Masters of Strategic Foresight (MSF) Wake – 25th November 2016


In late November some 150 people turned up at the Kelvin Club in Melbourne for a private function to celebrate the success and mark the imminent closure of the MSF program at Swinburne University. The original program was set up in 1999 at the invitation of the then VC, Iain Wallace, as the Australian Foresight Institute (AFI). With Barry Jones as its patron and an experienced and capable board, it soon acquired a distinctive national and international profile. As is well known I was appointed as Foundation Professor of Foresight and ran the AFI until 2004. At that time a new VC was appointed who pursued a very different agenda which, for reasons best known to himself, included closing all the university’s institutes. The foresight program was then absorbed into the Business School. Peter Hayward took over the directorship and ran the re-named MSF for the next decade. The program will close in 2017 after 17 years.

During that time perhaps 200 ‘mid-career professionals’ have taken the program or, in some cases, taken units of particular interest from it. Listening to those who undertook the course one hears many variations on a consistent theme. That is, how it changed lives, allowed people to see the world and themselves differently and, in the end, to discern new personal, organisational and social options. So while the program had its ups and downs it will be remembered as an outstanding success, and one of which all those involved can be proud. And more have been involved than can be named here. They know who they are and thanks are due to each and every one of them.

It was fitting that Joseph Voros, who’d taught in the program longer than anyone, was the MC for the evening. His enduring penchant for formal wear received expression during the evening with many choosing to emulate his spotless dinner suit. A space was also made to remember some of the colleagues who were no longer with us: John Batros, Frank Fisher, Richard Neville, Jan Lee Martin and, of course, Adolph Hanich. Adolph was, in many ways, the genial ‘godfather’ of the AFI / MSF. He’d not only provided the original suggestion that led to its establishment but also enduring support and encouragement throughout.

Yet this was by no means a heavy or solemn occasion as evidenced by the many vibrant conversations taking place between people who’d shared both the frustrations and joyfulness of the course. Peter Hayward, also in formal attire, was in high demand to be thanked and pose for photographs with appreciative students and others. The Sass and Vibe Quartet performed in a cappella (unaccompanied) mode, to the delight of all. Finally a brilliant dash of humour was added to the mix with the Foresight Foursome. This was the brainchild of Bec Mijat who worked with artist John Corba to produce delightfully witty caricatures of Joe Voros, Peter Hayward, Rowena Morrow and myself. These ‘luminaries’ were re-named as The Voroscope, Captain Foresight, Madam Tomorrow and, for myself, Richard A. Sorcerer! Hopefully this initial group will be expanded over time.

Sass and Vibe provided a farewell musical wind-down and the after-party moved downstairs to the bar where conversations continued well into the night. Overall, it was a highly successful event that all who were there are unlikely to forget.

Further information

AFI history and program: Open here

AFI foresight monographs: Open here

Remembering: Open here

20th Anniversary of the KBFS

Futs_KBFS_25_3_1993_small2016 marks the 20th anniversary of the Knowledge Base of Futures Studies (KBFS). It first appeared as a special issue of Futures in March 1993. Besides the editorial it contained 7 original papers, 10 ‘divergent perspectives’ (from as many different countries) and no fewer than 5 bibliographies. The first book edition was a three-volume set presented in a sturdy slipcase. The first volume covered Foundations, the second Organisations, Practices and Products and the third Directions and Outlooks. It was officially launched at a World Future Society Conference (WFS) in Washington DC during July 1996. Hughes de Jouvenel, Wendell Bell and Hazel Henderson assisted with the launch. Two further hard copy editions followed. Then in 1999 and 2000 KBFS_ProfEd_2005_smallmy son Rohan and I converted the original files into html documents and assembled the first CD-ROM. It was followed in 2005 by an expanded 5 volume professional edition that was subsequently adopted for university courses around the world. A succinct account of how and why the KBFS was developed, along with some of the feedback it received, can be found on the FI site here. Also see here under Futures Archive.

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Toronto Resources

As part of the preparation for WFS and APF events in Toronto at the end of July, I’ve gathered together a number of resources that are relevant to sessions I’m taking part in. There are obviously other resources on the other three sites I administer, but I thought it useful to assemble some of the most relevant items in one place. They are filed on the Toronto Resources page under: Education Bootcamp, APF, ‘Megacrisis’ session, Bio and Other Items.

Shaping the Future Video from 1996

I’ve just put links to two clips of this short video from 1996 on the Futures in Education page, along with an introduction and paper that tells the story in a little more detail. Briefly, I was involved in designing and implementing a new upper secondary school subject called Futures – Personal, Social, Global. The subject was successfully trialled in a number of Queensland schools and the early evaluations were positive. But then the Board of Senior Secondary School Studies (BSSSS) was reorganised and, somewhere in the shuffle, the new subject was abandoned.

I invite you to look at the clips, read the short paper and arrive at your own conclusions.

Education for the 21st Century Revisited

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Partly as a tribute to Hedley Beare (see below) and partly because the issues raised in the earlier edition are at least as significant today as they were in the early 1990s, a revised and updated edition of this book can now be obtained from the FI site. The book, which has long been out of print, has been re-constituted from original pre-publication files. Besides a new introduction it contains new figures and appendices. The latter includes three reviews of the original book, a brief rationale for futures in education, a short ‘op ed’ piece published in The Age newspaper, a personal tribute to Hedley Beare and, finally, a short reflection piece that considers the book in the light of subsequent developments.

As the world slowly becomes aware of the global emergency humanity has created for itself, I hope that works of this kind will be taken up and used more widely. PDFs are available from the FI site: http://www.foresightinternational.com.au/

To read the 2011 Introduction to Education for the 21st Century Revisited Click here