Earlier this month, I was out of town for my Aunt Virginia’s memorial service. Auntie V once was asked to sum up her life. She was a natural/intuitive futurist, and said it was “the ability to understand things to come.” She exercised *The Art of the Long View* in politics & community service decades before Peter Schwartz wrote his book by that title.
At her memorial, I shared how visionaries inspire individuals & communities to look beyond apparent limitations to see new POSSIBILITIES. Futurists don’t give THE answers to problems, but use research and questions to facilitate processes where you choose PREFERRED path forward. In essence, communities ARE the answer to their questions, and they can benefit from input to hold up a mirror so they can see it for themselves.
Figuring out our personal or social pathways forward is not a passive process. So, I also shared how I see hope, imagination, and prayer intertwined. Together, they activate our vision & motivate our work toward a future that is different from what otherwise seems inevitable.
If there is one “human universal” that drives a desire for transformation, it’s to make a better world for next generations. We could use more “futuring” to discover & pursue our personal passions, plus develop common ground for the common good in bettering our communities.
Doesn’t every era need this kind of input, to draw out & amplify our trajectory of transformation? I find it fascinating: 3,000+ years ago, the tribe of Issachar had members whose life & legacy was to understand the times & discern what Israel should do. (1 Chronicles 12:32)
If you’re interested in some of the specific tools and techniques involved in strategic foresight (studies of the future), here’s a tutorial, “So What’s a Futurist?” In it, I overview the kind of futuring skills I learned in a one-to-one intensive training over 20 years ago.
When I shared a tribute to Auntie V, I boiled futuring down to three key questions.
1. Helping people see our connections with one another, our interdependence–and welcoming all people of good will to consider how to seek common ground for the common good. The question is, WHO NOW?
2. Using either/or analysis plus both/and synthesis skills to find relevant cultural trends that no one can control–but that will deeply affect or direct our pathway forward as communities–and challenging us to imagine together the constructive (and potential destructive) possibilities. The question here is, WHAT IF?
3. Equipping people to see their way to a paradigm/culture shift by identifying trends that will have significant effects on them, finding patterns of plausible changes, and presenting that in story form to confront them with emotional impact of choices. The question: WHERE NEXT?
I had some fascinating conversations about geeky futurist stuff with my Aunt Virginia — social change, next generations, the pursuit of hope. I’m grateful to have had her as a role model in my own work in social change and advocacy … and to have shared that tribute in her honor.
Here are some quotes I particularly like related to the drive we have to pursue the common good, make things better for next generations, and be activated by hope and pray as we engage our imagination about a more preferable pathway forward.