Power to define futures

From the point of view of the future, it is not insignificant who determines the possible and desirable futures, namely who has the power to define futures. Sitra’s aim is to increase the number of people who have the power to define futures.

Who gets to discuss possible futures, whose views are taken into account and who is represented in visions of the future? The power to define futures is the power to influence what is seen as possible or desirable in the future. The power to define futures is a concept for addressing the power issues related to future-oriented thinking.

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Democratizing futures is about building more inclusive futures

In the photo: a hand holding a picture of Futures lens.
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Futures Lens – a tool for democratising futures.

What is it about?

There are many different visions and views of the future out there, but where do they come from, whose voice gets heard and what and who is excluded?  

The concept of the power to define futures is not yet well established, but it has long been of interest in the field of foresight and insight. The power to define futures refers to the power to influence what is seen as possible or desirable in the future. Democratising futures involves inviting people to join the futures debate, giving a voice to those who are ignored, diversifying visions of the future and creating the conditions for future-oriented thinking for a more diverse range of people. This requires using methods and approaches that are appropriate to the target groups, reaching out to those left out of the debate, and popularising future-oriented thinking. Everyone thinks about the future, but futures thinking is also a skill that can be developed. 

Why is this important? In this time of crises and surprises, we need new directions and pluralistic debate about what kind of future we want to build together. The decisions and choices we make now will have far-reaching consequences. Futures are too important to be left in the hands of a few.

What do we do?

At Sitra, we have been working on democratising futures since 2022, and the work continues. At the 2022 Finnsight event, we addressed the topic and through the experiments funded by us in 2023, we have learned valuable lessons about what it means to take different perspectives into account in practice, and have gained an understanding of the importance of the issue we are dealing with. Whether you see yourself in the futures described or find that you can make a difference is central in terms of well-being, confidence and engagement. Democratising futures is also about strengthening democracy.

The memorandum on the Power to Define Futures (published on 18 January 2024) highlights different perspectives on the issue, links it to earlier futurology as a concept and suggests ways to raise awareness and broaden the power to define futures.

The Futures Lens is a tool for examining the power to define futures and the choices associated with it. The lens allows surveying both perceptions of the future and the processes that produce them.

The Power to Define Futures programme being launched in 2024 experiments with democratising futures in practice. In addition, webinars on the theme “From Future-Oriented Thinking to the Power to Define Futures” being held in early 2024 will provide everyone with an opportunity to focus on the fundamentals of future-oriented thinking and the opportunities provided by democratising futures.

Contact us

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Mikko Dufva
Senior Lead, Foresight
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Lilli Poussa
Specialist, Foresight
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Sanna Rekola
Specialist, Foresight
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Terhi Ylikoski
Specialist, Foresight
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Otto Tähkäpää
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Anna Solovjew-Wartiovaara
Senior Lead, Communications and Public Affairs

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