The Futures Field in Finland

Well. I’ve just returned from the World Conference on Futures Research 2015 hosted by the Finland Futures Research Centre in Turku and it was a blast. I had the honour to be invited as the chair for the popular session ‘Creating Visionaries’. Even more fortunate was the high quality of speakers from across the globe. Local doctoral candidate Matti Minkkinen mixed it up with the Italian designer, Danila Zindato, and presented quite diverse uses of popular scenario methods. Then the delightful Lisa Szugfil and Michael Berger from Germany provided a playful spin on the Futures world. “If you want to know the future, just wait!”.

For me the conference was my first opportunity to meet fellow researchers and commentators in the Futures field. What was immediately apparent was the variety of backgrounds. Admittedly the majority of attendees were from Finland but I ascribe that to the difficulty in getting there. From Australia it turned into a 42 hour marathon of planes, taxis and buses before I could turn in for the night. I use the term ‘night’ liberally because the Finnish summer is unlike anything I have experience before. The sun sets (after 10pm) but it doesn’t really get dark. I must admit to waking in extreme panic with the light glaring in my room. It was only after I had tripped over the half-unpacked suitcase that I realised it was 4am!

Anyway. I met people from all walks of life. The esteemed Tom Lombardo from the Centre for Future Consciousness and Anders Wijkman from the Club of Rome were exceptional speakers with very different viewpoints. I met an organisational strategist from Spain, a government futurist from Poland, a university professor from Taiwan and many independent Foresight professionals from over 100 countries (including Namibia and New Zealand). The list goes on.

These conferences tend to take on a life of their own. Sure, there were great quality presentation where you could learn the latest techniques and see real world applications. But honestly, you can read those in the literature so why spend the money and, perhaps more importantly, the time to attend these conferences? For me, it is the networking. I realise that this sounds a little trite however it is these personal networks that prove to be the most valuable over time. Anyone who has succeeded in a field knows this as an inherent truth. I have found that it is almost always easier, cheaper and more reliable to contact a colleague when you encounter a novel situation or need a helping hand.

Oh, if you are a twitter user and there is a live twitter feed rolling next to the main presentation – resist the urge! As hilarious and entertaining your comments are, I would actually rather focus on the presenter. I say this now only because my phone was unable to connect and thus lost the opportunity to drop a couple great puns. My wife would say that’s fortunate due to my ‘sense of humour’ but I believe the world is now just a little poorer…

Thankyou Finland. You were a great host and have also demonstrated a very innovative and future focused culture.

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