By Jennifer Chan, participant in the IIASA co-led IFA Summer School

Jennifer ChanFrom 9 to 13 September in Laxenburg, Austria a group of researchers and practitioners gathered for the International Foresight Academy Summer School program organized by the  Austrian Institute of Technology and IIASA’s Advanced Systems Analysis program. It was 5 days of converging minds, cultures and comfort zones. We were a group of strong perspectives, to say the least, and so you can imagine how some of the conversations transpired. In a small town outside of Vienna, we had the luxury of being away from our day-to-day to learn about foresight and engagement in stakeholder consultation. The two instructors, Felicity Edwards and Ruben Nelson, from Canmore, Alberta, are both seasoned veterans and brought a wealth of information and experience to the week.

Foresight refers to looking forward to anticipate the future landscape and design scenarios to test and evaluate where solutions will demonstrate the greatest impact.

I was drawn to travel across the world to be connected to a spectrum of diverse perspectives and gain insight to how researchers and practitioners are approaching foresight and engagement. It was a pleasure to see how people from around the world approach the complex problems of the world and spend the time to improve their craft. As a Master of Design Student, Strategic Foresight and Innovation at the Ontario College of Art and Design, I was specifically excited to be working and learning from professional foresighters and consultants working at the intersection of foresight and engagement. While my work is more in engagement, I am always looking for more tools to diversify my approaches to research and to designing community consultation.

paper circle exercise

Ideas from an exercise during the IFA summer school.

Together, we discussed and worked through complex topics of language, terminology and diverse cultures from a spectrum of working styles and comfort levels with foresight and engagement. I strongly think that the most powerful take away from the IFA is that we are all working on the wicked problems of the world in different ways and if we can simple push each other a little bit than we have done more than we could have on our own.

balcony photo (2)

Participants in the 2013 IFA Summer School

I left the International Foresight Academy with a thirst to learn more about how foresight can impact my work – I am the Founder of Exhibit Change, a design driven community engagement organization with a focus on the intersection of wicked problems and citizen designers. We work with community and stakeholders to identify pain points and work together to co-design the spaces that support systemic change and shifts in behavior. Working in teams, with the guidance of Felicity and Ruben made it clear that engagement and foresight are closely aligned and that the spectrum of tools is expanding and influencing each discipline. I learned a lot from the content, the facilitation methods and time to reflect on my own practices.

Note: This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of the Nexus blog, nor of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis. 


Jennifer Chan is a design strategist and social entrepreneur. Her interests are city building, education, design thinking, participatory leadership, and social impact. Jennifer has a Bachelors of Architectural Science and is currently a candidate for the Masters of Design in Strategic Foresight and Innovation. Jennifer’s work and research has her looking at educational design, spatial pedagogy experiential design, game theory, civic engagement; generally creating spaces for individuals to co-design experiences for public good. Jennifer is the Founder of Exhibit Change, a design-driven community engagement organization exploring the intersections of wicked problems and citizen designers. Jennifer is constantly asking “How Might We…”