Women of Color in Tech and/or Futures/Foresight Work

Have you seen the film “The Social Dilemma?” In a previous post, I shared a couple of fine reviews specifically concerning the lack of diverse representation in the film – particularly when it comes to breakthrough thinking, practicing, research and imagining about the future in tech and beyond. Most concerning is the lack of inclusion of the voices of Women of Color who have been conducting important work in this space for many years. Of course the issues in the film are important. But the way the story is being told is incomplete from where I sit. This post is singularly dedicated to amplifying the voices and work of some of these extraordinary people that I have been learning from on my own futures journey. It is by no means exhaustive. But no study of the future, or equity, of imagination and of shared possibilities in tech or beyond it is complete without their collective vision, intellect and passion. I offer this list with gratitude and admiration.

This is an essential learning space for social workers committed to future readiness and the expansive and equity-centered thinking that is required to thrive there.

(an incomplete list – ever in development)

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Ruha Benjamin, Ph.D., Associate Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University. Expert on algorithmic racism, bias and tech justice. Presentation of her work.

Pupul Bisht, MA – specialist on decolonization frameworks for foresight and worldbuilding.

Meredith Broussard, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute of New York University. Specialist on artificial intelligence and bias. Presentation of her work.

Adrieene Maree Brown – Author, pleasure activist and poet. Presentation of her work – Emergent Strategies.

Kimberly Bryant – Biotechnologist and Founder, Black Girls Code.

Afua Bruce – Chief Program Officer, DataKind, public interest technologist. Presentation of her work.

Joy Buolamwini, Research Assistant, MIT Media Lab, poet of code, data scientist and algorithmic justice activist. Presentation of her work.

Octavia Butler, Author and MacArthur Genious Award Recipient. Overview of her work and relevance today. Interview with Ms. Butler.

Rumman Chowdhury – Global Lead for Responsible AI at Accenture, AI expert. Presentation of her work.

Courtney Cogburn, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Social Work, Columbia University. Filmmaker, psychologist, VR expert. Presentation of her work.

Kishonna L. Gray, Ph.D., Assistant Professor Department of Communications and Gender and Women’s Studies, University of Illinois. Author, researcher and game developer – expert in equity and inclusion in gaming. Presentation of her work.

Walidah Imarisha – writer, educator, Afrofuturist, poet. Presentation of her work.

Anab Jain – designer, futurist, filmmaker and educator. Co-Founder and Director of Superflux. Presentation of her work.

Ingrid La Fleur – Afrofuturist, artist and pleasure activist. Founder of the Afrofutures Strategies Institute. Presentation of her work.

Kwamou Eva Feukeu – Futurist at UNESCO with specialization in decolonization of futures methodologies, and emerging issues of foresight in Africa. Co-Presentation of her work with Riel Miller.

Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, Ph.D., Founder of Urban Ocean Lab. Climate Scientist and Marine Biologist. Presentation of her work.

Shalini Kantayya, Filmmaker, documentarian. Director of “Coded Bias” film.

Aarathi Krishnan – Humanitarian futurist. Presentation of her work.

Vanessa Mason – futurist specializing in “the future of belonging.” Research Director at Institute for the Future.

Alondra Nelson, Ph.D. – Professor, School of Social Science, Institute for Advanced Study. President of the Social Science Research Council, science scholar. Author of “The Social Life of DNA.” Presentation on “Society after Pandemic.”

Claire Nelson, Ph.D. – futures and foresight leader with focus on global issues. Interview about her work.

Safiya Noble, Ph.D.- Associate Professor of Information Studies and African American Studies. Author of Algorithms of Oppression. Co-Director of the UCLA Center for Critical Internet Inquiry. Presentation of her work.

Tawana Petty – digital justice advocate and Director of the Data Justice Program for the Detroit Community Technology Project.

Devon Powers, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Klein College of Media and Communication, Temple University – specialist in trends and trend analysis. Presentation of her work.

Sushma Raman, MPA – Executive Director of the Harvard Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, author and expert on the future of human rights. Presentation of her work.

