Laura Schlehuber joins Houston Foresight

You know her, you love her! Houston Foresight alum and Certificate Instructor Laura Schlehuber has joined the Houston Foresight program direct our growing research program.

We are super excited to have someone of Laura’s pedigree and experience onboard. She graduated from the program in 2014 where she brought futures thinking to Ernst & Young. A few years later it was time to move from organizational to consulting futurist so she joined fellow alum Christian Crews at Kalypso.

She began teaching in our Certificate boot camp about the same time, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to take advantage of her talents full-time. Our Research Program has been steadily growing and should benefit tremendously from Laura’s leadership. She will help me in other areas as well as time permits – there’s lots of great opportunities for the program out there. Please join me in welcoming her to the [full-time] Houston team. — Andy

Alum Maria Romero joins KnowledgeWorks

Alum Maria Romero is joining the Strategic Foresight team at KnowledgeWorks as a Senior Manager. Maria is a professional futurist with expertise in strategic foresight, project management, and communications.

She has been consulting with a variety of clients, including corporate, government, academic, and non-profit organizations. Those include KnowledgeWorks, where she contributed to the creation of our forthcoming forecast on the futures of young children and their families; and the UH Foresight program, where she led and managed foresight research projects and co-designed and facilitated foresight engagements.

At KnowledgeWorks she will be making key contributions to their strategic foresight work through a focus on strategic foresight research and publication development and the execution of project and client deliverables. She will also take on some operational and project management activities for the team and will contribute to communications related to the future of learning.

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NEW 2020 Dates for the Foresight Certificate Seminar

Over the past year we have experienced extraordinary growth in interest in the UH Strategic Foresight Certificate Program. This year our April session sold out in record time so we opened a third seminar in August.

We are pleased to announce that Registration for our 2020 certificate seminars are now open: Jan 20-24, 2020 and Apr 27-May 1, 2020. You can register online here.

The seminar will be held at the Hilton University of Houston, on the UH Main Campus. Registration cost is $3,000.

We’ve been teaching the future in Houston since 1974. Peter Bishop kicked off the certificate program in 2009 and we’ve had over 600 aspiring futurists graduate. It is known as “boot camp,” as we cover an abridged version of our “Introduction to Foresight” course in 5 full days. Most participants have some type of foresight role – or are about to begin one — and need an immersion in the basics.

We look forward to seeing you next year!

More info here.

Using Causal Layered Analysis to Engage Emerging Leaders in Thinking About Houston’s Future

Moving towards greater collaboration between the Houston Foresight program and Center for Houston’s Future (CHF), Masters graduate alum Kimberly Daniels facilitated an afternoon foresight exercise on May 31, 2019 for CHF’s pilot program of introducing emerging leaders to civic involvement around key issues and challenges impacting the Houston region. Partnering with the Houston branch of Sidley Austin LLP, one of the largest corporate law firms in the U.S., CHF organized a learning journey around Houston’s bayous and flooding situations for law students participating in the law firm’s summer associate program.

Kevin Lewis, a Sidley Austin partner in Houston, shared that the firm has a long tradition of civic involvement, wherever its associates work, and Houston is no exception. He cares about Houston, he believes it’s a good place to live, and he wants the firm’s clients and others to care about the city as well. For Kevin, partnering with CHF for this “mini think tank” summer experience makes sense, as “CHF is committed to grappling with problems such as flooding.” For Brett Pearlman, CEO of CHF, working with Sidley Austin, the City of Houston’s Mayor’s Office and others in shaping Houston as a resilient city, especially following Hurricane Harvey in August 2017, is an opportunity to move toward a transformational vision for the Houston region that starts with thinking about the future.

