Association of Professional Futurists

Most Significant Futures Works (MSFW)

Current MSFW Nominations

Nominations for 2018 Most Significant Futures Works for works completed from 2016 to 2018 are now open. “How to nominate” and the rules for nominations can be found here.

Works are nominated in three categories: Category 1 Advance the methodology and practice of foresight and futures studies; Category 2 Analyze a significant future issue; and Category 3 Illuminate the future through literary or artistic works.

A new 2018 jury will be selected. Many thanks to the 2017 MSFW judges: Nur Anisah Abdullah, Liz Alexander, Josh Calder, Bob Frame, David Hamon, Robin Jourdan, Jim Lee, Michael Lee, Tricia Lustig, Oliver Markley, Sam Miller, Guillermina Baena Paz, Gabriele Rizzo, and John A. Sweeney.

Winners for 2017 were announced at the APF Annual Gathering in Seattle on Friday evening, July 28, 2017.

If you have any questions, please contact Andy Hines, MSFW Chair. Nominated works will be listed here.

2018 Nominations

Corporate foresight and its impact on firm performance: A longitudinal analysis, René Rohrbeck & Menes Etingue Kumd, Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Available online 2 January 2018 [article] Category 1: Advance the methodology and practice of foresight and futures studies; Nominating member: Andy Hines

I have followed and admired the work of Rene Rohrbeck and his various collaborators in developing and applying metrics to foresight work inside corporations. This latest work might be considered something of a capstone, as he treats us to the results of a seven-year longitudinal study measuring the impact of “future preparedness” and its impact on firm performance. He defines future preparedness in three process steps:

Perceiving: : Practices that Firm use to identify the factors that drive environmental change;

Prospecting: Practices through which firms engage in sense-making and strategizing; and

Probing, an experimental phase with a mandate to act, i.e. venturing or prototyping

They used these categories to assess firm performances and developed a segmentation involving: Vigilant, Neurotic, Vulnerable, and in danger. Cutting to the chase, they found that firms with a vigilant level of preparedness, based on advanced corporate foresight maturity practices, had a 33% higher profitability and a 200% higher market capitalization growth when compared with the sample average. The authors do the field a great service in sharing the approach and results of this ground-breaking study.

Strategic foresight: learning from the future, Patricia Lustig, Triarchy Press, Updated and expanded version September 2017 [link] Category 1: Advancing the methodology and practice of foresight and futures studies. Nominating member: Patricia Lustig

Updated in 2017, this book is designed to help leaders in business, other organisations and communities develop their foresight thinking.  It helps these people develop sufficient understanding of the benefits of foresight so that they can see not only that they need to use foresight, to develop long-term thinking across a range of futures; but also that they need help from specialists to do so.  Written with minimum jargon, it describes useful tools and hands-on ways to use foresight to futureproof organisations. Written by a business insider, it addresses the issues that are important to leaders to enable them to navigate today’s uncertainty and ambiguity towards a sustainable future.

Blockchain and Value Systems in the Sharing Economy: The illustrative Case of Backfeed; Alex Pazaitis, Primavera De Filippi, Vasilis Kostakis, Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Volume 125, 2017, 105-115 [link] Category 2: Analyze a significant future issue Nominating member: Tim Morgan.

The article explores the use of blockchain technology for new values-centric socio-economic organization via Decentralized Cooperation (DC). The system consists of three layers: value production, value record, and value actualization. The described system incorporates features including built-in incentives, cooperative determination of value, reputation economy, distributed social governance, and value tokenization which allows accumulation of value. The last allows DC organizations to interact with traditional markets and other DCs to further create value. The article derives several key insights from an emerging blockchain-based social organization system known as Backfeed. The blockchain-based technological solution creates a DC social protocol which helps individuals contribute to consensus-based common efforts. This leads to an internal social economy with high transparency, common-effort distribution of produced value, and contribution-based rewards. The authors generalize the example. They highlight the transition of Value Production, Value Records, and Value Actualization from the price-based Industrial Economy to the social-sharing based Information Economy of DCs. The authors note a few issues and limitations uncovered by their OuiShare experiment using Backfeed. These issues will need to be resolved to make DC social organization successful. This article should be considered for the APF award because it demonstrates a generalized form for transitioning from current market-based industrial economics to viable technologically-enabled values-based decentralized cooperative social economies.

