“In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find them selves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.”

Eric Hoffer1

About the YMF:

Look Wonder Discover’s (LWD) Young Minds Forum (YMF) is a futures literacy initiative2 cultivating local/global cultures of creative resilience in uncertain and changing times. The YMF encourages young people (ages 16-30) to imagine, inquire, reflect on, and discuss their visions and concerns for their–and the world’s–future through the lens of their perspectives and experiences. The forum works to facilitate connections with established community members to listen and find ways to support the younger generations as they navigate the challenging and changing present.


Background:


In December of 2021, a landmark study3 of over 10,000 youths, ages 16-25, from around the world, 75% responded that they think “the future is frightening”. 

One year before this study, like millions (billions) of other humans on the planet, LWD chose to cancel all of our outreach programming, from a project for a children’s advocacy center to a multi-part community art project to the 10th anniversary celebration of our non-profit.

During these days, we learned that our mission to cultivate curiosity is almost impossible when mixed with the triple threat4 our world currently faces.

And so, we got creative. How can we craft programming that:
1. Helps our communities feel connected and inspired,
2. Utilizes interdependent forms of community building,
3. Amplifies young voices and their thoughts,
4. Facilitates the art of discussion.

And what we came up with was futures literacy. Why futures literacy? That, like so much of our work, is a story…

Exploring how to frame the urgency of finding solutions for our youngest generations, an LWD team member decided to search 17 years of the World Economic Forum’s Global Risk Reports. Her search? For the term “youth.” And her findings were enlightening:

  • The term “youth” was only mentioned in 11 reports, and not until 2010. 
  • Before 2021, the most mentions of the word “youth” were 48 in 2014.
  • Then in 2021, the frequency spiked to 114 times. And most often, “youth” was attached to the word “disillusionment.” 

Asheesh Advani, President and Chief Executive Officer of JA Worldwide, began his analysis of the 2021’s Risk Report with the stark reality, “of the 10 immediate risks listed in [the Report], the one most likely to be overlooked is number eight – ‘youth disillusionment’.” 

And sadly, the 2021’s Risk Report recognizes the heart of the problem “the risk of ‘youth disillusionment’ is being largely neglected by the global community, but it will become a critical threat to the world in the short term. Hard-fought societal wins could be obliterated if the current generation lacks adequate pathways to future opportunities—and loses faith in today’s economic and political institutions.” 

So how do we craft these “pathways”? First, we must imagine them. According to UNESCO, futures literacy “is a capability. It is the skill that allows people to better understand the role of the future in what they see and do. Being futures literate empowers the imagination, enhances our ability to prepare, recover and invent as changes occur.” LWD was sold on “empowering the imagination.”

Since, technically, the future only exists in our imagination, imagining the future and thinking about solutions is a skill we can learn and practice–just like reading and writing. In our original iteration, LWD was the Books for Walls Project; our mission then was to support literacy, libraries, and book love. And now, 12 years later, it’s not much of a jump to work on this new, essential literacy: futures literacy.


Research, Content, and Programming

Share your perspective, learn more, get involved:

Footnotes

1 Reflections on the Human Condition : Hoffer, EricInternet Archive, New York : Harper & Row, 1 Jan. 1974, p. 22.

2 Definition of FUTURES LITERACY as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) describes: “Futures Literacy, a universally accessible skill that builds on the innate human capacity to imagine the future, offers a clear, field tested solution to poverty-of-the-imagination.

3Climate Anxiety in children and young people and their beliefs about government responses to climate change: a global survey“. Caroline Hickman et all. 2021. Open Access article under the CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license.

4In a survey about the future, forum members noted 1.) climate change, 2.) war/loss of democracies, and 3.) the COVID-19 pandemic as constant concerns.