is the future knowledge laboratory

The Future Knowledge Laboratory (FKL) is an innovative and inclusive process that helps people make sense of a complex world. The FKL is like a microscope, assisting participants to better understand the assumptions they use to imagine the future. Equipped with this evidence participants are better able to make informed decisions about the present.

At a practical level, the FKL involves working through three phases:

  1. In the first phase, participants are divided into small teams (assigned in advance of arrival). Each person in the team will be asked to describe their predictions and hopes for the future (the year 2040) as they relate to the Forum themes of the Post-2015 Sustainable Development agenda and Climate Change. In this first phase, the discussions initially focus on what the participant thinks 2040 will look like. The discussions then move on to what the participant wants 2040 to look like. By sharing descriptive snap-shots of how they imagine probable and preferable futures, without thinking about how we might get there, this first phase of the FKL reveals the key assumptions we use to imagine the future.
  2. In the second phase of the FKL, the teams will play a game that fosters creative imagining of tomorrow. As a result of inventing and telling these stories of the future, participants become more adept at identifying and changing the assumptions they use to imagine the future, that shape what they see and do in the present.
  3. In the third and final phase of the FKL, the teams focus on the actions they want to take to address the challenges of the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda and Climate Change. Empowered by a more sophisticated understanding of how the imaginary future enters into decision making today, participants are better able to appreciate the opportunities and threats of a world that is changing in new and unexpected ways. Consequently, participants are in a stronger position to identify the actions and make the decisions they believe might help to achieve humanity's aspirations for resilience, well-being and peace.