Chapter 1. Introduction – Our Emerging Foresight Field

Foresight Training Options

Today, most foresight professionals are trained informally, both on-the-job and via conferences, workshops, and in self-study. Our field attracts individuals with undergraduate or graduate degrees in business, engineering, statistics, economics, the social sciences, journalism, the humanities, and just about every other discipline on offer. Such diversity is central to foresight. No matter the academic subject, there are folks within it who are curious to look to and analyze the future.

Fortunately, some universities and a few educational startups, like Singularity University and our Foresight University, are starting to see the value of teaching foresight competencies and methods. There are now a small number of both residency-based and online foresight courses and certificate programs available to aspiring foresight professionals. There are also, by our count, twenty-three full-time graduate programs in primary foresight (MS and PhD programs) presently available globally.

U. Houston Foresight MS (since 1975)

U. Houston Foresight MS
(since 1975)

U. Hawaii Foresight MS and PhD (since 1976)

U. Hawaii Foresight
MS and PhD
(since 1976)

Our first two graduate programs in foresight emerged at the University of Houston, (MS only, since 1975) and the University of Hawaii—Manoa (MA and PhD, since 1976). In the forty years since, close to thirty additional MS and PhD programs in foresight have emerged globally, and the majority of these survive today. The strongest growth in foresight education, especially in certificate programs, has been in the last ten years.

Thirteen of these MS and PhD programs teach in English, and ten in other languages. English-language graduate foresight programs now exist in Australia (U. of Swinburne, unfortunately closing), Canada (Ontario College of Art and Design), Denmark (Aarhus U.), Malta (U. of Malta), Finland (Turku School of Economics), Germany (European Business School), Hungary (Corvinus U.), South Africa (U. of Stellenbosch), Taiwan (Tamkang U.), and the United States (California College of the Arts, U. of Houston, U. of Hawaii).

There are also non-English-language residency programs available in Colombia (EU Colombia) France (CNAM), Germany (Free U of Berlin), India (U Kerala), Iran (U Tehran), Italy (Leonardo Da Vinci U), Mexico (Monterrey IT), Portugal (U Lisbon), and Taiwan (Fo Guang). See FERN’s list of 23 primary (foresight-specialized) residency graduate programs, roughly 100 secondary (foresight-related) foresight graduate programs, and a smaller number of online, part-time secondary foresight grad programs at our online and community-editable directory of foresight resources,

As you can see in the World Map below, Asia, Africa, and Latin America need much more coverage!

World Map of Primary Foresight Graduate and Certificate Programs

World Map of Primary Foresight Graduate and Certificate Programs

Unfortunately, most universities don’t strongly support the concept of foresight education. These programs are typically underfunded and poorly marketed to prospective students, and their annual number of entrants is small. Universities will often terminate programs as soon as the faculty leader retires or gets ill, or even if student attendance drops for a few years. They rarely enable foresight faculty and students to offer their foresight methods throughout the university, as an internal client of the program, to facilitate better foresight thinking in all the academic domains.

The faculty share some blame for the current immaturity of our field as well. Most foresight programs today teach only a small subset of the skills and methods in our field. They don’t make the case for all four domains of foresight (universal, personal, global, and organizational), and they teach only a handful of the twenty specialties mentioned later in this chapter. Many programs neglect the science and systems thinking of foresight (probable futures), preferring instead its art (possible futures) or its politics (preferable futures).  The faculty often don’t require basic scientific literacy, or strong verbal and analytical skills, as prerequisites for entrants. Other serious academic disciplines have such prerequisites, and foresight needs them too.

The value of the degree in most foresight programs today comes not so much in the skills learned as in the connections you make to a small community of other passionate and talented folks who also find themselves compelled to think about and improve the future. By testing your foresight methods, models, and insights against your colleagues, you can greatly improve them. As foresight is such an emergent field today, these programs work best for students who are self-starters who enjoy working with others and who are driven to better understand and guide change.

Foresight will continue to grow up. For our field to fulfill its tremendous potential we will need many more MS and PhD graduates of our existing programs, and degree holders from other disciplines, to go out and start more training programs (graduate programs, certificates, and courses), both in universities and in entrepreneurial startups in coming years. The more good programs we have, the more powerful our profession becomes. New foresight programs must have higher entrance standards, encompass more of the diversity of foresight practice, validate our best methods, require students to do valuable work for internal and external clients, and graduate a new generation of motivated practitioners. The future is bright for foresight education, if that is your interest or calling.

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