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From Flanders to the Middle East, Teach the Future is Reaching Governments & Executives

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

It’s been a busy month. In fact, over exactly one month, from September 26 to October 24, one government in Europe and one in the Middle East made steps forward to increase the use of foresight among their constituents. Let me explain.

Futures Festival in Kortrijk, Futurotopia

Dr. Bishop presents at Futurotopia, Flanders

The most important event in this amazing month was a Futures Festival in a city in West Flanders, a region in Northwest Belgium. The county of West Flanders (West Vlaaderen, for those who speak Dutch) in cooperation with POM West-Vlaaderen, the economic development agency, and TUA West, a university alliance, sponsored the Festival to promote the use of foresight in two sectors of the region – education and business. West Flanders is already an innovative commercial region in Belgium with successful entrepreneur ventures in textiles, synthetic fibers, and plastics. And, as is often the case, it is the strong that work harder to improve themselves, and West Flanders is no exception.

Led by kicked off, the Director of the Belgium Hub for Teach the Future, the Festival began on Tuesday evening, September 26, with a community meeting of some 300 invited guests. The Directors of TUA West, Charlotte Destoop, and POM West-Vlaanderen, Lieven Tack, opened the evening program with the purpose of the festival – i.e., to increase the use of foresight in the region.

Thomas D'hooge and Peter Bishop

Dr. Bishop delivered the keynote address for the Festival with one of the principles of foresight, namely to Embrace the Uncertainty. No doubts that the future is uncertain, but most view uncertainty as the problem. Uncertainty is a problem in a culture believes in right and wrong answers, beginning with the schools. The real questions and challenges of our day, however, do not have right and wrong answers. Rather they require complex answers and solutions that are inherently uncertain and that cannot be assumed away. So, we should learn to use judgement in the face of uncertainty in school rather than answer multiple choice questions and solve prescribed mathematical problems.

Dr. Bishop’s message that evening was that uncertainty is growing in our world today, given the increasing rate of change and the greater frequency and effects of serious disruptions. But uncertainty can also be an advantage because we can influence only influence the future if it uncertain, at least to some extent. To paraphrase Margaret Drabble, “The more that is unsure, the more that is possible.”

That evening kicked off two days of instruction, discussion and activities, first for educators on Wednesday and for business leaders on Thursday. And it really was a festival since the organizers created discussion groups using comfortable furniture in a large open space and Martine Vanremoortele captured the proceedings in lively and informative infographics. As a result, West Flanders is on the way to becoming a leading example of the value of foresight in all sectors of society, beginning with its use in education.

Mastering Global Trends and Scenarios: UAE Executive Preparation

Dr. Bishop with Dr. Anis Brik, Associate Professor and Founding Director Program for Social Policy Evaluation and Research (PROSPER), College of Public Policy (CPP), Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU), Doha, Qatar

Dr. Bishop also continued his work in adult education this month under the Foresight Fundamentals brand within Teach the Future. In early October, he was in the UAE to introduce foresight in a three-day seminar entitled “Mastering Global Trends and Scenarios” which kicked off a nine-month executive preparation program for government officials. Dr. Bishop also met with officials from the Prime Minister’s Office and with an agency working on behalf of young children to promote the idea of including foresight in the schools there.

The month ended with another three-day program in Qatar in what was probably the first foresight training in that country. The program was sponsored by the Qatar Foundation and the Program for Social Policy Evaluation and Research (PROSPER) at the College of Public Policy (CPP) at Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU). That event could well lead to foresight in the College courses, and indeed in K-12 schools as well.

Meeting Our Aspiration of Teaching Change & Foresight

It has been a long road getting to this point. The ultimate aspiration that every student learn something about change and foresight in their education is still a long way off, but Teach the Future made important steps in this short, four-week period.

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