How to use a futurist, Liz Alexander, e-book, March 13, 2017 [link] Category 1: Advance the methodology and practice of foresight and futures studies; Nominating member: Anne Boysen

Liz Alexander PhD is an award winning writer and editor, who has produced over 20 books in various genres. She writes regular column articles on foresight issues for online magazines such as Fast Company and Psychology Today, which both reach wide audiences. How to use a futurist is of significant value to the foresight community as well as to the clientele considering using the services professional futurists offer. Foresight as a professional field is consistently under-communicated to the outside world and sometimes seems to struggle articulating its exact value proposition to businesses whose consulting budgets are typically tied to measurable performance outcomes. By channeling individual messages from a wide range of professional futurists all over the world, this book gets to the core of what futurists actually do and how they can help their clients achieve their goals. The best part is the book is virtually free (only a nominal price of $0.99 to Amazon), so it functions as a piece of widely distributable promotional material for the foresight community.

The Future of Learning: Redefining Readiness from the Inside Out, Katherine Prince and Jason Swanson (KnowledgeWorks) & Andrea Saveri (Saveri Consulting) Available online July 2017 [report] Category 2: Analyze a significant future issue; Nominating member: Kimberly Daniels

 KnowledgeWorks is a private foundation that works to activate and develop the capacity of communities and educators to imagine, build and sustain vibrant learning ecosystems that allow each student to thrive. KnowledgeWorks’ Readiness paper, created by its Strategic Foresight team with the assistance of an external consultant, has garnered nationwide receptivity for its forecast of key characteristics of future work and its proposal of a framework for redefining readiness. The paper points to a new foundation of readiness in terms of core social-emotional skills as well as foundational cognitive and metacognitive practices that K-12 learners should master in order to be ready for the new nature of work in 2040. Its four scenarios for the future of readiness and strategic considerations for action represent a challenge to education stakeholders to give urgent attention to the need to reframe our approaches to readiness for the success of current and future students.

What lends to the paper’s credibility and effectiveness in forecasting the future of work and the new foundation for readiness is the adoption of its content by a number of K-12 programs and institutes of higher learning throughout the US, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, and other education stakeholders. This paper should be recognized by the APF for: its general impact on how education stakeholders view the future of learning; its strength of content in the exploration of the future of learning; and its effective communication with respect to both textual and visual articulation.

The City, The Country, and the New Politics of Place, Andrew Curry, Journal of Future Studies, March 2017, (link); Category 2: Analyze a significant future issue; Nominating member: Rebecca Ryan

Brexit. The election of Donald Trump. The populism movement that’s spread across North America and Europe. What’s happening? Social, economic, and demographic shifts take many years – sometimes generations – to affect change. Due to their slow-moving nature they’re often ignored by the popular press.

Curry’s article traces four societal shifts that began decades ago and demonstrates how they have culminated into a new era of politics. The first shift is about culture – how today’s youth have a less-is-more, “post materialist” value system, first seen in the back-to-the-land counter-cultural movements of the 1960s. The second shift is about the economic dislocation of the middle class that began in earnest in the 1970s and 1980s and shifted economic power to China and Asia. The third demographic shift is about the reinvention of cities and the re-urbanization that’s taken place in North America and Europe, noted by Richard Florida’s first bestseller The Rise of the Creative Class. The fourth shift is the movement away from blue-collar labor and towards “knowledge work” (first coined by Peter Drucker in the 1950s) and its associated reconstruction of higher value economies and new services required to support knowledge workers.