The afternoon foresight exercise in May with CHF and Sidley Austin involved the use of Casual Layered Analysis (CLA) and the CLA iceberg to explore varied perspectives around flooding in Houston by identifying four layers of causality — the litany (problems and headlines), systemic drivers (social, technological, economic, environmental and political), worldviews, and myths and metaphors. Kimberly, with assistance from CHF staff persons Laura Goldberg, a Houston Foresight Certificate alum, and Betsy Breier, guided the entire group of participants down the CLA iceberg of causality. Considering historical and recent flooding events, past and current contexts concerning Houston’s bayous and waterways in addition to the city’s growth and development, trends, projections and other information presented by morning speakers and panel experts, the group then articulated a baseline scenario of how the long-term future could unfold if marked by continuation.

Following the group activity of going down the CLA iceberg and determining a baseline future, the law students then worked in small table groups to go back up the iceberg in reverse order to identify new myths and metaphors, new worldviews, new systemic drivers and relationships, and new litanies and headlines indicative of a transformative future image. Using colored markers, the table groups then created visual representations of their transformational scenarios and shared five-minute presentations on ways in which the city of Houston could respond to flooding.

Coming together again on Friday, June 27, 2019 for a Capstone Luncheon and for the conclusion of their learning journey, the three groups of law students presented more robust transformational scenarios of Houston’s future and recommendations for addressing flooding that were inspired by tours of bayous around the city and of downtown Houston. In essence, the feedback they received from Christof Spieler, with Greater Houston Flood Mitigation Consortium, and Marissa Aho, City of Houston Chief Resilience Officer, was that no singular recommendation will transform Houston’s flooding situation for the better. However, combining the recommendations from these emerging leaders, along with a number of other strategies, for a systemic approach to flooding and resiliency, including new policies and policy changes, could make a difference in how Houston’s future unfolds. By Kimberly “Kay” Daniels

Hannah Kim Wins 2019 Student Recognition Program

It is a great pleasure to announce that just-graduated Houston Foresight Master’s student Hannah Kim won the Master’s category for the year’s APF Student Recognition Competition. She entered her Framework Foresight project on “The Future of Coffee in China.” The central question Hannah considered was: “What will the future of coffee look like for Starbucks in China?” Her work is always designed so beautifully, but perhaps my personal favorite from her work is this elegant cross-impact matrix.

Hannah will receive a Certificate of Achievement from the Association of Professional Futurists. She also has a choice of: (1) a two year Student Membership in APF, or (2) the registration fee (excluding residency) for one APF meeting within two years of the award.

You can also view the other excellent Houston entries:

Exploring the Built Environment for CII

Dr. Andy Hines, assistant professor and coordinator of the foresight graduate program led a team to explore “The Future of the Built Environment” over the fall semester. The research award was with the Construction Industry Institute (CII), based at The University of Texas at Austin. Team members include University of Houston alumnus, Maria Romero and four foresight program graduate students, Bes Baldwin, Hannah Kim, Collin Sledge, and Cindi Stuebner.

The team used scenario planning to explore possible futures for the built environment with the goal of identifying important emerging issues that the CII can research in service to its member organizations.

The scenarios shown in the figure are framed around the two critical uncertainties, the most important and uncertain factors regarding the future of the topic. These uncertainties frame the matrix, providing boundaries and focus for the set of four scenarios. The logic is to spend time thinking about the factors that are crucial to the future, especially those with least clarity or vision of how they might play out. This gives the organization the ability to design strategies, plans, and tactics that will enable it to strategically respond to whatever way the uncertainties unfold. This enables organization to feel confident that it is prepared for a full range of future possibilities

These options provide a robust list of potential research projects for CII to consider. They sort into grouped into three themes.

  • How business gets done: these options/issues revolve around the business of doing construction, how it’s done, and who it’s done with.
  • Technology: these options/issues centered on potentially disruptive emerging technology with a particular focus on how they might be applied within the construction industry.
  • Environmental: these options/issues consider how environmentally-related issues could have a disruptive effect on the industry.

