Exploring the Future: Skills for the Next Chapter
Monday, January 14, 2019 - 11:00am to Monday, January 14, 2019 - 1:00pm

What if there was a way to think about the future in a better way? In fact, for the last 50 years, there is a set of emerging frameworks and practices developed to refine and better apply, deep and concentrated effort in imagining an array of futures (both positive as well as negative) and aligning our readiness to meet whatever comes.

Futures practice is an interdisciplinary established field and worthy of consideration here at Portland State University and beyond. Going beyond, but including, strategic planning and design-related thinking – it involves skills of “foresight” and an ability to conduct and then apply deep scans of ecosystem factors and then apply them in creative ways, aligning them with human-centered values such as equity, justice, freedom and progress. Climate change, artificial intelligence, block chain futures and a host of other emergent issues present the urgent need to update our intellectual maps, tools and navigation tools for the next chapter of our shared reality. Bringing the best of imagination, intelligence, diverse perspectives and agency – futures thinking invites communities to increase the chances of building towards a desired future, yet being ready for the full range of possibilities. How might we build a deeper and generative dialogue about our shared future at PSU, in Portland, across our region and beyond?

Join us for a conversation about a recent “walk in the future” with a report from Dean Laura Nissen, School of Social Work at Portland State University, from her recent attendance at the 50th Anniversary Institute for the Future conference in Palo Alto, CA, and her ongoing work in this area.



About the Facilitator
Dean and Professor Laura Burney Nissen has been a member of the PSU/School of Social Work community since 2000. She began her tenure at PSU in a leadership role with the national Robert Wood Johnson Foundation initiative Reclaiming Futures (still operating in the Regional Research Institute in the SSW). With a long-term commitment to innovative systems change (her research portfolio includes a focus creativity and innovation in macro level social work systems change), Laura has worked with futures practice and lenses throughout her career. She credits a futures lens with the extended and continuous success of the Reclaiming Futures initiative and its ability to energize and provide architecture to a complex and interdisciplinary juvenile justice reform effort extending beyond a decade beyond its original “demonstration” phase. She has brought futures thinking into the School of Social Work in the form of a first strategic plan at the school in its 55 year history. She is in the final stages of completing her training as a foresight practitioner with the Institute for the Future, and has spoken on futures thinking in social work and social change at the National Association of Deans and Directors of Schools of Social Work. Laura remains active in the addictions policy arena as a member of the Oregon Governor’s Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Policy, and in addition to futures study is actively engaged in research on the intersection of the arts and social change. She is also a calligrapher/bookbinder and a lover of waterfalls.