Futures Thinking

Please read and reflect on the following executive summary for this proposal,
or even better, the full proposal given here: FuturesThinkingProposal.pdf
Then please read and contribute to the commentary for this proposal.

Executive Summary: Futures Thinking and Innovation
Authors: Janna Anderson and Anthony Weston


In his Charge to the Class of 2011, President Lambert laid out challenges to the generation we are now educating, including remaking public education, facing the debt issue, the need to find practical solutions for energy and environmental problems and to find our way to a resilient and vigorous practice of religious tolerance. This QEP proposes that Elon embrace the project of teaching students the necessary skills to think in distinctively critical, creative, and constructive new ways – in short, Futures Thinking (FT) – at a whole new level of deliberate aspiration and specificity.


Suppose that in ten years all Elon graduates were able to:

  • Anticipate and articulate multiple significant ways in which patterns of change now developing – including those probable but not now visible – will affect and possibly transform both the field of his/her interest/major and society as a whole.
  • Use multiple problem-solving and creative-thinking skills to develop original ideas for innovative responses to such patterns of change, both foreseeable and unforeseeable; including significant and broad-scale possible mitigations or alternatives to the negative aspects of the patterns of change now being discussed or beginning to emerge.
  • Base these abilities in turn upon multiple significant ways in which they have already been engaged with Futures Thinking at the personal and institutional levels, as well as engagement with the work of contemporary futures thinkers; and their deeply-rooted expectation to make FT a part of their continuing lives.

New Curriculum

Develop and implement a futures-oriented curricular initiative systematically integrated into GST110. On the upper level, mandate a futures component in senior seminars, and/or a separate course (“Chemistry: Past, Present, Future”, “The Future of History”, etc.) in each major. Create Immersion Semesters for students interested in taking carefully-coordinated clusters of futures-oriented courses in various disciplines, with a coordinated travel component. Create a Futures Studies minor with affiliated faculty from across the University.

Related Initiatives

Create an independent office of diverse Futures Advocates to challenge and diversify our usual operating assumptions and practices in regard to the future, including establishing a series of invited Visiting Futures Visionary/Scholars who will speak both to Elon’s situation and to the region’s. Commit to funding at least one major new future-oriented regional or global initiative per year, designed from the start to be able to spin off into independent, on-going projects (that might also employ and showcase our students and graduates). Initiate a "funding best futures project," which involves students led by faculty filtering foundation requests for philanthropy, with the possibility of developing a global reputation for philanthropic futuring. Create and “brand” a futures studies curriculum for K-12 educators. Establish a campus-wide foresight unit to monitor emerging-futures scenarios. Launch highly visible and carefully thought-through small–scale pilot projects on or near campus, such as incubators for new technologies, projects to revivify locally degraded economies/ecologies, and arts initiatives with a distinctive futures focus. Make Elon a visible generative node both for new programs and for new ideas in the area.

The full proposal given here: FuturesThinkingProposal.pdf

Please read the comments on this proposal and post your own thoughts/responses (or e-mail QEP@elon.edu)

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