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Forecasting the Future - Signals of Change and Food as Climate Action

The CBEY Skills for Sustainable Innovation Workshop series welcomes Max Elder, Research Director for the Food Futures Lab at the Institute for the Future, for a hands-on workshop on futures thinking and forecasting methodologies.

This workshop will teach signals-based forecasting (a particular foresight methodology) and show how it can be applied to your work, your studies, and your approach to navigating uncertainty. Signals-based forecasting is a valuable skill set for entrepreneurs. It helps anyone trying to start a business, develop new products and services, or understand a market by providing a qualitative approach to explore the broadest range of possibilities or innovations that might impact their industry. (For an introduction to IFTF’s use of signals as a building block for larger forecasts, watch the first fifteen minutes of this talk by IFTF Research Director Sarah Smith.)

As an attendee, you will have the opportunity to:

●      BUILD your foresight mindset and develop a shared language for futures thinking

●      DISCOVER powerful tools for identifying and analyzing signals of change

●      DETERMINE how to filter through lots of information to get at what’s important

●      CONTRIBUTE to an IFTF forecast report on the future of food published in late May

●      MEET foresight researchers from the Institute for the Future

Definition of a Signal

A signal is typically a small or local innovation or disruption that has the potential to grow in scale and geographic distribution. A signal  is something that catches our attention at one scale and in one locale and points to larger implications for other locales or even globally. Signals are useful for people who are trying to anticipate a highly uncertain future. They tend to capture emergent phenomenon sooner than traditional social science methods. Unlike trends, they turn our attention to possible innovations before they become obvious. Unlike indicators, they often focus our attention at the margins of society rather than the core. In this way, they are more likely to reveal disruptions and innovations.

This workshop will also include an overview of some IFTF forecasts on the future of food, and will conclude with a process for you to go out into the world and find signals of change that relate to the topic of “food as climate action.”

About IFTF

The Institute for the Future is celebrating its 50th anniversary as the world’s leading non-profit strategic futures organization. We were founded in 1968 by a group of former RAND Corporation researchers with a grant from the Ford Foundation to take leading-edge research methodologies into the public and business sectors. The core of our work is identifying emerging discontinuities that will transform global society and the global marketplace. We provide organizations with insights into business strategy, design process, innovation, and social dilemmas. Our foresight covers global shifts in technology and media, food, health and wellbeing, learning and working, philanthropy, democracy, peace and development, digital intelligence, and more.

Max Elder Bio

Max Elder is a Research Director for the Food Futures Lab at the Institute for the Future, a 50-year-old think tank based in Palo Alto, California. Max conducts research and consults with companies on the urgent issues facing our food system. He has led work around the world with global food companies like Barilla and Campbell's; major foundations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; and innovative technology companies like Google and Intel. Max has written for, and been quoted in, media outlets like NPR, The BBC, Quartz, The Guardian, and Fast Company and has published in numerous peer-reviewed journals and books. His research is taught at universities across the world, including Harvard Law and Oxford University, and he speaks globally on topics related to food systems and ethics. He studied at  both Kenyon College and Oxford University.