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How is Futures Thinking Shaping Central Europe's Growth and Innovation?


Peter's European Trip to Romania, Poland, Turkiye, and Hungary then Concludes at University of Houston


 

As I return to the U.S. on April 19, 2024, I can tell you that Teach the Future is strong in Central Europe.  I had the privilege of visiting four European Hubs in two weeks– Romania, Poland, Turkiye, and Hungary.  In each country, I found leaders and advocates promoting futures literacy for young people and many groups interested in their message.

 

Warsaw, Poland

Planning for the trip began with an invitation from the Rector of a new university in Poland, the Skola Glowna Mikolaja Kopernika (SGMK, the Nicholas Copernicus Superior School).  Sponsored by the Central Bank of Poland, SGMK offered an MBA and a Ph.D. in banking and finance during its first year, and they are planning new degrees in cybersecurity and communications in the Fall.  The Rector, Piotr Turek, has been introducing foresight to Poland for many years, and now he has the chance to actually include units on futures literacy in these programs.



The centerpiece of my time there was the conference.  I participated in the award ceremony where the school recognized a number of people who had created transformational change in Poland in the manner of Nicholas Copernicus.  Students were also recognized for writing essays on how Copernicus contributed to change in his day.  I was delighted to interview the finalists in that competition and to introduce futures literacy to students and faculty in a short class at the university.  Finally, I achieved a personal milestone by using ChatGPT, for the first time, to contribute to my presentation on the Futures of Education at the conference.  😊



4CF The Futures Literacy Company, Peter Bishop and Kacper Nosarzewski (far right)

I also worked with the Coordinator of the Polish Hub, Kacper Nosarzewski.  Kacper is a foresight professional at 4CF, a foresight consultancy in Warsaw.  He was pursuing an interesting strategy of offering short lessons on futures literacy to schools there.  He had to suspend those lessons because of COVID, but all indications are that they will resume them next year.


We met with researchers from the Educational Research Institute (IBE) which is running a project to develop assessments for the competencies taught in Polish schools -- a big project!  They were interested in our research with the Futures Consciousness Scale, and they fully support our work to bring futures literacy and indeed other competencies to K-12 education there.

 

Bucharest, Romania

Peter Bishop and Diana Stafie, Truth 2040

I came to Warsaw via Bucharest where Diana Stafie is the Hub Coordinator.  Diana is a foresight professional there with her company Future Station.  We met at St. Peter’s School in Barcelona last year at a conference they sponsored.  Diana is also one of many who represented Teach the Future at the Dubai Futures Forum last November.

Diana is also a lecturer in Foresight at the Bucharest International School of Management. 


Diana teaches a Foresight course there four times a year, and I was delighted to be able to speak to her class in the Fast Track Management Program (an alternative MBA program) the day I arrived.  She also assembled a large group of 60-70 educators and others to hear about our work to bring futures literacy to young people in school.  Our objective was to invite those who attended to join the Hub and work with Diana on that mission.  She reported later that she had indeed made a number of excellent contacts to begin that process.

 

Istanbul, Turkiye

After Poland, it was on to Turkiye.  There I worked with a dynamic duo of Hub Coordinators there –

·       Dr. Mustafa Aykut, former Chairman of the Turkish Futurists Association and lecturer in Foresight at Istanbul Galata University.

·       Kazim Sari, a consultant with businesses using advanced technology like drones and electric vehicles, and...



Kazim Sari, Dr. Mustafa Aykut, GEN Koleji associates and Peter Bishop in Istanbul April 2024

The Turkish Hub has indeed gone the farthest in introduce futures literacy in that school.  After a training program we offered to teachers in August 2020, they have taught Foresight to almost 500 middle and high school students.  I was delighted to address some 100 of them in the school auditorium. 


It was one of the most challenging yet rewarding presentations because 1) I usually don’t know what to say to students directly 😊, and 2) they were already introduced to Futures Literacy in their classes.  What was I to say?  Well, they saved the day by developing many interesting questions about the future and about foresight.  So we had more of a Q&A than a long and boring presentation.  I even got to sign many of the Playbooks they use in their classes.

Peter with GEN Koleji students and teachers in Istanbul, Turkiye

We met with some of the teachers who taught the Foresight classes afterwards.  The uniform conclusions were:


1. It took some adjustment for them to stop telling students what they should know like they do in their other classes and work with them to figure out what might happen for the themselves.


