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Futures Literacy Labs

During the last decade, a new framework for Futures Thinking and Futures Intelligence has been developed by UNESCO and more specifically by Riel Miller, the head of Futures Literacy. UNESCO uses Futures Literacy to enable communities to think about the futures and use this imagination fruitfully in the present, thereby becoming more "futures literate".

In other words, Futures Literacy refers to the competence of being able to consciously understand the role that thinking about the future has in the present.


Futures Literacy Know Labs as a process for futures literacy put emphasis on the underlying assumptions of each image of the future we have and on the neuroscience of anticipatory systems that produce these images of the future. The aim is to surface different assumptions about the future, question them and create new ones which opens up the space for novelty and innovation.

For further reading, see "What Is ‘Futures Literacy’ and Why Is It Important?".

Possible uses of Futures Literacy

  • Futures Literacy Know Labs can be an addition to a more in depth foresight process and are very well suited to start a foresight process, as they raise participants' awareness on how thinking about the future works and what the benefits are. They can also be used in the Interpretation and Prospection phases of a generic foresight process.

  • They can also be carried out as a stand-alone event around specific topics and questions about the future

  • Futures Literacy Labs can be a powerful change tool, as they help to create awareness of non-linear futures, foster imagination, stimulate learning from different alternative futures, thereby increasing preparedness for the changes ahead.

  • They can also be used in conflict situations to help conflicting parties to move towards a shared and preferred future and create a mental common ground.

UNESCO considers Futures Literacy as one of the most important leadership skills in the 21st century. For further details, look at

Futures Literacy Labs (FL Labs) are carried out as workshops and include the following 4 steps:

  • Phase 1: Reveals participants expected and preferred futures and their underlying assumptions

  • Phase 2: Based on the identified underlying assumptions of the expected and preferred futures, a reframed alternative future is explored

  • Phase 3: Based on the insights gained through expected, preferred and alternative futures, new questions that emerge are discussed yielding in a new preferred future

  • Phase 4: Based on the insights gained during the preceding 3 phases, an action plan is developed to head towards a preferred future ("What can we do tomorrow ?")

What makes a good Futures Literacy Lab ?


  • A FL Lab should start with one or more strong and carefully chosen questions as the value of the outcome is directly linked to the quality of those question(s).

  • Every single stakeholder, every single point of view should be represented in a FL Lab in order to maximise the use of collective intelligence and imagination. Always ask: Who is not in the room ?

  • FL Labs can last from a one day workshop to a several months process.

  • FL Labs should be based on real dialogue, where everybody has an equal voice, bypassing existing hierarchies.

  • The process of FL Labs should be inspired by inclusive and collaborative facilitation methods like Design Thinking, The Art of Hosting, Open Space, World Café and Appreciative Inquiry.

  • The particularity of a FL Lab is that it explores expected, preferred and alternative futures ("outside the box"), to stimulate imagination and creativity while at the same time revealing and questioning the role of our assumptions in our images of the future. 

  • FL Labs should also embrace playfulness where possible, to make it a gratifying and engaging experience for all participants.

  • And finally, FL Labs have to be carefully planned and skilfully moderated.


These good practices also apply to the Generic Futures & Foresight processes.

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