Introduction: Future Forum

Message from the President of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and the President of the Future Forum Scientific Committee.

Isabel Mota

President of the Calouste Gulbenkian Board of Directors

The creation of the Future Forum in 2019 was, for me, an important step in giving the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation a new platform for discussing and reflecting on our shared future. I have always believed that the ability to have foresight and anticipate problems is essential in upholding policies and decisions.

With a Scientific Committee of indisputable quality, presided over by Professor Miguel Poiares Maduro – to whom I once again give great thanks – this Forum aims to identify, study and convey knowledge on major issues of the future, by recognizing its challenges and achieving the critical mass needed to put these issues on the public agenda.

The Forum will focus specifically on disruptive issues for our future, particularly demographic, economic, social and environmental challenges; as well as technology, democracy and the future of the European project, identifying these issues and studying the best ways of embracing and addressing them in cooperation with other European think tanks, universities and foundations.

The Future Forum will reaffirm the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation as an institution of superior thought on the most important issues now facing humanity, bringing together knowledge from renowned thinkers, researchers and prestigious institutions to discover and reveal paths for our future.

The Forum’s current agenda includes topics such as 2030 Foresight Portugal, intergenerational relationships, youth political engagement and the average wage in Portugal. At the same time, given our current circumstances, the Forum has also put together an online conference on responses to the COVID-19 pandemic (health, economy and policies), and will launch a Gulbenkian Ideas Special Series called “COVID-19: What’s Next?” featuring opinions from Portuguese and international thinkers and a group of young people.

 

Miguel Poiares Maduro

President of the Future Forum Scientific Committee

The Future Forum’s purpose is to produce, convey and disseminate knowledge on the future, and on what we must do now prepare ourselves for it. There are three essential goals which guide us: first, identifying and anticipating fundamental issues and challenges for the future; second, achieving critical mass in relation to these issues; and third, creating means for conveying the knowledge produced on these issues to the public arena and to public policy.

The Forum’s focus is not on day-to-day topics, but instead on structural long-term issues, i.e. major demographic, environmental, social, technological, economic and political transformations and trends. Current affairs may be addressed by the Forum, but only insofar as they involve issues with a long-lasting systemic impact on our society. Whenever possible, more than simply explaining transformations, we want to foresee them and discuss how we should prepare ourselves for them. Part of this future preparation demands achieving critical mass on certain topics, both in terms of science and the public arena, along with shaping public policy and promoting it in a context often times overly focused on the here and now.

To achieve these different goals, the Forum has created and organized various types of initiatives. Naturally, we have events and conferences with high public visibility. However, we believe it is important to act both upstream and downstream of these conferences: by ordering projects and studies on public policies and issues; organizing seminars and training dedicated to those who work on these public policies; and fostering different types of communication, both on paper and digitally, on the results of the activities promoted or backed by the Forum. Supporting research to give us the data and ideas needed to think and learn about the future is essential. However, it is also essential to encourage the transfer of this knowledge to the public arena and various social actors and decision-makers. To this end, there must be innovative ways of facilitating this transfer and consolidating this knowledge in the public arena.

The Forum’s first initiatives reflect these concerns. From “Let´s talk about the future” (where some of the world’s leading specialists predict new challenges and how we should address them) to studies we have already ordered (one on a transformation in political engagement in progress, and another on a structural challenge of our economy) and different publications, events and structural projects (such as the project on intergenerational justice or 2030 Foresight Portugal), the Forum’s main concern is to promote public discussion on structural issues by inviting the best specialists on them and bringing their knowledge to the public arena. To achieve this, we seek to innovate not only in our content but also in our approaches. This will also be visible in two major events we are preparing for the future. Both are aimed at foreseeing a future experience, if even possible, of sensory forms.

This is our ambition, fully aware that the future will always keep surprising us. Yet, simply by thinking about it, we will be better prepared for these surprises.