Lessons Learnt

 

The following compiles a set of recommendations based on the lessons learned through the first five country-based Schooling for Tomorrow initiatives: One each in the U.K., the Netherlands and New Zealand and two in Canada. They comprise pointers to keep in mind to get the best out of Futures Thinking initiatives, from the very outset to ensuring tangible results and learning for participants and similar projects. Please note that these lessons are by no means exhaustive.

 

The Outset

  • Ensure that Futures Thinking adds value to the context in which it is applied and that its framework gives sufficient freedom for innovative processes to unfold.
  • Be clear about the objectives and ensure that the scenario method is chosen as a tool to achieve them and not as an end in itself.
  • Ensure a time horizon of the futures work of at least 10-15 years and if possibly longer into the future. This does not prevent the initiative from connecting back to the present.
  • Ensure that the initiative has a formal connection to strategic planning processes so that there is potential for scaling up outcomes.
  • Ensure that the futures work is protected from everyday concerns and immediate political, financial or social controversies.
  • Ensure that the initiative is not limited to reflecting on the future, but also includes conceptualising how to change current systems in specific ways.


Getting started

  • Choose organisational arrangements which can help foster a genuine interest in the unknowable future and make scenario exercises effective.
  • Ensure legitimacy of the process through the participation of a wide cross-section of stakeholders and bring into situations that demand their interaction.
  • Bring external facilitators on board to provide extra impetus to the process, as well as to create a neutral ground of discussion.
  • Include experts in the team to ensure that the scenarios are well grounded both in relation to societal and educational trends.
  • Involve stakeholders playing a key role in the area that the scenario addresses, be it colleagues, students, parents or policy-makers.
  • Skilfully deal with points of resistance that often accompany organisational change and creative processes.


The Process

  • Build scenarios on solid trends analysis to clarify and deepen the understanding of the major forces that underpin the change of education systems.
  • Ensure that scenarios development processes take into account trends of both the outer world and the nearby environment, not merely the latter.
  • Use a combination of participatory approaches to help participants think “outside the box” and question their own and others’ values and assumptions.
  • Take care of not moving too quickly to preferred scenarios and use also those scenarios which are less attractive, but just as likely.
  • Allow time to identify and specify the values that support existing practices and structures and which appear in each of the scenarios.
  • Ensure that the setting for policy-makers’ participation is conducive for them to “let go” of control and act as participants rather than as owners of the process.

 

Benefits

  • Use evaluation mechanisms throughout the initiative to obtain information on both benefits and criticisms and to measure its strategic impact.
  • Incorporate capacity-building mechanisms in Futures Thinking processes, even if it is not the primary objective of the initiative, to ensure longer benefits within the system.
  • Ensure that Futures Thinking initiatives always show tangible results, even if this is not the primary objective of the process. This can simply be in the form of reporting and lessons learned.
  • Be clear, precise and innovative in the method of presenting findings in order to avoid information overload that would distract attention.
  • Make the work cumulative so that lessons learned are carried over to new initiatives and are fed into decision-making processes.
  • Plan how successful and innovative pilot experiences can be replicated to other similar situations and thereby build a multiplier effect of futures work.

 

Articles:

Reflections on the Practice and Potential of Futures Thinking (pdf)

Starter Pack

 

See also:
Trends