Learning to envision the future: the first World Summit on Futures Literacy at UNESCO

UNESCO is convening a High Level Futures Literacy Summit 8-12 December that will directly address the massive disruptions that 2020 has brought to humanity’s images of the future, and provide practical solutions for overcoming today’s challenges by becoming more “futures literate”.

On December 8, over 5000 participants from around the world will cross the virtual lobby of UNESCO’s Futures Literacy Summit in order to experience the power of the human imagination. The Summit offers anyone with a computer and internet connection an exceptional five day learning experience. Over 100 booths and events, spanning an amazing range of organisations and sources of the images of tomorrow, will enable participants to engage their own anticipatory capacities directly. Some 40 global leaders will share why they are convinced that Futures Literacy is an essential competency for the 21st Century.

By mobilizing and presenting the latest advances in human thought, UNESCO has since 2012 co-created over 80 Futures Literacy Laboratories for a very diverse audience such as governments, international organizations and major business associations, that provide rigorous, convincing and highly practical results. UNESCO has also generated a quickly growing network of academic chairs on Futures Literacy across the globe. The impact of these labs is direct, immediate and tangible – the participants improve their ability to ‘use-the-future’.

Doing so, like when someone learns to read and write, fundamentally alters both what they are able to know and what they are able to do. This is not a modest change, it is a big change in capability. One that is of fundamental importance in moments, such as the current global pandemic, when the future seems both challenging and uncertain.

Amidst the realization that all of humanity will have to face the economic, social and human impacts of the pandemic for years, if not decades, to come, Gabriela Ramos, the Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences at UNESCO calls for “a full revision of our economic, social and health models. This new context requires new approaches, new tools and new ways of addressing existing and emerging challenges, including inequality and climate change.”