The Futures of Social and Educational Justice 1


Who will build the future? Building the future requires the talent of urban and rural communities of color to reimagine opportunity and educative environments, including formal and informal settings. The Empowered Learner-Networkers who are technologically-connected will progress through their personalized learning and self-organized communities of power. Education in all of its forms of learning, living and organizing occur 24-7 while schooling happens more often than not in the traditional setting and timeframe.

Thus, while there is a major focus on the industry-driven skills and competencies of the future, college, career and life readiness in the 21st century will require agile cognitive, empathic and interpretive skills to respond to both known and unknown conditions. Notably, low-wealth communities of color where creativity and the potential for technological innovation abound will need additional strategies and financial pipelines. Evaluation methodologies will be developed to capture and improve how individuals and systems measure creativity, entrepreneurial thinking, the psychological responses to change and trauma, data, innovation, and foresight often linked to big, dynamic and challenging moral questions, policy and social justice.

Simply put, futurism is the ability to define and build preferred and yet-to-be established realities in a public serving manner. Strategic foresight is defining explicitly these futures that you want to explore over a long-term set of (im)possibilities, including debunking myths, sensing signals and looking beyond one’s immediate industry or sector. Futurism is an interdisciplinary field drawing from many areas such as education, STEAM, data mining, philosophy, economics, imagination studies, cultural studies and anthropology, and sociology.

A branch of futurism is Afrofuturism, which has used African-American and African cosmologies, innovations, aesthetics and paradigms often coupled with science fiction, transhumanism, the critique of critical racial theory, emerging technologies, art and transgenerational knowledge to pursue new realities or alternative futures. I contend that the blockbuster, Black Panthers, expresses longing for imaginative and strategic foresight design, which bends historic, present and futuristic realities through the application of Creative Technologies, cultural resonance, justice and moral fortitude. The use of such Creative Technologies can animate our educational, community and economic development and social action.

Organizations are using challenges to accelerate breakthrough solutions for today and the future. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is sponsoring the New York University Entrepreneurial Institute’s Algorithms for Change (AFC), a $1.5M competition, which challenges organizations to develop breakthrough solutions using Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and Augmented Reality (xR) to increase the access and completion of Low Income Minority First Generation (LIMFG) students in higher education institutions. In an era of intensified Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity (VUCA) and educational inequity, Minority Serving Institutions (MSI), communities of color, public school districts and others that serve them can partner with other institutions to invest in new uses of existing technologies and the development of emerging technologies to address social change through the lens of strategic foresight and futurism. This collaboration extends to engaging community-based stakeholders’ imaginative thinking and funds of knowledge that exist outside of the traditional academy and the technology innovation world. Without strategic foresight, both internal and external disruption will transform or superannuate our important institutions that serve our youth and communities of color.

Practical Suggestions to Build Futuristic Capability

Communities may use teaching, learning and living environments to integrate foresight at several levels:

  1. Formal (classroom and/or supervised learning)
  2. Informal (learning outside of the classroom)
  3. Differently Formal (autonomous learning, problem-solving, and connecting, probably the fastest growing form of 21st knowledge dissemination)
  4. Performative/Creative (embodied expression, artistry and communication of learning, culture, innovation, strategic foresight, and prophetic sensibilities; applying creativity to envision, plan, evaluate, promote, provoke and iterate new approaches)
  5. Economically Inclusive (the development of entrepreneurial and wealth-creating opportunities that position underrepresented groups as job creators, financiers and owners of their intellectual properties).

Concrete activities that support 1-5 may include:

  • Hold community-based conversations about the future; many communities have solutions, skills and sometimes even capital.
    • Map your community’s history of change and current commitments to improve social conditions, including persistent problems that require new ideas.
    • Hold community/small group meetings in which you brainstorm and visualize your wildest dreams and aspirations for your community. Ask your fellow members if these dreams are already happening. If so, you need to stretch your imagination.
    • Identify your creative, innovative and STEM-related talent in your community and beyond.
    • Participate in your local and regional economic development and educational strategic planning sessions with a lens of how your community is preparing for the future, including building alliances outside of your demographic or ideological group.
    • Engage youth in articulating their visions through the arts, STEM fairs, hackathons, youth social action and other activities.
    • Create a pool of funding, no matter how small, to support local initiatives that support the future, innovation and creativity.
    • Identify industry, academic and creative sectors that study the community’s future.
    • Start a book club, Internet research team, science fiction club or affinity groups that meet regularly to explore strategic foresight, futuristic ideas and innovation.

 

  • Build inter-generational innovation/creative labs and alternative learning spaces based on the application of emerging technologies in which there is not only technology transfer but the cultural exchange of important values;
    • Identify out of school programs that promote VR, xR, ML, artificial intelligence, computational intelligence, animation, gaming and other technologies. Many communities have developed robotics, coding, maker spaces, blended and personalized learning environments, artistic and other programs for youth.
    • Build public and private spaces that promote play, wonder, and imagination especially in youth.
    • Bring the elders of the community together with the youth and discuss the changes that they have experienced over their lifetimes; document the changes that they project will happen. Visions of the future are often embedded in storytelling.
    • Explore the world outside of your community by investigating the Social, Technological, Economic, Environmental, and Political (STEEP) trends and conditions from the local to global levels.
    • Start somewhere. Don’t wait to have it all figured out to test an idea: begin a dialogue; organize your network; and, ask provocative questions. Your questions, passion and vision will attract resources to build your capability.

By connecting and mining strategic foresight among local communities of the color, the systems that serve them, and new partnerships, these communities will be builders of a world crying out for a more imaginative and just way forward.


About David Bickham

David Patrick Bickham is the principal of Bickham Innovation Catalysts, LLC, a consultancy specializing in community and economic development, grant writing and leadership around innovation, strategic foresight and impact. He has advised the development of and/or raised over $30M in grants, contracts and federal reimbursements across many domains and clients, ranging from emerging community-based organizations to established institutions. He specializes in linking leaders to human, technological and financial resources through strategic planning, asset mapping and fund development.

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