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.
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.
Children and Covid-19 (Revised January 2022)
(Open and ongoing) Children and covid-19: UNICEF data hub
Justice for families impacted by covid-19 – Children’s Defense Fund (2020)
Climate Change (Revised January 2022)
Diversity, Data, Kids website – many good resources here (http://www.diversitydatakids.org/)
How racism harms children (2019)
The impact of racism on child and adolescent health (American Academy of Pediatrics – 2019)
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.
Overview of CHIP (Child Health Insurance Program) (2020)
The Future of Families
Families in Flux/IFTF (2020)
Parenting in a digital age – new hopes and fears (Webinar – 2020)
Children and Immigration
Futures Programming and Education for Children/Teens (Revised January 2022)