The challenge: How can we tackle fatalism about our future and better anticipate the impact of emerging trends and technologies?
We use methods like horizon scanning, speculative design, data mapping and scenarios to explore alternative futures with experts and the public.
For a summary of futures methods and how they can be used see our Futures Explainer.
How to think about the future
We want to democratise conversations about the future, bringing to life credible possibilities which translate into better decision-making today.
We explore trends, technologies and early signals of change to identify the drivers shaping tomorrow. We use both qualitative and quantitative foresight methods, but are increasingly working with new data sources (such as social media data) and experimental analytical methods (such as machine learning).
We’ve applied futures tools to explore some of the big challenges of our time, for example, looking ahead to the changing skills the workforce will need in the coming decade, the technologies and values we should be putting at the centre of the next generation internet and how to create the healthcare system of the future. Our foresight work spans all five of Nesta’s priority themes.
Nesta futurescoping also extends beyond current areas of work to fields, topics and technologies which are new to the organisation.
For example, in recent years our exploratory work on the potential of artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality, and the impact of automation on the workforce paved the way for larger scale Nesta research projects and programmes.
Our new centre on collective intelligence is one example of this exploratory approach.
Nesta’s futures events - including FutureFest - serve as a showcase for the next generation of ‘big ideas’ in governance, education, health, and culture.
They are highly interactive in design, providing a platform for technologists and artists to demonstrate new tools and technologies so that the audience can experience a taste of things to come.
Nesta’s partners in exploratory futures work have included: the UK government, Innovate UK, the European Commission, Oxford and Cambridge Universities, Pearson, the V&A, BBC, British Council, Science Museum, Microsoft Research, Arts Council England and Doteveryone.