Ainissa Ramirez, Ph.D. – author of the Alchemy of us: How humans and matter transformed one another. Brief film/interview.

Latanya Sweeney, Ph.D., Professor of Practice, Government and Technology – Harvard Kennedy School. Founding Director or the Data Privacy Lab at Harvard. Presentation of her work.

SR Toliver, Ph.D. – specialist in literary possibilities of speculative fiction for educators with focus on Black femme/female sci-fi and fantasy.

Ytasha Womack, Afrofuturist, author, filmmaker, scholar and dance therapist. Presentation of her work.

Alisha B. Wormsley – interdisciplinary artist and cultural producer. Creator of the “There are Black people in the future” project. Brief film about her work.

Meeting Download from the Institute for the Future’s Annual 10-Year-Forecast – September 2020

The week before last, the Institute for the Future (where I have a Research Fellowship affiliation) had their annual “Ten Year Forecast” meeting. It is always a robust, engaging – and sometimes unsettling gathering. I learn so much every year – thought I’d summarize the high points I took away.

I did a download of the meeting – check it out!!

You can see overviews of previous years’ meetings here.

The Future and Children

There are many important things to think about and focus on in foresight practice: the future of politics and government, the environment, the future of work – and many others. But on balance – a focus on the future of children ranks among the most urgent. And this is especially true of those of us who study and work on social and community problems born of gross inequalities, racism and structural disadvantage.

My work is to urge and prepare social workers and other youth workers to be thoughtful, determined, visionary and foresightful about their practice in the months and years to come. We hold and utilize many tools to accomplish our goals. We provide and/or help create many essential services towards healing and restoration and we continually revise and reform our services – sometimes so much so, we feel it is important to take them down and reimagine them. We conduct advocacy and resist. We try to address our own shortcomings both personally and systemically – to assure that we ourselves are not part of the problem. But persistent questions – and questions of the future – continue to present themselves in our complicated practice ecosystem. What should shift most urgently, and in what ways, in our world on behalf of the well-being of children? What should not shift at all? What is shifting now in ways we are barely tracking? Who is making those decisions? What is their agenda? How can we better question and challenge our assumptions about what is and isn’t possible? How creative can we be in co-creating better immediate and long-term futures for children and youth around the world…and how ready are we to do just that?

In order to do this, not only do social workers benefit from getting good foresight training and preparation, but they need to look at current trends around us…and…just as important, imagine and engage in foresight to think through what is just around the corner from them. What is our preferred future? How can conceptualizing and building that vision be as democratically anchored as possible? I would suggest that there is almost no more important ethical imperative for social workers committed to the well-being of children, and to cultivate a futures eye and related skills. As the song says, we are already late. To love children, is to commit to a future in which they can flourish. Let’s get to work.

I’ve gathered an assortment of reports, articles and links to other resources that will spark your thinking and connect you to big ideas related to how many important facets there to this vital question “what is the future of children?” This is a tool kit for the future – use it well! One last point – I’d especially like to highlight below the section on youth activists. A quick review of the landscape of youth activism affirms how deeply their focus and impact is growing – and how much we as adults have to learn from them, with them.

Practicing foresight involves a variety of additional steps to imagine preferred futures, consider undesired ones and how to avoid them, and stay open to possibilities beyond what we might be able to consider at this moment in this rapidly changing practice landscape. The goal of foresight is to inform our actions in ways that have maximized our collective intelligence, imagination and agility. Learning and thinking across categories and levels (what Futurist Bob Johansen calls “Full Spectrum Thinking”) is required. This page is a start in that process — to stretch open our thinking with each other and imagine both intersections, options and pathways. Other information about foresight can be found throughout this blog and with a host of great organizations such as IFTF and others.

The first report listed below “A Future for the World’s Children” – co-sponsored by Lancet, WHO and UNICEF is perhaps the most important of them all. As covid-19 has disrupted so many things – the well-being of children of young people surely is one of the most dire.

