Building peace in the minds of men and women

United Arab Emirates and UNESCO join forces for Futures Literate Governance

27 September 2019

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© UNESCO / Riel Miller

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and UNESCO are joining forces to improve governance by improving practical, contextualized capacities to understand the future, i.e. why and how people and organizations anticipate. To create more futures-literate governance, the UAE and UNESCO will apply cutting-edge action-learning and action-research techniques to the challenge of improving decision-makers' anticipatory systems and processes. Both will collaborate to co-design and implement 2 Futures Literacy Laboratories - Novelty (FLL-N) on 1 & 2 October 2019.

The Partnership: UAE-UNESCO
The Prime Minister’s Office of the United Arab Emirates has been working as a local champion, both co-designing and co-organizing two Futures Literacy Labs with UNESCO’s Futures Literacy experts. These laboratories are centered on two themes: the Future of the Public Sector in the UAE and the Future of Education in the UAE and will take place on 1 October and 2 October 2019.    

Expert Experience
Starting in 2012 UNESCO began shifting its foresight activities towards the development of Futures Literacy and the Discipline of Anticipation. This effort is built on UNESCO’s decades of experience in fostering future studies and as a global laboratory of ideas where the latest advances in the theory and practice of using the future are discussed and prototyped. This approach to ‘using-the-future’ has now been applied on the ground and in close collaboration with local champions in over 20 countries (see: Transforming the Future: Anticipation in the 21st Century (2018), also available in Arabic).

Futures Literacy
Futures Literacy is a capability. It is the skill that allows people to better understand the role that the future plays in what they see and do. People can become more skilled at ‘using-the-future’, more ‘futures literate’, because of two facts. One is that the future does not yet exist, it can only be imagined. Two is that humans have the ability to imagine. As a result, humans are able to learn to imagine the future for different reasons and in different ways. Thereby becoming more ‘futures literate’.

Futures Literacy is important because imagining the future is what generates hope and fear, sense-making and meaning. The futures we imagine drive our expectations, disappointments and willingness to invest or to change. Being ‘futures illiterate’ makes people much more vulnerable to fear and becoming attached to ‘unrealistic’ expectations – like we can stop the world changing. In today’s world, with the strength of our tools and our proximities and diversities, the conditions for peace cannot be created without people becoming more ‘futures literate’.

Futures Literacy Labs are designed to:

  • Reveal people’s anticipatory assumptions.
  • Enhance people’s capacity to use the future for different reasons, in different ways, and in different contexts (this is what it means to acquire the capability called Futures Literacy).
  • Enabling people’s ability to ask new questions.
  • Allow for a better understanding of what Futures Literacy is, as well as how to design and conduct FLLs.

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See also