Student Publication: Adam in Scenario Magazine

Cowart_HeadshotForesight student Adam Cowart, fresh off a second place finish in the APF Student Recognition Awards, continues to make an impact with his framework research on Alternative Currencies. As part of his internship with the Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies, he has been blogging on various topics. One of his posts, Alternative Currencies and Economic Transactions,” was published in CIFS’s Scenario Magazine (one of my favorites).

In the piece, he suggests two potential scenarios the future of alternative currencies. One, in which alternative currencies remain a complimentary, community based form of exchange. Or two, in which communities “check out” of the global capitalist-based economy, and there is a convergence of virtual currencies and LETS communities to create sustainable and diverse economic systems.

It is great to see student work getting recognized and published! Andy Hines


Congrats to our Spring 2015 Graduates

john sheehansahi_headshotCongratulations to our Spring 2015 graduates: Omar Sahi, John Sheehan, Simon Stewart, Fatema Tuz Zhora. It is a happy moment to see a student at the end of their journey and ready to launch, but a little bad sad as well. It is also worth noting that they are part of the biggest graduating class we have had so far since move to the main campus in 2007. We also had 8 graduates in the Fall, so the 12 graduates for the 2014-15 academic year doubles our previous high (6) at the main campus. But on to the matter at hand!

Omar has been very active in and out of the classroom, including spending a semester with me as a Grad Assistant. I recall a somewhat skeptical student in the beginning who has really come into his own as a futurist, beautifully drawing on and blending in his background in the arts. He just won third place at the APF Sfatemasimon stewarttudentRecognition Awards!. John has been with us for several years, somehow balancing an incredibly demanding full-time job with his studies. He started with the week–long certificate, then got the four-course Grad Certificate, and finally moving all the way through the Master’s. And he referred a colleague who is starting with us this fall. I met Simon as an undergrad where I came and gave a little talk on the future and that was the spark that encouraged him to join the program. Simon managed the incredible feat of being a varsity track athlete while going through graduate school, as well as being involving in running the family business back in Columbia. Fatema joined us as a double major. She begin in Project Management, and took a foresight elective, and the, as they say, is history. She kept taking courses and eventually decided to go all the way and do the double major. It is such a compliment to us that she found the courses and fellow students so compelling that she took on this challenge, but we were certainly glad to have her perspective in the program.

We hope and anticipate that each will stay involved with the foresight community as they take their next steps! Andy Hines

Alum Survey: 95% Report that “Foresight Program Changed my Thinking”

Perhaps the most striking finding of a recent survey of Houston Foresight alums was that 95% reported that foresight “The foresight program has changed my thinking and positively influenced my life.” I suspect most of us who have been around the Foresight program are not surprised by that, as there are so many stories of students and alums about how foresight has changed their lives. Nonetheless, it is striking to see the numbers — 95% is impressive.

changed my life

The survey was conducted by student (and now alum) Fatema Tuz Zohra as part of her Master’s Project for the Foresight program. She was able to reach 90 of the 305 alums and 46 of them responded to the survey.

Another interesting finding was that 32% of respondents said they “got employed because of their foresight degree.” Basically, one in three students. This fits with a previous segmentation analysis of students suggesting that roughly 3/4ths to 1/3rd of students come to us as established professionals, and 1/4th to 1/3rd are new professionals — looking to establish careers as futurists. The established pros are typically either looking to “futurize” their current position and organization, or to branch out into something new involving foresight. Since they are established, the Foresight degree doesn’t typically led to a new job for these “futurizers” but it sometimes does for those looking to branch out.

For the new professionals looking to become professional futurists, it seems a significant percentage of them are successful. We can assume that some of the 32% getting foresight jobs are from the “branching out” segment of the established, and that the rest are new professionals. Again this fits with the anecdotal evidence, but it’s nice to have the numbers to back it up. More to come from this most interesting and useful project! — Andy Hines

Visiting Scholar Danila Zindato Explores Scenarios and Design

DanilaZindatoIt’s been fun to have Danila Zindato, a PhD student with the Department of Design of the Polytechnic University of Milan, visit with us over the summer as a Visiting Scholar. Her research is focused on the role of scenarios in design and foresight. Designers use scenarios in the design process, but usually or different purposes and a different way than futurists typically do. For instance,designers use an abductive sensemaking process in which they organize, evaluate and filter data, producing new knowledge in different ways according to their target, their tools and the available resources. They help the creative process around a design “target,” whereas one might say the futurists more often use scenarios to map the landscape around a future topic (which sometimes includes a design target).

