Five Takeaways from the Dubai Future Forum

Twenty Next Generation Foresight Practitioners (NGFP) attended one of the world’s most prominent futures and foresight conferences – the Dubai Future Forum – in November, thanks to a partnership between the School of International Futures (SOIF) and the Dubai Future Foundation. 

Fellows had a great time connecting, collaborating, and sparking ideas for change. In addition to core programming, they attended sessions facilitated and moderated by members of the wider NGFP network. They saw discussions focused on UNICEF’s new youth foresight playbook, Indigenous futures, the role of nature and technology in city planning, what happens beyond net-Zero, intergenerational fairness in policy-making, regulating AI, the role of Afro-futurism, among others. Ahead of the UN Summit of the Future, SOIF’s managing director Cat Tully launched the Statement of Commitment for the Summit of the Future at the forum.

Below are five takeaways from fellows and staff.

  1. The Importance of Global South Next-Generation Voices

Brazilian fellow André Arruda reflected on the wealth of scientific knowledge in Latin America and Africa that often lacks visibility at the global level, and noted the importance of meaningfully including next-generation voices.

“There is a whole new generation extremely engaged with the fundamental agenda for sustainable futures and we need to give them a voice and empower them so they can cause profound transformations in the system that governs our society, expanding dialogue at a global level.” 

André said learning the journey of current and past fellows inspired him.

“This encourages us to be inspired to develop our individual and collective projects in an engaging way, with the knowledge that there are many people around the world, carrying out major transformations for a more sustainable and collaborative tomorrow.”

  1. The Power of Community Building & Network Weaving

During the conference, the SOIF and NGFP teams hosted a welcome space for the 2023 fellows where they met in person for the first time and pitched their projects. They also hosted an intergenerational breakfast with past fellows, judges, and the wider community of global futurists and foresight practitioners that were at the Forum. 

Alice Dimond, a fellow from New Zealand, said she learned a lot from watching how SOIF, NGFP and the Association of Professional Futurists created environments where people can learn from each other and collaborate. The network weaving and support work by the SOIF and NGFP teams prior to and during the forum facilitated that. 

“It made me think that every conference needs to have some form of community building wrapped around it because without it you can’t gain the level of trust needed to have robust conversations around the scheduled sessions.”

U.K. fellow Alex Turner, who is new to the foresight field, said: “I loved being able to come into the event in this way – it was safe and inclusive, and definitely allowed me to make more of the forum than I had anticipated.” 

Australian fellow James Balzer said attending the Forum as an NGFP fellow gave him “a robust community of like minded practitioners to spend time with.”

  1. The Need for Anticipation, Agile Thinking and Impact Measurement

In the futures and foresight world, we know that predicting the future is impossible. But anticipating it is a different matter. 

“Anticipation is the art of sending the future in its approximation” was something James took away. He said thinking in an adaptable and iterative manner is also needed for innovation. 

Building on this, André saw a cross-sectoral global challenge when it comes to measuring the impact of long-term strategies. At the same time, it’s needed to influence decision makers.

  1. The Power of Storytelling

One of Alex’s favourite learnings was about the power of using imagination as evidence, and how crucial what Sophie Howe (Wales’ first Future Generations Commissioner) calls Data, Narrative and Action (DNA) are. 

“As a storyteller, I really enjoyed the focus on storytelling, as well as the threads woven throughout on the power of networks and collaboration from the ground up. In this space, I transitioned from feeling like I was an outsider walking the edges to being firmly planted within an awe-inspiring, vibrant and diverse community.” 

“Storytelling has this fantastic power of teleporting us to another world so when people hear these storylines they are connecting the hearts, minds and bodies to the imaginations of others,” said Thays Prado, a fellow from Brazil.

  1. The Need for Individual and Collective Reflection

Finn Strivens (NGFP 2020 Fellow) facilitated a session exploring how the field of foresight needs to evolve alongside Prateeksha Singh and Ana Tiquia (NGFP 2019 Fellows). Their session explored how the field of foresight needs to evolve by asking attendees to imagine the Dubai Future Forum in 2030. Click here to connect with Finn and learn more.

“Feedback from our session made clear to us how necessary individual and collective reflection is on the foresight field – particularly when we consider how our own practices shape the collective whole,” said Finn, who is also the creative lead on SOIF’s National Strategy for the Next Generations programme. “Reflecting on what we need to address in our own practices was used as an entry point to understand how the field as a whole needs to change.”

We’re excited to see how these connections and seeds of collaboration among diverse, emerging foresight practitioners globally will bloom as they help shape sustainable and equitable futures.

One response to “Five Takeaways from the Dubai Future Forum

  1. Dear all
    Wishing you a prosperous 2024! I am looking forward to leadership from SOIF!
    I am particularly interest in how you have helped shaped religious organisations futures over the past years! It would be a bonus to learn from that experience or to visit a website HOW you managed it?
    Kind regards
    Ernst Swanepoel

Comments are closed.