— Andy Hines

Houston Foresight Spring 2019 Newsletter

As we close out the Spring 2019 semester, it’s a good time to reflect on some of the semester’s highlights ,as they were captured in the HDCS_Outlook_Foresight.

This issue includes:

  • Foresight alumna Anne Boysen to teach Data Mining
  • American Alliance of Museums establishes Strategic Foresight scholarship
  • Exploring the future of the built environment for CII
  • Exploring the future of the circular econom

— Anydy Hines

Student in the News: Mohammed Al Muhairi

A recent news story in Dubai featured the headline: Mohammed Al Muhairi prepares for the Master’s journey with passion! Dubai police is sending the first officer to study foresight in the US. We at Houston Foresight are very happy to see more students joining us the Gulf Region. We have students from Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Oman at present. Below is the text of story about Mohammed:

With the support of the Dubai Police General Command, and in line with national efforts to train experts and specialists in the fields of designing the futures, Captain Mohammed Ahmed Bin Kirshan Al Muhairi prepares to study the future with great passion at the University of Houston in the United States. This exceptional specialization & degree MS in Foresight builds a new era of the field of looking forward “the Houston Way”  from a professional academic perspective. This will contribute to the formation of the advisory structure and the specialized national expertise. on all levels.

“I would like to extend a message of thanks and appreciation to His Excellency Major General Abdullah Khalifa Al Marri, Commander-in-Chief of Dubai Police,” said Captain Mohammed Ahmed bin Krishan Al-Muhairi. “This is a golden opportunity and once in a lifetime”

He continued: “Foresight is based on the knowledge of inter & trans-disciplines closely linked to arts  & sciences, and in line with the requirements of the era and all the latest technological developments, and at the University of Houston, longest lasting degree program since 1975 and its curriculum had ever since been nurtured & redesigned to meet an ever changing world, University of Houston’s Foresight capacity includes some of the prominent figures in futures studies, early founders of the field and most influential teaching futures research methods, social change, philosophy with particular focus on visioning and preparing professional futurists for the various market contexts.

My domain after graduation will include Security, with its external influences over the years, ranging from simple changes and radical changes, both in terms of the environment or society, in addition to demographic changes, and my personal interest was mainly on the community side, studying patterns and Cultures and cultures of peoples and civilizations in the stages of their development and advancement, especially studying what sustain nations with positive images of the future. — Andy Hines

Spring Gathering 2019 Introduces the Future

Introducing the Future was the topic of the 2019 Houston Foresight Spring Gathering on April 12-12. Since we spend so much time and effort explaining what foresight is to people new to it, we thought it would be useful to spend a day reviewing our various approaches and strategies for doing so. The “big vision” of the Houston Foresight program is that “Foresight is a disseminated practice in widespread use.” To achieve that, we are going to have to explain ourselves…a lot, and we may as well get good at it! Here are some of the cool ideas participants shared as part of their elevator speeches for explaining foresight:

  • Historians study the past, journalism the present, futurists the future
  • We study change
  • The first time you explore the future it can be scary, like a horror movie. But when you watch the movie a second, and you know what’s coming, it’s less scary (I just used this…thanks Hannah).
  • Tie the future to what people know
  • It’s important to know what changes to ignore, so you can focus on the important ones
  • We help reduce fear of the future…movies have created negative images of the future
  • We study the future to influence decisions in the present
  • We help people figure out what’s happening now and use that to build into the future
  • The practice effect: Basketball great chris paul knows what is coming because he has experienced it all before
  • Ask people how they want to be remembered
  • We will help you ask better questions
  • Futures is “evidence-based creativity” (lots of oohs and aaahs on that one!)
  • Qualitative analytics
  • We tell stories about the future –humans don’t understand anything outside of a story

