A Training Ground for Professional Futurists

Article excerpt

Readers of this magazine likely agree that the world needs more foresight and futurists. We agree on the ends but not necessarily on the means. One area where we might start to diverge is whether we need professional futurists. After all, one could argue that foresight should be a part of all disciplines, and that everyone should be a futurist. Noble goals indeed, but how do we get there? How can the spread of high-quality, rigorous, and useful foresight be catalyzed? This is where the plot thickens.

The University of Houston Foresight Program long ago adopted the mission of preparing professional futurists. We remain committed to providing high-quality foresight training to help individuals and organizations in business, government, education, and nonprofits. I recently assumed leadership of the program after more than two decades of practicing in the field as a professional futurist, following my graduation from the program in 1990. I have worked alongside many fellow alumni, as well as countless other professionals who did not receive formal training. In my experience, a lack of formal training by no means precludes one from doing excellent foresight work.

Our mission of increasing the number of trained professionals is intended as "additive" rather than exclusionary. Put plainly, our goal is to increase the supply of professional futurists, and we believe formal training helps to do that. Period. I proposed the formation of--and am currently working with--a task force exploring the role of "professionalization" for the Association of Professional Futurists. My personal motivation is to look for ways to spread the use of high-quality foresight. …