Taken together, we are seeing a new “politics of place” emerging – where cities and the younger knowledge workers who populate them – are creating more wealth and a fresh set of expectations for politicians. On the other end of the political spectrum, we see those who’ve been “left behind” by social, economic, and demographic. Curry predicts that “[…] We are moving to a new form of political alignment based on geography rather than social class.“

The Future is Now. Authors: International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Futures and Foresight Team (Shaun Hazeldine), Situation Lab at Carnegie Mellon University (Stuart Candy), Changeist (Scott Smith), Superflux (Anab Jain), et al. Format: Experiential futures campaign including diverse media and modes of engagement: popup exhibitions, guerrilla futures artifacts, foresight games, etc.,; 5-11 November 2017, Antalya, Turkey. (Website; Article); Category 2: Contributes to understanding of the future of a significant area (humanitarian aid futures); Nominating member: Stuart Candy

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, headquartered in Geneva and reaching some 150 million people through 191 National Societies. In 2016 the IFRC appointed an expert advisory board of international futurists to recommend approaches from the field for influencing policy, practice and strategy across the organization. The IFRC had no prior formal involvement in foresight activity.

In late 2017, its largest futures experiment to date was orchestrated at the Red Cross and Red Crescent Statutory Meetings, a key biennial event and the organisation’s highest decision-making body. The Statutory Meetings held in Turkey brought 1,000 leaders from all member Societies around the world to look forward to 2030.

“The Future Is Now” campaign included a range of design-led interventions dramatizing future humanitarian challenges, including those affecting internal operations (e.g. financing models, governance practices) and those emerging in the operating environment (e.g. cyberwarfare, climate change). Campaign elements included an exhibit of future artifacts distilling themes from Futures Workshops run throughout the year, a newspaper from the future, an imagination game themed around humanitarian aid futures, and a range of “guerrilla futures” artifacts embodying potential policy challenges, placed strategically around the event for attendees to encounter.

Consequently the IFRC’s Futures and Foresight team has been tasked by the Secretary General with designing the organisation’s Strategy for 2030, and their Futures-branded initiative for disseminating foresight approaches (Solferino Academy) has been named a global strategic priority.

This project’s significance consists in the unprecedented combination of (1) the scale and influence of the organization, (2) the importance of the humanitarian futures theme explored, and (3) the milestone this represents for the field, with a relatively conservative global entity investing in foresight in a far-reaching, multifaceted, collaborative, and highly experimental way –– then deciding to double down.

The State of the Future 19.0; Jerome Glenn, Elizabeth Florescu, and The Millennium Project Team; book and on-line collective intelligence resource (GFIS) [link]; Category 2: Analyze a significant future issue Nominating member: Sam Miller.

Updated in 2017, this most recent edition of the State of the Future serves as a go-to resource for exploring for change and opportunity across society’s major emerging challenges.  Using both quantitative and qualitative assessments, the GFIS provides a rich resource for foresight practitioners and other researchers seeking up-to-date collective intelligence on important issues, forces, and challenges.  A great blend of summarized infographics and in-depth analysis provide a useful resource for the foresight community.

From Data Analysis to Storytelling in Scenario Building: A Semiotic Approach to Purpose-Dependent Writing of Stories; Javier Carbonell, Antonio Sánchez-Esguevillas, & Belén Carro; Futures, Volume 88, 2017, Pages 15-29; article [link]; Category 1: Advance the methodology and practice of foresight and futures studies; Nominating member: Tim Morgan

The article outlines a structured methodology for improved scenario building for futures projects. The work outlines two phases of building scenarios which connect two very different types of information: Research & Analysis (R&A), and Storytelling. The article highlights the problem of Transformation Information Reduction when moving from R&A information to Storytelling narratives. The authors propose a semiotic approach which creates traceability between the R&A information and narrative building by extracting pertinent traits to construct a receiver-centered narrative. The narrative is crafted from the R&A extracted traits to create the narrative in the style that will most resonate with the recipient: emotional, logical, or pragmatic. The paper includes a useful case study to illustrate how to use the technique to write scenarios which retain key information and tailor the narrative to the receiver. The article provides a clear pragmatic approach to improving narrative building and enhancing communication without losing key futures information.  It is easy to see how the approach could be used to build multiple targeted narratives which would maximize communications for diverse recipients, while assuring the same information is communicated with the same emphasis to each. This article should be considered for the APF award because it offers an easily adopted methodology for improving one of the most fundamental tools of foresight and futures research.