As always, we had a very interactive conference day with a wide range of activities, MC’d by Event Coordinator Kimberly Daniels. The Center for Houston’s Future hosted the meeting this year in their beautiful venue overlooking downtown Houston. We kicked off by asking participants to share their “elevator speech” of how they explain foresight to a new person. Mike Courtney brought down a vanload of “newbies” from Dallas and led them through a game of telephone in describing the cone of plausibility, which we learned is a new type of phone app. We also had a student explain their decision to switch their major to foresight to Mary Jane “Mom” Naquin, which was the comedic high point of the day. In the afternoon, NASA veteran John Charles led a candid and provocative discussion on the future of space exploration.  At the close of the meeting, the launch of the Association of Professional Futurists’ new online platform for member engagement was revealed (link), as well as plans for a ProDev event in Mexico City on September 10 in front of the WFSF Conference.

Here are the presentations (links available for those that can be shared):

Future Cities Index_Mina McBride & Kimberly Daniels (suggests how government and policy leaders could use a lexicon of futures in their messages that would help people and decision-makers decide whether to live in or come to their cities)

Don’t Forget Small Business_Verne Wheelright (how can we more effectively bring small business into the futures fold?)

Center for Houston’s Future_Brett Pearlman, Center for Houston’s Future (highlights from recent project work framing key issues for Houston’s future)

Design your agenda_Andy Hines  (table teams were given the task of designing a day-long workshop to introduce a group of newbies to the future)

Student Presentations

Games for Futures Thinking_Eric Kingsbury (table teams were given the task of using card-based prompts to create a story about the future)

Foresight for Marriage_Cody Clark (the principles of good futures planning applied to marriage)

On Friday, Kimberly organized a led a tour of NASA for our large contingent of out-of-town guests. We all then gathered at the Phoenicia market for a healthy and tasty dinner in the Discovery Green section of downtown Houston. After the conference on Saturday evening, Jim and Marci Breaux hosted this year’s party featuring an outstanding menu of Cajun cuisine and a bread pudding to die for. We finally got some people to go into the water this year, the key being it was a hot tub. — Andy Hines

Forest Futures: High Tide in Dorchester

I recently saw a documentary on Dorchester County (Maryland Eastern Shore) and how sea level rise has impacted it. The Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1933, contains 45% of

Eastern Shore, from photos

Maryland’s tidal wetlands and brings in $27 million a year in tourist dollars to Dorchester County. These wetlands are being threatened by sea level rise. Due to flooding, farmers will need to change to more salt resistant crops. Residents have had to move or build berms, dikes, or walls to protect houses. Nuisance flooding is a problem for tourists as well as the people who live there, affecting businesses and events such as the Iron Man Triathalon.


It is expected that sea level around the Chesapeake will be 2.5 feet higher by 2050 and 5-6 feet higher by the end of the century. Sea level rise is drowning forests – healthy upland forest habitat has converted to tidal marsh; tidal marsh floods drown out tidal marsh plants, and eventually the marshes convert to open water. Salisbury University comparing aerial footage of the refuge from 1938 and 2006 found 5000 acres of intertidal marsh had converted to open water in those 68 years. It’s not just marsh to water; sea level rise has drowned forest habitat, which has converted to marshes, leaving standing dead trees. Farmers have had to adapt from salt water intrusion and have converted from corn and soy beans to more salt resistant crops, wheat and sorghum. A few inches of sea level rise in the bay will go inland hundreds of yards.

So, what does this have to do with forestry? The 2003 storm surge from Isabel brought in salt water which eventually poisons the hardwoods and kills off the pines. Then the forest canopy thins out, allowing more sunlight which should encourage understory species, however, those species that are adaptive to grow with the increased sunlight cannot handle the salt, thereby allowing invasive species (phragmites) to flourish. Salt marshes are important to the environment because they act as a buffer and take energy out of storm surges. This loss of forests is not unique to the Chesapeake Bay. University of Florida researchers have been investigating this same forest decline and salt marsh replacement since the mid 1990s , and New Jersey has a similar issue with salt water creeping inland, converting forest to marsh. — Llody Chesley


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