2. Once they made that adjustment, they were delighted to see students more engaged and more active in class.


We also met with members of the Turkish Futurists Association and an association of private schools in Turkiye to solicit their support in introducing the success at GEN Koleji to other schools in the country.   The coordinators even believe that there might be a business in training teachers and offering them teaching materials in order to build a financially sustainable Hub in Turkiye.

 

Budapest, Hungary

Last stop, Budapest!  I had been to Budapest a number of times so it was wonderful to meet old friends and make new ones in our quest to introduce futures literacy to young people there.  Through the work of Erzsebet Novaky and others, Budapest University of Economic Sciences (now Corvinus University had been a European center of foresight education in economics and business.  My host was my good friend, Tamas Gaspar, a professor of economics and foresight at the Budapest Business University.




Tamas scheduled us first to address a student conference called BabelFest hosted by the Department of Languages at the University.  What am going to say to a room of language students, me being the monolingual American to boot?  So let’s talk about language, the language of the future.  I developed a list of 12 concepts and terms that futurists use and introduced them as the new language of the future.  It seemed to work according to what Tamas said.





The best part of the day was discussing the future with some of Tamas’ students who were studying in Budapest from all over the world – France, Iran, Nigeria, China among others.  The discussion was lively and enlightening, to me at least, as we discussed the question of preparing themselves and other students for an uncertain and challenging future.  Could not have been better!


Next, we met with faculty and administrators at the University, all of whom seemed genuinely interested in what Tamas was teaching and what is students were learning.  The Associate Dean was particularly eager to begin a research project on the impact of futures literacy in the curriculum.


On to a meeting of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and another presentation to solicit their support for introducing futures literacy to schools there.  Some of the participants came from the Waldorf school in Budapest.  As I understand it, the Association of Waldorf Schools in Budapest already emphasizes competencies in addition to knowledge so we didn’t have to convince them of that.  But they seemed ready to consider futures literacy as a new competency in their curriculum.

The last day, and perhaps the most unusual.  Tamas invited me to attend a lesson he and his colleague were offering to a kindergarten class, on fundamental learnings related to futures literacy.  Kindergarten?  Yes, kindergarten.  Tamas sings and plays the guitar, Bodi draws on a whiteboard, and together they make a story about flowers and birds and…  Way too much to tell here, but I hope you will be hearing more about them soon because I offered to publish their songs and drawings so that elementary teachers around the world can teach the future as well.

 

Houston TX

This was a tour of Teach the Future Hubs in Central, but my return to the States was through Houston, coincidentally on the same day as the annual gathering of the Foresight program there.  I began my career as a foresight educator, so it was fitting that I spend a day at the University 40 years later.


I was fortunate to spend the first evening with Kay Lynn Fenn, a UH graduate and retired high school teacher who worked with us on teacher training in 2010-2011, and John Gresham, who now teaches foresight in his Advanced Placement Research course in a suburban high school. 


The next day I participated on a panel on the meaning of community hosted by Hauson Le, a UH student and Teach the Future advocate.  I was also asked to brief the participants on Teach the Future for which I produced the following charts –


1. The organizations working to bring futures literacy to young people, some of whom follow the lead that Teach the Future set 10 years ago,


2. The Futures Schools that have adopted foresight as a regular of their curriculum, and,


3. The many ways that we and others have been reaching out to young people and their schools to include futures in their curriculum.


Teach the Future owes a great debt to the University of Houston, and it was great to share that day with old and new friends there.

 

So, In Conclusion...

Teach the Future is alive and well in Central Europe and at the University of Houston! 


And I believe that we would find good people and great work if we could visit any of the other Hubs, such as in Brazil, Denmark, Singapore, and the rest. 


I am not one given to exaggeration, as many of you know.  Nevertheless, I honestly believe that this trip was a kind of dream come true, a dream hatched in Houston, Texas with Kay Strong, Kay Lynn Fenn, Katie King (lots of K’s!), Margaret Fitzgerald and the many dreamers who have since joined us in this journey. 


Changing education is one of the hardest things to do, but we are doing it, bit by bit, school by school, slowly and carefully, bringing the future to the young people of our world.  I cannot be more grateful for the outstanding work reported here and for all the work that our friends and colleagues are doing around the world.  


Teach the Future. Yes, indeed!


Peter Bishop presenting at SGMK, the Nicholas Copernicus Superior School, Warsaw, Poland April 2024

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