The past and current state of futurist associations around the world
Recently, I wrote about the work that Ross Dawson and I have done researching government agencies/ projects around the world that use futures and foresight methods. We have also researched the many futurist associations around the world and have developed a list of associations that:
- Are specifically focused on futures and foresight methods
- Have a reasonable number of members
- Are formally organized
- Are currently active
Identified associations and categories
The list is split up by the scope of each association. We have categorized five associations as global in scope and ten associations that are more targeted on a specific region or nation. Another four associations are even more focused on particular sectors.
Since the late 1960s, there have been two primary futurist organizations—the similarly named World Future Society (WFS) and World Futures Studies Federation (WFSF). Many smaller associations either split off or partnered with one of these two associations.
WFSF is still going strong. However, there was much confusion about the future of the WFS after it was sold in 2015. The amount of information previously available on the website was reduced to a single page, and the annual conference was cancelled for two years. However, a conference will be held in August 2018, and WFS appears to be primed for a resurgence.
In 2002, the Association of Professional Futurists (APF) broke off from WFS to provide an added association for deeper discussion of the advancement of futures and foresight methodologies. At first the APF was primarily focused on members in the US and UK. However, soon after the WFS went quiet, the APF expanded its membership to include nearly 500 members from more than 30 countries.
The two remaining global associations—The Millennium Project and the International Institute of Forecasters (IIF)—could easily be argued not to belong in the list. The Millennium Project is more like a network of volunteers, but it functions much like an association with annual meetings, annual output, and internal communication channels. The IIF may not be expressly aligned to futures or foresight, but many professional futurists rely on the work of J. Scott Armstrong who founded IIF. The forecasting association can be seen as a subset of futurist associations. Other forecasting networks were considered but did not fit within our parameters.
Many of the members in the national/ regional associations, such as the Dutch Futures Society and the Finnish Society for Futures Studies, may also be members of other associations. However, the these smaller scale associations enable members to network with other futurists who speak the same language and are more interested with culturally specific issues.
Futuribles was founded in 1960 by Bertrand de Jouvenel , a giant in the field of futures studies, and belongs with the WFSF and WFS in stature and prominence. However, it is not quite at a global level, but it is heavily international.
None of the sector specific associations are global, but they are expanding. Communities of the Future is probably the most loosely organized association on our list. However, it has expanded far enough internationally, more than 11 nations, with enough formal organization to warrant its inclusion. The Public Sector Foresight Network (PSFN) is another splinter group from WFS and is related to the Federal Foresight Community of Interest (FFCOI) in the US. It is heavily international and growing closer to being global.
Organizations we didn’t include
There were several clubs, meetup groups, and defunct associations that were not included in the list. For instance, Canada’s Foresight Synergy Network is more an informal network than a formal association. Also, the African American Future Society is currently too small with too little activity to be considered an association by our requirements. The American Planning Association is a formally organized association, but they are not specifically focused on futures and foresight methods even though many of their members use these methods.
Also, Shaping Tomorrow founded The Foresight Network with a Ning social media website that boasted more than 10,000 members. At one point they had a board who were driving the network toward association status complete with annual meetings, but it never quite developed. However, we hope that all four organizations will continue to grow and develop value for the communities they serve which is why I mention them here.
Who did we miss?
All of associations on the list fit within the parameters specified above. If you know of a futurist association that fits those parameters and which we may have missed, please contact us so we can consider them for inclusion on the list.
Image: Magnus Hagdorn