Here’s a brief film about the report

This comprehensive and groundbreaking internationally focused document prioritizes the following steps to center children’s well-being in the future:

– Put children at the heart of our vision for a sustainable humanity

Stop predatory commercial advertising and marketing practices

Reduce carbon emissions that threaten the future of children and young people

Boost investment in the health and wellbeing of children and young people

Work across all sectors to deliver child-friendly policies

Ensure that the voices of children and young people are heard

I look forward to ongoing gathering with advocates, social workers, families, policy makers and children/youth themselves to engage with the essential work of future building. There has never been a more important time.

Multi-Issue Reports/Organizations

A future for the world’s children: A Lancet, WHO and UNICEF Commission report (2020)

Children’s Defense Fund

Climate Change

Climate change threatens the future of all children (2020)

Climate change poses a threat to children’s health worldwide (2019)

Children on the front line: The challenges of climate change (2014)

Anti-Racism

Diversity, Data, Kids announces the child opportunity index 2.0 (2020)

How to raise an anti-racist child (2020)

A guide to equity and antiracism for educators (2020)

Diversity, Data, Kids website – many good resources here (http://www.diversitydatakids.org/)

Equity

The Children’s Equity Project releases equity roadmap for early education (2020)

How racism harms children (2019)

The impact of racism on child and adolescent health (American Academy of Pediatrics – 2019)

Children’s understanding of equity in the context of inequality (2016)

Poverty

How economic equity and hope for the future could reduce child abuse and neglect in the US (2019)

Roadmap to reducing child poverty (2019)

Technology

Children and media tips for technology from the American Academy of Pediatrics (2018)

Parenting in the age of screens (2020)

EduTopia’s Digital Citizenship resources and web page

Jane McGonigal’s TED talk on gaming (2010) – thought this is ten years old now, it is a must watch for anyone interested in the well-being of youth and gaming. Still packs a wonderful punch and still very relevant.

Artificial Intelligence

Why kids need special protection from AI’s influence (2020)

Draft policy guidance for children and AI (2020)

Children and AI: Opportunities and Risks/UNICEF

Kids are surrounded by AI: They should know how it works (2019)

How will AI effect child development (2018)

Health

Overview of CHIP (Child Health Insurance Program) (2020)

The impact of disparities on children’s health (2020)

Designing the future of children’s mental health services (2020)

It’s time to focus on the future of children’s health insurance coverage (2019)

Establishing a Child Rights, Health Equity, and Social Justice-Based Practice of Pediatrics (2015)

The future of children: Policies to promote children’s health (2015)

Queer Youth

What do Queer youth want for their future? (2019)

Generating a revolution in prevention, wellness and care for LBGTQ youth (2014)

Covid-19 Impacts

After covid-19: A future for the world’s children? (2020)

Impact of covid-19 and lockdown on mental health of children and adolescents: A narrative review with recommendations (2020)

Evaluating 2019 US census child poverty data in the wake of covid-19 (2020)

Justice for families impacted by covid-19 – Children’s Defense Fund (2020)

When it comes to screens during lockdown, kids need a guide not a disciplinarian (2020)

Juggling Financial Stress And Caregiving, Parents Are ‘Very Not OK’ In The Pandemic (2020)

How burnout became the norm for American parents during covid-19 (2020)

The Future of Families

Families in Flux/IFTF (2020)

Parenting in a digital age – new hopes and fears (Webinar – 2020)

A future of work that compliments family life (2020)

A look at the future of the family (2019)

The future of working families: How we care for our children (2019)

9 different visions of what families will look like 50 years from now (2015)

Future of families to 2030: A synthesis report (2011)

Education

Schools of the future: Defining the new models of education for the fourth industrial revolution (2020)

How will covid-19 change our schools in the long run? (2020)

Upcoming tech trends that will shape the future of education for children (2019)

Will we make the future of education equitable (2019)

A model for the future of education (2018)

Children and Immigration

Looking at lasting effects of Trump’s family separation policy at the Southern border (2020)

Immigrant students: Our kids, our future (2018)

Youth Activism

6 youth-led political movements to inspire you to vote (2020)

Youth activism is on the rise around the globe (2019)

These 10 young activists are trying to move the needle on climate change, gun control, and other global issues (2019)

Youth in revolt: Five powerful movements fueled by young activists (2018)

Futures Programming and Education for Children/Teens

Into the future NYC

Teach the Future

Gathering Resources for the Launch of the national Social Work Health Futures Lab!

