Review – Coursera’s Futures Thinking Specialisation – Part 2

Crystal Ball
Image by Steven Penton from Flickr with thanks

Since last month, I’ve now finished this specialisation, by working through the last two courses, Collaborative Foresight: How to Game the Future and Urgent Optimism: How to Turn Foresight into Action.

To see my review of the first three courses, go to Review – Coursera’s Futures Thinking Specialisation

Course Four: Collaborative Foresight: How to Game the Future

This course built on the previous four, and got down to the really fun business of playing games. The purpose of these games is to check the usefulness of your projected futures by ‘playing them through’ with others.

I found the Future Wheel to be a particularly powerful tool for drawing out surprising consequences of potential futures by following chains of cause and effect. These insights can then be further developed to create thought-provoking images of what might happen next.

It is often inevitable that we fall into thinking quite pessimistically about the future – unsurprising as we sit in lockdown during a pandemic and contemplate the ravages of climate change and ecosystem degradation. One important skill which this course encourages is the use of positive imagination alongside this shadow imagination.

We are trained to identify leading edge behaviours – the behaviours of the few which might become commonplace in the future. We used the four feelings tool to explore the emotional side of the forecasts we made, looking at what makes us happy, sad, angry or feel gratitude (or any other emotions we wish to explore) with respect to this potential future.

An example of a future game is presented in this course in the shape of the Equitable Futures card game.

Utltimately we bring together all of this learning and tools to define Epic Wins – scalable, community-wide solution to a common problem, rooted in new best practices, policies, rules, regulations or
institutions.

Course Five: Urgent Optimism: How to Turn Foresight into Action

Up until this point the specialisation has presented a dazzling array of tools and ideas for gaining Foresight and Insight – the first first two pillars of IFTF’s Foresight, Insight, Action framework. In this final course, the focus is firmly on Action.

Once a preferred future – one you actively want to work towards, has been identified, one can ‘backcast’. This is the opposite of forecasting and involves a backwards planning process, whereby one can identify each step that is needed in order to reach this preferred future state.

The creative side of Futurism again comes to the fore as we are shown examples of ‘Headlining the Future’, creating first a headline and then a full news story, video, documentary, social media post or other format of artifact spreading the message from your preferred future.

Fittingly, this course and the specialisation ends with a Roadmap tool to allow the learner to lay out a route to the Epic Win they wish to bring about, and a short exercise to make a pledge about the actions they will make.

Taking this specialisation has left me with so many ideas for how I can use these tools in my learning practice, and it has also genuinely made a change in how I view the world. I am constantly scanning for signals of the future, and I even feel slightly more optimistic about some to the challenges we are currently facing.

I cannot recommend these courses highly enough. McGonigal is an inspiring instructor, whose passion for her work shines through every video. The tools themselves are easily and immediately applicable to work and life. Although this learning is about the future, the skills it teaches are applicable immediately, leading to increased autonomy and renewed optimism about what is to come. Access this specialisation at https://www.coursera.org/specializations/futures-thinking

Sarah Le-Fevre is a learning professional who specialises in games-based learning and systems practice for learning design. She is also a Lego® Serious Play® facilitator. A real board games nerd, she is considering having her floors reinforced to support the ever increasing weight of the boxes. Sarah lives in Oxfordshire with her husband, younger daughter, a beautiful Bengal cat and two rats. Sarah is the editor of Ludogogy Magazine. Contact her at sarah@ludogogy.co.uk

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