University of Notre Dame

Global Futures and Transformative Politics

Course Number:
Instructor: Ann Mische

Can imagined futures change the world? Judging from the flood of toolkits and technologies for futures thinking – ranging from strategic foresight to participatory scenario planning, alternative futures visioning and design thinking – the answer should be an emphatic yes. In the past few decades such techniques have traveled across global regions and social sectors, appearing in corporate and military venues, inter-governmental agencies, transnational forums, local community workshops and the global justice movement. Yet despite this enthusiasm, the process and influence of these methods require systematic, critical investigation. Through a hands-on case study approach, this class examines the use of futures thinking in political and social change efforts, particularly those focused on democracy, development, peace building and climate change. We will discuss how change agents use foresight methods to map the dangers and possibilities of the future, to envision alternative pathways, and to reframe their strategies of public intervention. We will also consider how to evaluate the positive or negative effects of such methods on collective efforts to address urgent global problems.