Slaughterbots. Stewart Russell & Autonomousweapons.org, November 2017; Video [link 1] [link 2] Category 3 – Illuminate the future through literary or artistic works; Nominated by Tim Morgan

The “Slaughterbots” scenario video is a compelling narrative showing the near-future dangers of autonomous AI-enabled drone swarms. These low-cost devices could easily be abused by governments, or non-state actors to eliminate those with opposing ideologies and terrorize whole populations into submission.  The end of the video calls for international prohibitions on autonomous weapons. This is a significant issue for the future. This video is both compelling in presentation and content. It should be considered for an APF award.

I also note that this technology is not limited to killing. One can easily envision anti-firearms groups or opposing military forces using such drones to destroy weapons while leaving people unharmed. An NGO might use similar autonomous drones to seek out people in underdeveloped regions to “sting” individuals with vaccinations. The implications of this technology need to be fully explored and elevated to governance bodies as quickly as possible, before low-cost autonomous drone technology becomes readily available.

Building Brave New Worlds: Science Fiction and Transition Design, Leah Zaidi; Report;
OCAD University December 17, 2017 [Link]; Category: (1) Advance the methodology and practice of foresight and futures studies; Nominating member: Michael Keoshkerian

This easy to understand, yet rich and complex paper offers an entirely new foresight model titled The Seven Foundations of Worldbuilding. It builds on STEEP, captures a cultural superstructure, and has a version that allows for backcasting within a single framework.

The paper presents new and exciting insights at the intersection of foresight and complex systemic design by examining the worldbuilding processes of science fiction authors. It combines these concepts under the emerging practice of Transition Design. For instance, it argues that we need to forecast destruction while backcasting creation, and that ‘wildcards’ in foresight are comparable to ‘revolts’ in living systems. It demonstrates how to connect the everyday life to a civilizational timescale.  Using the model and ideas in this paper, we can take a truly comprehensive and revolutionary approach to building collective preferred futures.

How late-modern nomads imagine tomorrow? A Causal Layered Analysis practice to explore the images of the future of young adults, Seyedeh AkhgarKaboli, PetriTapio, Futures, 96, February 2018, 32-43; article (link); Category 1: Advance the methodology and practice of foresight and futures studies; Nominating member: George Paap

Creating realistic images of the future is a challenge that the Authors take on using causal layered analysis of interview material from ten diverse students in college (undergraduate and graduate).  The article describes the process of exploration of the primary research conducted as in-depth interviews using Polak’s categorization for images of the future (Essence vs Influence). This study used Causal Layered Analysis (CLA) as the theoretical framework to understand images of the future described by the participants.

Young adults are aware of emerging trends and use social context in describing their image of the future. The unique aspect of this study is its specific attention to the data gathering methods and use of CLA framework. The use of CLA allows creation of more elaborate and in-depth images of the future. The interviews involved self-described “grand tour” type questions with a limited model of active imagination processes for a time period ten years in the future. The paper describes the procedure of implementing CLA to create the images of the future.

The 3rd Ingredient: The Journey of Analog Ethics into the World of Digital Fear and Greed, Jim Blasingame, SBN Books 2018  [link] Category 3: Illuminate the future through literary or artistic works; Nominating member: Joel Barker

APF Member, Jim Blasingame has produced a two-book body of work that focuses on the implications of the collision of the 10,000-year-old Analog Age and the burgeoning Digital Age. The first book, The Age of the Customer, dealt with the evolution of the shift in the relationship between businesses and customers, especially in how the expectation of relevance by customers continues to subduct the classic competitive value proposition. The Age of the Customer won two awards and sold over 90,000 copies.

