As a result, work has now begun towards encouraging communities to understand how to think about the future — futures literacy — and engage with participatory futures activity. Futures literacy is defined by UNESCO as an essential, universally accessible competency which allows people to better understand how they can anticipate the future and plan accordingly,30 and it has set up more than 100 “Labs” aimed at fostering it.31 Research continues to explore how the human mind envisages the future, and how this process might be duplicated or augmented with machine intelligence and immersive technologies.
Participatory futures take a variety of forms, but generally aim to tackle a more specific challenge, generally beginning with a briefing designed to expose participants to alternatives, often employing fictional or narrative elements to engage imaginations. Structured discussion follows to identify and expand on a set of preferred futures.32 These methods are now being trialled to help rural communities define their futures after the net-zero transition, or to help city-dwellers understand how urban design can improve their quality of life.33
Beyond these, we can start to work towards futures resilience, the capacity to survive emerging challenges, obstacles, risks and crises and come out from them relatively unharmed. This is a general capability and infrastructure, rather than the identification and specialist management of individual risks and includes the ability to learn from them in a way that leads to re-thinking existing structures, systems, and practices and regarding the needs for possibly changing them accordingly.34