Danila had been developing a conceptual process model that explores the different roles and positioning of scenarios into the design processes. She is aiming to create a “systematization” among approaches and tools. This scenario framework will facilitate the development of a specific toolkit that is adaptable to different situations.

She recently presented some of her research to date — DESIGNING FUTURE SCENARIOS Approaches and Positioning of Scenario Building into the Design Process— at the World Conference of Futures Research meeting in Turku, Finland. It’s been great to have her here with us in Houston! Her contact info is:   — Andy Hines

Houston Foresight Students Win APF Student Recognition Awards

I am so proud to share that Houston Foresight students won first, second, and third place of the Individual Graduate Student category of the APF Student Recognition program. Selecting the three entrants for this year was very tough as we had many excellent candidates. It was great to see the APF judges agreed with me that this was an outstanding selection of projects! So, let’s congratulate our winners.

1st PrizeJustin Kugler,The Future of Industrial Activity in Space.”

Justin is a graduate student of Human Space Exploration Sciences at the University of Houston whose project was part of the “World Futures” course and has taken other courses in our program. He is also the business development manager for industrial R&D at the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space. It is very stimulating to have students from other programs in our classes — we’ve been seeing more and more of that over the last few years and Justin really brought some incredible knowledge and experience to class.


2nd Prize: Adam Cowart, “Alternatives Currencies, The Future of Societal Transactions.”

Adam is a graduate student of Foresight at the University of Houston, a Senior Planning Manager for Loblaw Companies Ltd, and a writer. He already holds an M.B.A. and an M.F.A; his intellectual curiosity drove him to the Foresight program. He is already applying what he’s learning in his current position. He has completed about half of the program and we are grateful that we still have some time left with him.



3rd Prize: Omar Sahi, “The Future of News Media.

Omar just graduated from the University of Houston in the Spring, after completing his internship with UNESCO. He is also an artist working with new media and sculpture.Omar has developed a keen interest around speculating on how people communicate in the future. Omar was a GA in the program and a regular participant in activities outside of the classroom (as well as inside).


The students presented their papers at our annual “Best of Houston Foresight” session at the World Future Society in San Francisco on July 25th. They were recognized that evening at the APF’s Annual Awards program and received a Certificate of Achievement (and a resounding round of applause). Justin will receive a two-years student membership in APF or  the registration fee for an APF meeting. Adam and Omar will receive a one year Student Membership in APF. All will be featured in the next Compass Newsletter, and announced to the full APF membership.

Andy Hines

Crafting a Platform for the Future of Students

Ground has been broken on a new research project for our friends at Lumina Foundation. We’re doing some follow-on work to the Future of Student Needs: 2025 and Beyond project. One of our recommendations from that project was to consider building a platform to incorporate student voices into the discussion on the future of higher education. Student input is generally under-represented (if not absent). The project will explore ways to stimulate stumicrosite teamdent ideas about their future needs. We are very excited to be working with Smallbox, a marketing, branding and web-design firm that describes itself as “a growing team of thinkers and doers who are passionate advocates of meaningful work for clients and the community.”

We’re not sure yet what form the project will take. Our primary responsibilities will be to develop content to support a web “microsite” that will highlight the findings of the Student Needs 2025 project. This may include tasks such as:

  • Building the scanning hit library to provide items that may be featured on the site;
  • Designing infographics to highlight key areas of current and future student life;
  • Conducting surveys or interviews with students — or other stakeholders — to get their viewpoint on the forecasts and other findings of the Student Needs 2025 project;
  • Finding and describing case examples illustrating key findings from the project;
  • And more….

We’re really excited about the project — stay tuned! Andy Hines

Coming Soon: Best of Houston Foresight 2015

It just over a month away to this year’s Best of Houston Foresight session at the World Future Society. This year it’s in San Francisco on July 25th from 2:15-3:45. It is an annual event that gives us a chance to highlight some of the best work coming out of the Houston Foresight program. It is always a tough choice to pick just three!

This year’s participants and topics.

Cowart_HeadshotAdam Cowart is a graduate student of Foresight at the University of Houston, a Senior Planning Manager for Loblaw Companies Ltd, and a writer. He holds an M.B.A. and an M.F.A. and will present on “Alternative Currencies: The Future of Societal Transaction.”




kugler_headshotJustin Kugler is a graduate student of Human Space Exploration Sciences at the University of Houston whose project was part of the “World Futures” course. He is also the business development manager for industrial R&D at the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space. He will present on “The Future of Industrial Activity in Space.”



sahi_headshotOmar Sahi is a graduate student of Foresight at the University of Houston, who recently completed an internship with UNESCO. He is also an artist working with new media and sculpture.Omar has developed a keen interest around speculating on how people communicate in the future and will present on “The Future of News Media.”