In just a few weeks, we’ll be doing a (delayed) launch of the national Social Work Health Futures Lab due to Covid-19 (like so many).

Although we have been busy getting things ready behind the scenes for months – our official start is a little later than intended. In preparation for those wishing to get involved/apply – I’ve pulled some futures-oriented creative thinking resources together to stimulate idea building! Stay tuned for more to come – but in the mean time – please explore (most of these have appeared on this website in the 18 months, but have been revised for this entry). Watch this space for news and announcements including the launch a new Social Work Health Futures website and application process.

What if social workers – dedicated to improving well-being and health in all its forms – were futurists? What would we do? How would we do it? What tools, techniques, theories or frameworks would we use? How would we balance the so often urgent needs we encounter and are often responsible for addressing – with longer term horizons and a deep responsibility to not only react to current events, but to work in community to shape a better future for all?

Soon, we’ll have a chance to explore these questions and many more. For now – dive in and think about your own social work practice. What is the future of (your) area of focus? Who gets to decide that? What is the future of social work itself?

Looking forward to continuing to learn together and building what comes next.

The future of health equity – a curated annotated bibliography

Short films to boost your futures literacy

Governments using/adopting foresight and futures frameworks

New words in futuring: Alphabet of futures thinking

Covid-19 specific

Afrofuturism

A social work futurist goes to a future of medicine conference – download

Big ideas for future thinking – social change palooza!

Epistemic injustice tools and ideas for better futures

Ethics round up

Police abolition: A futures lens

Organizations doing futures/foresight work

Webinars/Interviews – Laura Nissen and social work futures

Social Work and the Future in a Post-Covid 19 World: A Foresight Lens and a Call to Action for the Profession – Article by Laura Nissen

Futures in Social Work – Summer 2020 Reading List!

There is a lot going on in the world and plenty to think about regarding the past, present and the future – and the ways they all intersect in very real ways right now. I salute and support important reading that we can all benefit from doing this summer regarding race and equity – and many fine lists have surfaced in recent weeks.

Numerous readers of this blog, have also asked for a “futures favorite” reads that explore topics especially relevant to social work and social change activities. So as promised, I prepared one here! These intertwine issues of power, imagination, equity, social determinants of health, identity, race and economic justice – as well as the role of technology, climate, the economy and other social drivers undergoing rapid transformation in the world around us.

These are my “top twelve” at the moment. If you’d like a deeper dive into other ideas of things to read/explore, I’d invite you to other posts in this blog related to readings.

Afrofuturism – Amplifying Black Futures and Voices: A Resource for Change Workers

Billboard by artist Alisha B. Wormsley, on display in Detroit, Michigan for the exhibition Manifest Destiny curated by Ingrid LaFleur at the Library Street Collective – Originally published here.

This post is intended to acquaint readers, change workers and fellow social workers to Afrofuturism. While it remains as important as ever to learn about antiracism in the here and now*…a futurist perspective would suggest that futures thinking/practice can give a fresh view, new energy, new perspectives and new possibilities for both problems and solutions in the present day. These resources are gathered and offered with gratitude and respect to the Afrofuturists collected to expand our thinking and our practices. This is an evolving post – so updates may follow.

Consider this as jumping off points! Dr. Lakeya Cherry – Social Workers – Allies for Justice? (2020), Dr. Ibram X. Kendi – An Anti-Racist Reading List (2019), Rachel Garlinghouse – Stop Asking People Of Color To Explain Racism–Pick Up One Of These Books Instead (2020).

Afrofuturism can connect the problems we experience now with the past, our current reality and futures yet to be determined, but vibrant, living and robust.

“The liberated futures we want don’t exist as untouchable distant points out of our reach. When we focus on collective action, mutual aid, self-determination, centering the leadership of the marginalized, we defy linear time. We pull those futures into the present. Let’s keep pulling the liberated futures into the present over and over again, until that’s all there is.” Walidah Imarisha

What is Afrofuturism?

