Source from Portland State University
Unlike Harry Potter, most of us can’t claim to have a crystal ball to look into the future.
So how does a university anticipate and prepare for a better future in a world filled with volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity?
A team of 28 Portland State University researchers, faculty, staff and students explored this question through a cross-disciplinary study of their university during the 2019-20 academic year. The conclusions they drew hold great promise for not only PSU’s future success, but also for other universities across the nation.
Sage Journals recently published an article about the study by faculty Melissa Appleyard and Jeanne Enders from The School of Business and five of their PSU faculty, staff and student colleagues* entitled “A Public University Futures Collaboratory: A Case Study in Building Foresightfulness and Community.”
“Futures Collaboratory” team members represented a mix of race, gender and other dimensions of identity to ensure diversity in views and approach in the PSU work described in the article. The article details how the team met for one year, learned from guest speakers and each other, participated in futures webinars and conferences and interacted with futurists from around the world.
The Futures Collaboratory group stated its intent was to build “social foresight capacity over a period of time at the institutional level.”
The process entailed centering equity and social justice imperatives while democratizing foresight activities across campus. Collaboratory members ran experiments throughout the year to strive for a preferable future grounded in “an intentional and evolutionary shift in values, thinking, vision/planning, and action,” the authors wrote.
The researchers concluded there are five areas that PSU’s leadership should explore when implementing change:
Mission: Center the idea of future readiness as a key component of an authentic university identity and purpose. Build the necessary community and structures to make that an explicit reality.
Structures: Revise institutional structures toward the future of work and the future of learning at work.
Equity: Commit to equity work that is pluralistic and liberation-centered to ensure the institution’s ability to fulfill its collective potential.
Pedagogy: Reimagine what teaching, learning and advising might be, and then enact change with courage.
Community: Actively and explicitly engage in the co-creation of the role of urban public universities by inviting and engaging deeper and more creative approaches to dialogue with community partners at all levels.
The team shared its recommendations with the PSU leadership, which asked the Collaboratory to continue the intensive engagement in futures work this academic year. A number of the founding members rotated off and new members joined in the fall to extend the reach of the learning and diffusion of futures thinking across PSU.
The team also made seven recommendations to other universities that wish to prepare for their future. The advice included:
Establish a racially diverse team (with at least one trained futurist) to ensure multiple perspectives,
Engage students in the process, and,
Provide events afterwards to share your learnings.