Futures Literacy – a 21st-century skill for young people

by Androniki Papaterpou and Irianna Lianaki-Dedouli

© Irianna Lianaki-Dedouli

‘Young people…are calling for change now…It is a call to live today in ways that are consistent with the values of freedom and resilience’ as Nicklas Larsen, Jeanette Kæseler Mortensen and Riel Miller write in their article titled “What Is ‘Futures Literacy’ and Why Is It Important?”.[i]

It is true that at a time of great uncertainty when many educational systems continue to stifle creativity, imagination and critical thinking, developing ‘futures literacy’ as a capability is more urgent than ever. It seems that futures literacy has an emancipatory potential which in today’s world seems to be as critical as reading and writing skills. Futures literacy helps to diversify why and how we use the future.[ii] That is to say, by becoming ‘futures literate’, we become aware of the images we have about the future, and at the same time we learn how to recognise and use different types of futures so as to innovate the present and at a personal level realize our full potential.

But why is futures literacy so important? The answer is simple. As the founding father of futures literacy Riel Miller often says, futures literacy is important because the images we have about the future frame what we see and do in the present.[iii]

The first step to become futures literate is to become aware and reflect upon our images and ideas about the future.

One-step further is to engage in a reframing process. Indeed, the so-called ‘reframing’ is an integral part of the more advanced futures literacy interventions. Reframing is not just a process to think outside the box.[iv] When we use the term reframing, we talk about a process in which a radically changed frame is devised or introduced. The latter functions as a guiding framework for simulating emergence that allows for the conceptualization, the meaning making and sense making of possible structures, processes and dynamics that characterise a world or a society in a future unknown to us.[v] A future in which all the key components of the world as we know it today have been overturned.[vi] In this way, we don’t focus on a possible (what is most likely to happen) or a normative future (what needs to be done), but we engage with an unexpected, entirely transformed future in order to embrace complexity and uncertainty and be able to rethink our options and choices. Furthermore, by using the future as a catalyst, we have the opportunity to re-conceptualize our identity and worldview in the present.

By being aware of our images about the future and by playing with unfamiliar futures images and assumptions, we broaden our horizons and sharpen our critical thinking. We develop the capability to identify new opportunities, to invent and mould new worlds of possibilities.

Taking the aforementioned into consideration, we would propose that futures literacy is what we need today in our educational practices.

Preparing and planning for the future along with futures literacy interventions allow young people to develop their creative and innovative thinking and become truly resilient in an everchanging and complex environment whilst considering the wider implications of their actions.

In this context, Bialystok University of Technology, Foundation for Research and Technology Hellas, Hanze University of Applied Sciences in Groningen, Middlesex University Higher Education Corporation, Institute for Sustainable Technologies in Poland and ValueDo s.r.l. in Florence formed a consortium through the Erasmus+ Programme in order to carry out a project that aims at developing innovative, future-oriented processes, methods and tools that will foster personal and professional development among high school students, European University students and Early Stage Researchers.

Stay tuned!




[i] Nicklas Larsen, Jeanette Kæseler Mortensen and Riel Miller, “What Is ‘Futures Literacy’ and Why Is It Important?,” Medium, accessed November 5, 2020, https://medium.com/copenhagen-institute-for-futures-studies/what-is-futures-literacy-and-why-is-it-important-a27f24b983d8.

[ii]Nicolas Balcom Raleigh and Riel Miller, “Futures Literacy across the Deep (FLxDeep),” University of Turku, accessed November 5, 2020, https://www.utu.fi/en/university/turku-school-of-economics/finland-futures-research-centre/research/FLxDeep.

[iii] Riel Miller, “Learning, the future, and complexity. An essay on the emergence of Futures Literacy,” European Journal of Education, 50(4), (December 2015): 513-523.

[iv] Irianna Lianaki-Dedouli, “Thinking outside the box and Futures Literacy,” Futures, accessed November 5, 2020, https://www.futures.gr/2020/08/31/%ce%b7-%cf%83%ce%ba%ce%ad%cf%88%ce%b7-%ce%b5%ce%ba%cf%84%cf%8c%cf%82-%cf%80%ce%bb%ce%b1%ce%b9%cf%83%ce%af%ce%bf%cf%85-%ce%bf-%ce%b1%ce%bb%cf%86%ce%b1%ce%b2%ce%b7%cf%84%ce%b9%cf%83%ce%bc%cf%8c%cf%82/.

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Ibid.