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Look Wonder Discover’s (LWD) Young Minds Forum (YMF) is a futures literacy initiative 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 YMF works to facilitate further connections with more established community members to listen and find ways to support the younger generations as they navigate the challenging and changing present.
Imagining the Future
For many young people “the Future is Frightening”, but LWD wants to know: does it have to be?
In December of 2021, in a landmark study1 of over 10,000 youths, ages 16-25 from across the globe, 75% responded that they think “the future is frightening”. Just one year before this study–like so many 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.
We’ve learned that our mission to cultivate curiosity is almost impossible when mixed with the triple threat2 our world currently faces. And so, instead of in-person programming, we dug in and figured out alternatives–we got creative.
We asked ourselves, how can we craft programming that 1.) helps our communities feel connected and inspired, 2.) utilizes interdependent forms of community building, 3.) facilitates the art of discussion, and, most of all, 4.) amplifies young voices and their thoughts and experiences in these intense days.
Framing a Global Risk:
As we imagined the work ahead, we also wondered how to frame (talk about)3 the urgency of finding solutions for our youngest generations. Our research lead us to searching almost two decades of the World Economic Forum’s “Global Risk Reports”4.
The parameters of that search? The term “youth.” And the findings were enlightening: “youth” was only mentioned in 11 reports, and not until 2010. Prior to 2021, the most mentions of the word “youth” were 48 times 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 (Junior Achievement) Worldwide, began his analysis of 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 report recognizes and cuts to the chase 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.”
Immediately we held on to a possibility: we need to craft these “pathways to future opportunities”, but how?
Our answer: first, we must imagine them. We need to imagine pathways, upon pathways, of possibilities.
Learning a New Literacy:
And so we found our way to future’s literacy.
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.
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.”
In our original iteration, LWD was the Books for Walls Project; then our mission 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.
As part of the initiative, we’re planning research projects, forums, and interactive outreach to complete a ten-year plan–we’re already two years in! Together, we’re learning to look at the future and see that it is, quite literally, full of possibility.
Coming soon: Developing the Power of Mobility and Technology Research Project
Definitions and Footnotes
Definition of FUTURES LITERACY:
From United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) “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.
1 “Climate 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.
2 In the 2020 Virtual Forum survey about the future, forum members noted 1.) climate change, 2.) war/loss of democracies, and 3.) the COVID-19 pandemic as constant concerns.
3 Learn Framing 101 from the Frameworks Institute
4 World Economic Forum Global Risks Archive. Accessed 2022.
5 “Reflections on the Human Condition : Hoffer, Eric” Internet Archive, New York : Harper & Row, 1 Jan. 1974, p. 22.
“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.”