Last year UNESCO announced December 2nd to be the official World Futures Day. This fact alone asks for a celebration, since even in times of increasing anxiety, global crises and polarization, thinking about how we think about the future is in most places in the world far from common or mainstream. For us who work with futures, it seems so common sense to have a day for this you might think ‘ didn’t we already HAVE a World Futures Day?’
Turns out, we didn’t.
Naming a day around a certain theme (think about World Press Freedom Day, Human Rights Day) in itself might not seem that impactful, but it can give us a pause and the opportunity to pay attention to things that are important to us, shine a light on what is usually overlooked or celebrate (modest) successes. Realizing again that our rights, for humans and non-humans, can never be taken for granted. So naming something is important, and symbols matter. And.. there is an Indian proverb that says: Name the colour, blind the eye.
It means something like: the moment we name an object or phenomenon, we highlight a certain identity, and rob that thing/entity of other ways of being. Naming a day for something, might also force us to interpret it in a certain way. World Futures Day might lead us to think more about certain futures, but whose futures are they? Are we capable of seeing all futures, or do we turn a blind eye for others?
The role of UNESCO in this matter may seem curious as well. After all, what does an organization that is mostly known for choosing our heritage, have to do with futures?
Well… every institute that makes decisions about preservation, actually makes decisions about the future. What do we want to keep for future generations? What is worth saving? Is an old monument more important to us than a community garden?
Whose future are we saving this for?
At the moment of writing we are sitting on the Thalys towards Paris, to attend the celebration of World Futures Day at the UNESCO Headquarters. As UNESCO Chair Futures Literacy in Higher Education, is it important to be present. On the agenda are meeting the other (and new) Chairs, share our latest work, look for opportunities to collaborate, attend the seminar with speakers and panels. Sharing our work on the FUTURES project is definitely of interest for this network, as the Education department of UNESCO is looking at integrating futures thinking in their programs. More and more do we get the question: shouldn’t we include pupils and students? And how? With our three modules, the first survey results and the lessons learnt so far we believe we can proudly say we contribute to the answer.
So what can you do on this World Futures Day? If anything, maybe just take a moment to pause and ponder over these questions:
How do you use the future?
What narratives are dominant? Which ones deserve more intention? Whose futures are being talked about, and which ones are silent? Which futures do we want to preserve?
Whether you have an event planned, dream or worry about the future, December 2nd is a day that all of us can relate to, in our way, in our own time. From your future to mine. Happy World Futures Day!