Learning to foresee – getting ready for the future

We are happy to present the finalised Future Foresight Manual that was piloted and prepared within Youth.Info: Future Youth Information Toolbox project consortium. Please find a welcome article from our team member Evaldas Rupkus and enjoy learning how to foresee the future in your field of practice!

 

 

Living in the ever-changing world, where not only youngsters are overloaded with information, decreases our ability to see what comes next. Even though we have more evidence and research, we feel less certain about what coming day will bring us. Youth information work has proved to create added value in these changing times with its flexibility and that is given through the holistic approach. That is our strength and unique selling point for the society and policy-makers. However, it is not enough only to have your strategic or at least an action plan for the next couple of years.

We study history, but we do not learn how to look into the future. Hence we need to develop methods, how to generate insights on middle to long-term developments. By that, we mean 10 to 50 years from now. Seems impossible? Then

ask yourself, who defines the future?

From the science point of view, the future is not predetermined. Therefore each stakeholder contributes to the shape of it. That is why any process of foresight should be participative and involve the broad range of stakeholders. This enriches not only the result but provides all participants with a unique learning and conflict prevention opportunity.

Youth information is one of the first services to feel the changes in the situation of young people: in 60s in the case of sudden rise in substance consumption and need for legal counselling, in 90s – migration and mobility after the fall of the Iron wall, in 2000s – internet and information literacy issues, in 2010s – youth unemployment and war refugees. Youth information services have been on the frontiers of providing young people with information and support in these crisis situations. However, we could do better in observing societal trends and developments and prepare ourselves and our services to react in even more professional manner.

In 2015 I have interviewed youth (information) workers, NGOs, young people, policy-makers and city politicians on the youth information in the city of Vilnius for the next 15 years. Out of that three scenarios came out of how future youth information could look like. This was the very first pilot in the “soft-policy” field as youth information is, using foresight methodology that normally is being used for issues like national security, economics or climate change. It gave valuable insights because it always includes an aspect of mobilizing for concrete actions, how to reach or shape the future that awaits us.

Foresight in youth information work can help in planning and developing services: it can indicate relevant topics, work methods, formats and channels that the technology will enable and youngsters will require in the future. By bringing all relevant actors in the discussion, you offer the possibility to create a shared vision, since long-term envisioning unites people for common action. It stimulates the awareness building of the added value of your work and herewith lobbies for more support from decision-makers.
Foresight finds itself between fields of future studies, strategic planning and policy analysis. In order to make this rather new approach more accessible, comprehensible and easily adaptable to the work environment, supporting material is needed. Project consortium “Youth.info: Future Youth Information Toolbox” has created this manual to break down the concept of foresight, give concrete practical tips on how to conduct it yourself and has piloted it using three different methods to show examples. It is created not only for the use of youth information workers, but primarily for those who plan, execute and make decisions in this field as also to inspire anyone working as a youth (information) worker, expert, decision-maker etc.

We hope that this manual and foresight approach will open a new window to the future insights for your work, and this time you will be able to meet them with more readiness.

On behalf of the project team,
Evaldas Rupkus

Read the executive summary of the findings here