Qualities of Good Questions – An Essential Futures Frame

Just loved this list of qualities of good questions from Kelly (2016). Good questions are the key to being ready for new futures and ultimately, when executed well, the most human of our strengths. I’ll post a fuller review of the book (which I liked very much!) later, but until then, here’s one from the web. Consider these and add more! Thinking about this “what are the most important things for social work to do to be ready for a dynamic, unpredictable and turbulent future?” I think part of the answer…is challenging ourselves to ask better, deeper, more disruptive questions with courage and creativity…!

“A good question is like the one Albert Einstein asked himself as a small boy ‘what would you see if you were traveling on a beam of light?’ That question launched the theory of relativity (E=MC2) and the atomic age.

  • A good question is not concerned with a correct answer.
  • A good question cannot be answered immediately.
  • A good question challenges existing answers.
  • A good question is one you badly want answered once you hear it, but had no inkling you could before it was asked.
  • A good question creates new territory of thinking.
  • A good question reframes its own answers.
  • A good question is the seed of innovation in science, technology, art, politics and business.
  • A good question is a probe – a ‘what if’ scenario.
  • A good question skirts on the edge of what is known and not known, neither silly nor obvious.
  • A good question cannot be predicted.
  • A good question is one that generates many other questions.
  • A good question may be the last job a machine will ever learn to do.
  • A good question is what humans are for (pp. 288-289).”

Kelly, Kevin (2016). The inevitable: Understanding the 12 technological forces that will shape our future. New York: Penguin Books.

Afrofuturism – Essential Resources for Social Work and Beyond

(Image by John Jennings.)

Thought I would take the opportunity to pull various resources I’ve previously linked to on this blog on the topic of Afrofuturism together to amplify how important, creative and relevant this movement is to futures work. I would suggest that social work could benefit enormously by exploring how these emerging scholarly, artistic and literary resources might enhance social work education. Let’s imagine new ways of learning about culture, history, voices, power and what is possible for the future.

Afrofuturism –A movement in literature, music, art, etc., featuring futuristic or science fiction themes which incorporate elements of black history and culture.  Oxford Dictionaries

Afrofuturism (Wickipedia)

Afrofuturism (Oxford Bibliographies – includes more academic citations) 2017

What the heck is Afrofuturism? (2018)

Octavia’s Brood

St. Louis Afrofuturism (2019)

A beginning guide to Afrofuturism: 9 titles to watch and read (2019)

Afrofuturism – A language of rebellion (2018)

Afrofuturism course overviews from Kalamazoo College, University of California Riverside, Duke University, andUniversity of Chicago

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

A Social Work Futures Game – LET’S PLAY!!!

Recently, I was asked to develop a futures game for Deans and Directors of Social Work (NADD) around the United States. This is a group I’ve been proud to be part of for the past six years, but will soon be exiting as I end my deanship at Portland State University (for a sabbatical to explore/work on several futures projects and then returning to my faculty position!!)

Gaming is increasingly being used as a method for engaging, educating, focusing and energizing people to work on common goals – it is moving way beyond ideas of “winning and losing” from a futures perspective. While now a few years old, well-known gaming futurist Jane McGonigal has a classic TED talk on this topic – which you can see (and read this accompanying summary) here.

Here’s another more academic article about gaming theory and practice for various populations, settings and purposes in a futures context.

My own futures game is intended:

  • To stretch social work students, faculty and practitioners’ minds to consider possible future trajectories and what it means to be “ready” (as much as possible) for alternative futures.  
  • To develop specific “next steps” in futures readiness planning.
  • To serve as a tool in “foresight” capacity development individually and collectively for social workers and social work educators.
  • To develop our collective agility, creativity and intelligence as a profession regarding the challenges we will face in our shared future.

This is a “beta” version which is to say that I’m planning on making adjustments and will probably add additional scenarios in the future. For now, I invite you (especially if you’re a social worker, student or social work educator) to explore the game and use it in a setting that it might be useful! If you do, please keep me in the loop and share your feedback and ideas about how I can make the game even more relevant and helpful!

You can download the game here!

Here’s to using gaming to build a better world in social work! Have fun!!

Special thanks to Dean Goutham Menon at Loyala University for the invitation to develop and pilot this game, to Dean Nancy Smyth at University of Buffalo for development consultation, and to the participants of the Spring 2019 NADD meeting for participating in the game for the first time and providing invaluable ideas and encouragement.

