Australian Foresight Institute History and Program

Summary

The story of the AFI has many parts, some of which are provided below. The first ever post-graduate course unit on Integral Futures (IF) was offered in Melbourne, Australia at Swinburne University of Technology (SUT) in 2002. It was not a free-standing effort but part of a conscious extension of what was then termed “methodological renewal.” Among the key insights to emerge were that IF:

  • Is not simply an alternative to more limited and partial approaches
  • Offers a larger framework that opens up new options across the board
  • Is a way of bringing together, and honouring, work from many different streams and traditions of enquiry
  • Allows practitioners to balance external phenomena with internal ones.

It’s fair to say that the establishment of the AFI provided a rare opportunity to break new ground and to offer practitioners and theorists alike a new “take” on what futures enquiry and practice was all about, or could be. Read more…

Origins of the AFI

During early-to-mid 1998 I’d been meeting regularly with Adolph Hanich, a friend from my time at Melbourne University. We’d known each other for some years and shared a number of common interests. He’d been CEO of a large company and a partner at one of the leading city consulting firms. His interests in strategy resonated strongly with some of mine on foresight. So we started meeting informally. This led to our developing a number of ideas for designing strategy / foresight workshops that we considered running together at a local management college.  Read more…

AFI_Brochure

Reaching maturity

The next paper covers the first five years of the AFI. It describes how the program attempted to learn from other initiatives in order to develop as a ‘second generation’ Institution of Foresight (IOF). A number of distinguishing features are briefly outlined, along with some of the early results. These include publications, research into social foresight and work on ‘methodological renewal.’ Finally the paper summarises some ‘lessons learned’ that can be applied more widely. Road testing a new model at the Australian Foresight Institute was published in Futures 36, 2004, pp 837-852. Read more

While obviously concerned to look forward in new and innovative ways we were also keenly aware of those who came before us and who provided inspiration and encouragement. Among these was H.G. Wells who had called for ‘professors of foresight’ many years ago. The following brochure is based on a radio talk he gave on the BBC in 1932.

Wells_Brochure

For the full printable text of Wanted Professors of Foresight Click here

Further developments

The following paper was written by Peter Hayward (who took over the running of the program in 2005) with Joseph Voros and Rowena Morrow. It revisits the original design parameters of what was a new Masters in Strategic Foresight that commenced at Swinburne University in 2001. It explores which of the original purposes and assumptions have stood the test of time over the course of a decade and analyses how the course has evolved, partly through design and partly through necessity. The paper reflects on the primary contribution of the Masters teaching experience and proposes that encouraging the students to develop philosophical ‘literacy’ operated to develop both the practicality of their use of methods and the capacity of their leadership and critical thinking. A further theme examines the importance of ‘place’ and the necessity of ‘sufficient time’ for adult development to occur. It was published in Futures 43, 2, 2012.

Foresight Education in Australia – Time for a Hybrid Model? (2012) Read more…

The Master of Strategic Foresight at Swinburne University 2001-2017

The Master of Strategic Foresight (MSF) was first taught at Swinburne University in 2001. This unpublished paper by Peter Hayward and Joseph Voros attempts to provide an overview of the program in the intervening sixteen years. Read more…

DEVELOPMENT OF TOOLS AND METHODS

The Polak Game

This article describes the origins, development and uses of a workshop activity initially developed at the AFI, Swinburne University, by Peter Hayward and Joseph Voros in 2004. Drawing primarily on concepts from Polak’s original masterwork: The Image of the Future (1961) it provides a user-friendly structure for facilitating far-reaching conversations among students and / or clients. It runs for up to an hour or so and provides an accessible approach to exploring such images as properties of cultures and individuals. As such it opens up the possibility of more advanced work. This version also includes a section by Stuart Candy on his later use of the method. It’s of particular interest here as one of the enduring products of the AFI and MSF program. Read more…

A Futures Studies Primer

This article by Joseph Voros is a brief ‘primer’ on futures studies and foresight. The intention is to provide some solid starting points and orientation for people who are new to this field of study. It also places the use of scenarios and scenario planning into context as one methodology within a much broader foresight framework. Read more…

Generic Foresight Process

Joseph Voros outlines a generic foresight process framework based on prior independent work by Mintzberg, Horton and Slaughter. It recognises several distinct phases, leading from the initial gathering of information, through to the production of outputs intended as input into the more familiar activities of strategy development and strategic planning. The framework is also useful as a diagnostic tool for examining how foresight work and strategy are undertaken, as well as a design aid for customised foresight projects and processes. Read more…

Metascanning Framework

The elements of this framework were developed at the AFI during 2000 – 2005. It was first used as a research method in a review and analysis of Foresight Practice in Australia and published in a monograph of the same name which can be accessed here... It was also used in an international project on the State of Play in the Futures Field (SoPiFF). The results were published in a special issue of Foresight 11, 5, 2009. An overview paper is here. The editorial is here.

PARTICIPANT FEEDBACK

Reflections on the Swinburne Master of Strategic Foresight (MSF) Program by Reanna Brown

Modernity has changed literacy and education systems. But to this writer at least, for all the talk of the modern education revolution, we have neglected to examine the most significant means by which we are truly educated. By this I mean the kind of education that can embrace the somewhat opposing missions of teaching us both how to architect a living/career and how to actually live. Education as a social process that helps define how to live, and the society we’d like to live in, is perhaps one of the most unattended elements of any modern schooling. Read more…

Australian Futures: The Swinburne Foresight Program by Meredith Bowden

Humans have been interested in the future since the beginning of time. People have been obsessed with knowing what will happen, and find the unknown uncomfortable. In times of great uncertainty people have turned to fortune-tellers, astrologers, and oracles to try to get answers. We are soothed in the short term by the false sense of security such people provide. We love stories of time travelers who can go back and forth in time, able to change future events by changing decisions in the past or present. Continue reading…