Hanze University of Applied Sciences

Future Literacy KnowLabs in Higher Education

​Hanze University of Applied Sciences will conduct, in partnership with UNESCO, a Future Literacy KnowLab with Hanze Master students in May. Never before has a Future Literacy KnowLab been incorporated in an existing curriculum. In this project, we will monitor 25 Master students who experience and participate in a 2 week intensive Future Literacy KnowLab.

​We will collect data on how Futere Literacy is used within education and measure it’s effect through a developed tool. Action based research will provide valuable insights in how to adapt Future Literacy KnowLabs for educational purposes and how to implement Futere Literacy into existing curricula. Practice based research needs to be done to determine whether we practice what we preach: Do our students and future professionals become more Future Literate?

UNESCO and Hanze UAS will both gain valuable insight in how we prepare ourselves and our students for an uncertain future.


We say we prepare students for an unknown future, for jobs that do not exist yet. But this sounds like contradiction in itself: how can one be prepared for the unknown?  How can we facilitate learning and teaching if the future of the world changes so rapidly?

Besides a curriculum that teaches students the necessary skills, knowledge and attitude for the 21st Century, we believe students and teachers need something more: a long term vision in which they demonstrate an understanding of the challenges of the future and  the role they can play. We are convinced that Future Literacy (Foresight, UNESCO) is a crucial 21stCentury Skill, since we are looking for the next leaders who can not only shape the debate, but also have a different  outlook on our actions today. That we, as people, cannot predict the future, but we can gain insight in how we approach unforeseeable challenges by using the future to innovate the present (Riel Miller, 2015)

The world is complex and we are facing grand societal challenges; climate change, migration, technology. We might have a vague idea of where we are going, but does that reflect where we WANT to go? Since the future does not exist yet, our predictions and dreams about the future are often based on our own assumptions. We cannot prepare ourselves for something that is unknown, but we can USE the way we relate to the future to gain a sense of ownership of our own fate. Future literacy challenges us to rethink our own assumptions about the future. Since our students will be the change agents of that future, we need to implement these skills in our curriculum and, together, start asking questions that have no easy answer.


Future Literacy is a vision, but also a method to innovate the present. It’s not just a tool to innovate: students will expand their perspective and re-examine their assumptions. This asks for rigorous thinking around global themes like energy, global health or the European movement. In small groups, students will start their own journey by creating a collective wisdom: what do we know? What do we NOT know? That collective wisdom or intelligence forms the basis for making a prediction of the future concerning that theme, as well as a preference: a dream of an ideal world.

Students will be asked to use their anticipatory systems and creative skills to create those two scenarios. Since scenarios are always based on assumptions, students will reframe those assumptions. By challenging one’s own believes and reframing the story of the future, we create a different perspective that is needed to come up with different, creative ideas on how to take on societal challenges. Students will not only gain trust in their own ability to play a role in the future, they will also regain trust in the fact there IS a future.


In May 2017 we start a pilot for International Master students at the Hanze University of Applied Sciences of two weeks, in which students will experience a Future literacy Knowlab by themselves, regarding a global theme (The Future of Europe). This KnowLab will:

  • Equip students with the skills to predict and imagine future scenarios
  • Teach students how to examine their own assumptions
  • Support them in researching global issues and developing a new approach toward possible solutions
  • challenge students to think critically and out of their intellectual comfort zone
  • encourage students to take actions upon their newly gained insights

At the end of the two weeks student will present their findings and action plans  to shareholders and have acquired Future Literacy skills to such a degree that they are able to participate in a KnowLab independently.