Afrofuturism is the reimagining of a future filled with arts, science and technology seen through a black lens. The term was conceived a quarter-century ago by white author Mark Dery in his essay “Black to the Future,” which looks at speculative fiction within the African diaspora. (Broadnax, 2018). It is also considered an epistemology and encapsulates a liberatory connection of the history of Black thought, knowledge and artistic production from the past to re-imagined futures (Alondra Nelson).

This framework inspires deep and imaginative possibilities for other ways of thinking, operating and interacting with the world. It challenges “whiteness,” colonialism, heteropatriarchy and other “isms” by intentionally operating beyond them. By creatively expanding assumptions, boundaries and histories – Afrofuturism creates new kinds of possibility spaces and power. These very kinds of spaces are essential in generating post-normal solutions to contemporary challenges – and are guided by Black voices and imaginations.

This is an update and revision of an earlier post created last April, 2019.

In addition, since the original posting of this information, I’ve also found an MSW Thesis from social worker, Kayla Huddleston, MSW entitled Afrofuturism as Applied to Self-Perception: an Experimental Vignette Study which appears to be the first use of these frames in social work. It’s a terrific piece worth exploring – and it will inspire creative thinking about what might be possible.

Readings in Popular Media

Degrowing the future (2020)

How Black women are reshaping Afrofuturism – Open Democracy (2020)

How Black women are reshaping Afrofuturism – YES Magazine (2020)

What does the Afrofuture say? (2020)

Is Afrofuturism the answer to our current crisis (2019)

A beginner’s guide to Afrofuturism (2019)

This is Afrofuturism (2018)

Four thoughts on the future of Afrofuturism (2018)

Six Afrofuturist artists to watch that explore the modern African diaspora (2018)

What the heck is Afrofuturism? (2018)

Afrofuturism: A language of rebellion (2018)

Afrofuturism: Why Black science fiction can’t be denied (2018)

Octavia Butler’s legacy, impact and Afrofuturism celebrated (2016)

Afrofuturism: Reimagining science the future from a Black perspective (2015)

Videos

What does the Afrofuture say? (Interviews with contemporary Afrofuturists) (2020)

***GREAT PLACE TO START!!! Princess Weekes teaches Afrofuturism 101 in a new episode of “It’s Lit.” (2020)

Octavia Butler – Why you should read the Afrofuturist legend Octavia Butler (2019)

Lonny Brooks – Afrofuturism (2019)

Lonny Brooks and Jason Tester – Imagining Queer Futures with an Afrofuturist Perspective (2019)

Nnedi Okorafor – Sci Fi stories that imagine a different Africa 2017 (Designates as “AfricanFuturism” – not Afrofuturism.)

Ytasha Womack – Afrofuturism, imagination and humanity

Michael Bennett, Ytasha Womack, Wale Oyedije, and Aisha Harris – Afrofuturism: Imagining the future of Black identity 2015

Film and Music

8 Afrofuturist classics everyone needs to hear (2018)

Exploring where Afrofuturism in film: Where sci fi and mythology blur (2018)

What to watch after Black Panther: An Afrofuturism primer (2018)

Podcast/Audio

Coronavirus and crisis and Afrofuturism: A way to envision what’s possible despite injustice and hardship (2020)

Afrofuturist Podcast

This American Life episode exploring Afrofuturism (2017). (Thanks Dr. Felicia Murray!).

Academic Literature

Oxford Afrofuturism Bibliography (2017)

Academic Coursework

Afrofuturism course overviews from Kalamazoo CollegeUniversity of California RiversideDuke University, andUniversity of Chicago

Organizations/Think Tanks

Afrofutures Strategies Institute

Black Quantum Futurism

Afrofuturist Society

An Incomplete List of Afrofuturists to Follow (Alphabetical Order)

Toni Adeyemi

Reynaldo Anderson

Lonny Brooks

Adrienne Maree Brown

Walidah Imarisha

Alondra Nelson

Rasheeda Phillips

Nnedi Okorafor (Designates as “AfricanFuturism” – not Afrofuturism.)

Ytasha Womack