Activism and the Future: Beyond the Term “Burnout” and Deepening our Ability to Care for Ourselves and Each Other for the Long Haul

Activism, resistance and the right to engage in our democratic process of holding our government (and other elements of our community) accountable is among the most important of our ideals as social workers. These ideas and practices show up in our core mission statements, our codes of ethics and beyond. And if the present moment suggests anything…it suggests a future that will involve deepening need and hopefully commitment by able activists to keep causes moving forward.

Clearly, the work we do is taxing. Movement work can engage and challenge us beyond our limits, requires us to risk, stretch and practice our ideals in often less-than-ideal circumstances.

Sometimes people leave the effort – and sometimes people explain why that happens as “burnout.” If our movements are going to endure, succeed, and advance – and if we have a future that involves true progress…we need to imagine and consider all of the elements we can control that contribute to the loss of key people so important to social justice efforts.

Is social justice work burnout a real thing? Will it impact the future in negative ways if good people don’t stay engaged with social movement efforts? I searched for the ideas of smart folks in this work – to best anchor some of this thinking in my own pursuit of futures frameworks for social work practice.

It is likely that our challenges will increase, that our movement work will get more complex, and that easy solutions to injustice will not be readily apparent. If we are in it for the long haul…what does that mean? How do we best care for each other in our work? And why does that matter for a social work future?

Here is an ongoing list of ideas that I found in the literature related to this topic. These go well beyond the idea of simple “burnout” which is a term recently called into question for being an oversimplification of a much deeper structural set of barriers to well-being. I found these pieces really inspiring – hope you do too! Join in the conversation – and let’s do all we can to build a vibrancy, equity and health in our very demanding work!

Considering and Celebrating Diverse Queer Futures

How do we build a future with a liberatory lens embracing gender and gender identity? Building upon and with great respect for the queer justice movements in the past and present, I’ve gathered some preliminary thinking related to this issue for us to consider as part of this proposition. A review of these ideas reveals multiple and not always intersecting perspectives among these authors (and among other scholars working in this space). This is a rich area sure to continue to develop in the years to come. How do we come together to queer the future in brave and creative ways? These authors, activists and artists are leading the way (and have been doing so for some time). Let’s learn from them in our broader social work practice as we consider the best ways to think about and prepare for futures that are affirming for all. Queer science fiction is highlighted and the end of this post. Will add things as I find them!

Need a primer on gender issues? The New York Commission on Human Rights just produced a beautiful overview of gender. Check out this wonderful little film with a big heart.

Gucci’s “The Future is Fluid” makes a powerful statement about the dangers of gender norms (2019)

**From the above link…be sure to see the actual short film described. It is beautiful. You can also reach it here.

The Queer Futures Collective – We are a radically vulnerable and trans centered multimedia knowledge hub/activist laboratory exploring the intersections of disability studies, feminist technoscience, queer arts, transformative pedagogies, and spiritual activisms in practices of Future Making.

These feminist artists are imagining a world without gender and its beautiful (2016)

Everyday Sociology Blog – The future of gender (2018)

The gender-fluid generation: Young people on being male, female and nonbinary (2016)

What will gay culture look like in 2035? LGBTQ activists and writers weigh in(2015)

The future is gender neutral design (2019)

Post-genderism: Beyond the binary (2008)

The future of gender (2014)

These two artists are imagining a black, queer future (2015)

Workplaces needed to prepare for the nonbinary future (2018)

Cyborgs, robots, artificial intelligence and the future of gender (2014)

The future is not female: Its two-spirit, queer and nonbinary (2017)

The new gender fluid reality. Are you ready? Is your company? (2018)

Meanwhile in the future, no one cares about your gender (2015)

Medium – Gender 2.0 (a collection of articles about gender – many of which reflect themes/issues of the future of gender)

Queer futures: Reconsidering ethics, activism and the political

Queer futures in anthropology (2015)

Reference – you might be interested in this post from Slate (2014) on all the new FB categories of gender (all 56 of them!).

Also – Queer Science Fiction!

Octavia Butler: A visionary among futurists (2018)

Science fiction needs to reflect that the future is queer (2014)

5 Science fiction and fantasy women of color to read after Octavia Butler (2017)

Review of “Love beyond space and time” (2017) (Thank you Antonia Alvarez!!)

Review of “Meanwhile, elsewhere” and its unapologetic centering of trans people in science fiction (2017)

9 Influential LGBTQ science fiction and fantasy authors (2019)

19 Best LGBTQ science fiction books