Futures Literacy Incubator

What is Futures Literacy?

Anticipation is fundamental to the world that surrounds us – from human beings that plan for the future, to the anticipatory instincts of basic biological systems underpinning the living universe. Human beings and the social systems we create continuously make use of the future to frame our actions, choices, and therefore our agency in the present. Often our framework for the future is based on tacit assumptions about how the future could or should look. 

Futures Literacy is concerned with revealing the Anticipatory Assumptions that inform our vision of the future, moving from tacit to explicit, and building up the capability to imagine different kinds of future including those that are not necessarily desirable or probable. In doing this, Futures Literacy enables a more robust imagining of the later-than-now and develops an ability to understand and use novelty and complexity in framing our present choices.

Why is it useful?

Exploring the theory and practice of Futures Literacy may be useful to both individuals and organizations in the following ways: 

  • Futures Literacy creates an opportunity to integrate the process of future thinking into day-to-day work and push for innovation.
  • It allows proponents to utilise a range of anticipatory systems and processes (as needed) in implementing current strategic priorities.
  • Opens different avenues for advancing the individual and organization-wide capabilities needed to “use the future” efficiently and effectively.

What is a Futures Literacy Laboratory?

The Futures Literacy Laboratory is a learning-by-doing collective intelligence process that involves getting participants to describe and imagine different kinds of futures in the context of a particular topic – for example, “The Future of Science” or “The Future of Youth” depending on what is of concern to the group assembled. The Laboratory is meant to be highly contextualized to suit the conditions in which it is used. Through the lab, participants explore different ways of using the future, imagining probable, preferred as well as strange and unexpected futures. The goal is to get participants to think about thinking about the future – and to disrupt the tacit assumptions that they usually use for this task. This process enhances participants’ personal and organizational Futures Literacy or capacity to use the future.

What does the Incubator do?

The Future Africa Futures Literacy Incubator is a new centre dedicated to 1) understanding how the future plays a role in driving innovation and embracing complexity, and 2) designing processes that use collective intelligence to create knowledge and make sense of complex emergent reality. This in turn leads to more innovative and resilient approaches to turning human aspirations into reality.

The Incubator is a collaborative partnership platform bringing together a diverse range of academics and practitioners that engage in capacity development and research that advances the knowledge, theory and practice of anticipatory systems and processes. The Incubator is based at Future Africa at the University of Pretoria, in collaboration with key partners, such as the Albert Luthuli Leadership Institute, Wits School of Governance, and Stellenbosch University. The Incubator is designed to be a resource centre in Africa, providing training, tools and expertise to design and run Futures Literacy initiatives across the continent.

Futures Literacy Manager

Mr Jason Owen