His new book, which is being nominated for the APF award, is The 3rd Ingredient: The Journey of Analog Ethics into the World of Digital Fear and Greed (copies provided for judges), and focuses on the impact of digital leverage on what Blasingame calls “analog ethics.”  Perhaps like no one else to date, Blasingame helps his readers understand that the ethics we developed during the 10,000 years of the Analog Age aren’t going to be fast enough or preemptive enough against the forces of digital leverage.

Using fictional characters in historically accurate settings, Blasingame takes the reader on a 10-millennia journey from the headwaters of humanity’s vast catalog of ethical elements to how they might manifest in 22nd century parallel universe scenarios. And how things turn out depends on whether we find a way to control digital fear and greed with corresponding ethical forces. Throughout the book, from history to future, Blasingame forces the reader to challenge themselves about how they would behave under the ethical pressures faced by the ethical travelers in each Episode.

One of Blasingame’s primary conclusions is that our greatest danger is not from AI or a robot, but from ourselves. That as we democratize digital leverage, we also have to find a way to democratize digital ethics that can be applied simultaneous with the pressing of an “Enter” key, as we use it to apply digital leverage.

Futures Thinking Playbook, Katie King and Julia Rose West, Teach the Future via Amazon CreateSpace (link) Category 1: Advance the methodology and practice of foresight and futures studies; Nominating member: Peter Bishop

The Futures Thinking Playbook could have a tremendous impact on foresight education since it is the first commercial text on the future (that I know of) designed specifically for secondary school students.  It has already been used as the basis for two enrichment programs in the Houston area attended by almost 150 middle school students in Summer 2017. The Playbook follows the well-known UH Framework Foresight process, but Katie, Julia and the consultants have written and illustrated it using concepts, language and graphics for middle school students.  Teachers are already using the Playbook as a text in a 6th grade English Language Arts class in a school district near Houston.  While is training in foresight techniques is encouraged, any teacher can purchase the book and use it as is.

An Overview of the Horizons Foresight Method, Peter Padbury, Policy Horizons Canada, March 2018 [Link] Category 1: Advances the methodology and practice of foresight and futures studies. Nominating member: Peter Padbury

Policy Horizons Canada is a 30-person foresight unit in the Government of Canada. It reports to the highest level of the Public Service with a mandate to identify the challenges and opportunities confronting the country over the next 10 to 15 years. It has had to explore a number of very complex public policy issues and found some of the standard approaches were not able to cope with the complexity. Over the last nine years it has developed a foresight method to address complex public policy issues. The method has several unique features: 1) It helps people surface and share their mental models of the system, 2) It uses our amazing capacity to model and visualize the future to explore how the system may evolve; 3) Visual tools provide “scaffolding” at every step of the process to help participants to share their models and facilitate dialogue; 4) System-based scenarios help people “see” what the system could look like under different assumptions and conditions. 5) The focus on the system and it could evolve ensure the findings are provocative yet plausible and strategically useful. Policy Horizons frequently scans the methods literature for new ideas. There is nothing quite like our current method.

FEX – Future Explorers, Bruno Macedo Pinheiro, Paulo Renan, & Catarina Papa, Alternate Reality Game [link] Category 1: Advance the methodology and practice of foresight and futures studies

FEX (Future Explorers) was a 3-month Alternate Reality Game held in Brazil in 2016. 300 kids from northeastern Brazil were invited to explore and build artifacts from the future to tackle major global challenges. The project took place both online (on social media networks) and offline (in their classroom). Participants co-created 65 artifacts capturing concepts for solving major world problems.

The FEX project provided a platform to democratize experiential futures and further the practice of foresight for the next generation. The approach was highly immersive and applied a novel combination of gamification and participatory futures.