This is always a popular session, so get there early! Hope to see y’all in San Francisco. Let me know if you’re going and we’ll keep our eyes open. Andy Hines

Faculty/Alumni Alexandra Whittington quoted on The Week

Alexandra WhittingtonThe Week magazine is having a serie of articles called America in 2050 presented by BASF, in which each week on the writers will choose a topic and explore how the US would be doing in 35 years from now around that topic.

On May 6th, Matt Hansen published a piece on the future of american tourists, where he explains Why the American tourist could become virtually unrecognizable by 2050 with the input or our faculty and alumnus Alexandra Whittington, who pointed out the increasing trend on single tourists and the how families could be using virtual reality technology to travel without leaving their homes.

Why the American tourist could become virtually unrecognizable by 2050

Alum Jason Swanson: Four Scenarios on the Future of Credentials

Alum Jason Swanson, Director of Strategic Foresight at KnowledgeWorks, invites our futurist community to explore four scenarios on the future of credentials: Certifying skills and Knowledge – Four Scenarios on the Future of Credentials. A baseline future, “All Roads Lead to Rome,” imagines a future in which degrees awarded by the K-12 and post-secondary sectors still serve as the dominant form of credentials. But there are many roads toward gaining those credentials, such as diverse forms of school and educational assessments. An alternative future, “The Dam Breaks,” explores a future in which the employment sector accepts new forms of credentials, such as micro-credentials, on a standalone basis. This leads to major shifts in both the K-12 and post-secondary sectors and to new relationships between the academic and working worlds. A second alternative future, “Every Experience a Credential,” considers what credentials might look like if new technologies enabled every experience to be tracked and cataloged as a form of credential for both students and employees. A wild card scenario, “My Mind Mapped,” imagines a future in which breakthroughs in both the mapping and tracking of brain functions have created a new type of credential reflecting students’ cognitive abilities and social and emotional skills.

Jason  invites you to  explore your own reactions on these scenarios by asking yourself:

Quote1How did you find yourself responding? Which elements made you feel hopeful? Which elements made you feel worried or fearful? Was there a scenario whose future seemed more likely? One whose future you preferred? Being mindful of your responses, what Quote2does your ideal future look like? As you develop your vision for the future, what strategies could you use to create your ideal approach to credentialing? Where might you be able to leverage some of the key drivers included in this paper to move credentialing toward your ideal approach?

Get into the discussion

Jason Swanson

Jason Swanson

Swanson also wants to encourage the community to participate on the debate by building an scenario and commenting below about the strategic possibilities. Here are some questions for reflection:

  • How might stakeholders foster meaningful linkages among the education and employment sectors?
  • How might employers change their hiring practices to include relevant credentials other than those currently in the mainstream?
  • How might we begin to explore new ways of assessing learning in order to ensure that current and future forms of credentials have appropriate meaning and value?
  • How might credentials diversify to reflect changes in employer needs?
  • How might education stakeholders track and credential informal learning?
  • What emerging forms of technology might help create new forms of credentials?
  • How might stakeholders extend the use of alternative credentials such as certificates and micro-credentials?

About the Author

Jason Swanson is the Director of Strategic Foresight at KnowledgeWorks, where he helps lead the organization’s research into the future of learning. Jason holds a BA in Public Policy from West Chester University and a MA in Foresight from the University of Houston and is an Emerging Fellow with the Association of Professional Futurists. Watch for Jason’s work in strategic foresight and follow him on Twitter.

Faculty/Alumni Alexandra Whittington’s four scenarios on the Future of Infant Feeding

Alexandra WhittingtonFaculty/alumni Alexandra Whittington writes about Exploring the Future of Infant Feeding: Scenarios About the Future of Parenting, Infant Nutrition and Consumer Habits in The United States of America, which she summarizes as:

Four scenarios of infant feeding offer strategic insights about American culture and social patterns by generating implications for the future of the family, nutrition, consumers and gender roles. The study involves careful examination of two critical uncertainties about the future of infant feeding: the outcome of cultural tensions among American mothers, known as the “Mommy Wars” and the fluctuating role of the American household as either “producer” or “consumer.” The scenarios portray a range of alternative futures to address possible socio-cultural change in store and raise awareness of the important role of breastfeeding to infant survival and human development.

Whittington also offers a simplified graphic version of this forecast that you can take a brief look at below, but if you prefer to see the extended version please click here.

Future of Infant Feeding