How Futures Foresight informs decision-making

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In the Ancient world, Babylonian, Egyptian and Greek seers often relied on the interpretation of dreams to predict the future. While seers are no longer viewed as mystical figures connected to the divine, their vocation – that of predicting the future – is morphing into a new academic discipline that policy makers are starting to adopt and appreciate to help them analyse the past, to make sense of the present and to predict a number of possible futures. This discipline is called Futures Foresight, also known as Futures studies.

ILO Cairo Office for Business Today Magazine – Egypt, January 2017

In late 2016, the ILO Decent Work Support Team in Egypt, with support from the ITCILO and the Knowledge Management Coordination Team (ILO Geneva), organized a three-day workshop delivered by international consultants on futures foresight. The training event was a contribution to the ILO Centenary Initiative on the Future of Work, launched by the ILO Director General in 2013 and further specified in his 2015 ILC report.

Future Foresight Day 2-52


In the workshop, participants engaged in fast-paced collaborative exercises to gain experience with the different tools and methods available. They explored how to structure and convey emerging visions for the future and they discussed the implications for the participants’ own organization, institution, and professional and societal contexts.


Future Foresight Day 2-90

Purpose-specific futures, foresight and horizon scanning methods can help ILO staff and constituents to consider issues more deeply and to better inform a wide range of work such as: policy and programming; project formulation and implementation; and communications and advocacy. For this particular workshop, attendees chose to focus on youth employment and decent work in Egypt as a major challenge facing the ILO and constituents.

In a wider context, the study of Futures Foresight is for anyone who is confronted with a complex challenge and would like to withdraw design thinking and complex adaptive systems methods to tackle the challenge in an incremental way. Furthermore, foresight analysis is useful for any professional whose work requires collaborative decision-making for the future through understanding and generating shared agendas


To better understand the topic, we propose to discuss what futures studies are and what they are not.


Futures Foresight, what is it?

In a publication of the Hawaii Research Centre for Futures Studies, Prof. Jim Dator states that he came to “understand that there are two basic things to understand about the future, and hence about futures studies.”

« The future » cannot be « predicted » because « the future » does not exist

The aim of Futures studies is not to predict « the future”. In fact, no research studies should pretend to do so. In reality, Futures Foresight aims instead to study “ideas about the future”, or what Prof. Dator calls « images of the future« . Each individual and/or group of individuals holds images of the future that are “volatile, changing according to changing life events or perceptions”. The variety of these images is shaped by geographical biases, and demographical biases, such as gender and age.

As Dator explains “one of the main tasks of futures studies is to identify and examine the major alternative futures that exist at any given time and place”. Thus, while we would commonly talk about predicting “THE future”, the academic discipline of Futures Studies advances a more scientific and rigorous way of achieving the same goal: by forecastingalternative futures« .

Futures studies endeavour “to facilitate individuals and groups in formulating, implementing, and re-envisioning their preferred futures”. The forecast of alternative futures and the foreseeing of preferred futures then lead to planning strategic activities, which would shape daily decisions in an organization.

“However, the process of alternative futures forecasting and preferred futures envisioning is continuously ongoing and changing”, explains Prof. Dator. For that reason, the goal of any futures exercise is not to come up with a « final solution », but to build a guiding vision.

Any useful idea about the futures should appear to be ridiculous.

It is fascinating to watch the technological progress the world has made in the past 30 years.

“Because new technologies permit new behaviors and values, challenging old beliefs and values, much that will be characteristic of the futures is initially novel and challenging. And what typically seems at first obscene, impossible, stupid, « science fiction », ridiculous becomes familiar and eventually « normal”.”

A very good example to illustrate this idea is the 1989 movie “Back to the future 2”, which envisioned that by 2015, we’d have a host of crazy new technologies and products. Several of the film’s predictions have indeed come to fruition such as: personal drones, mobile payment technologies and bio metric devices, hands-free Gaming Consoles, smart clothing, video phones, waste-fuelled cars, and many more.

Therefore, what is popularly considered to be the most unlikely future is often one of the most likely futures and vice versa.


Do you want to have access to our online toolkit and explore a world of possibilities with futures tools?

Visit our Foresight Toolkit page to download guides for futures tools!


Are you interested in learning more about futures foresight tools and methods?

Join us in November for our Futures Foresight and Horizon Scanningcourse!

Learn to apply the most appropriate qualitative tools and methodologies for making assumptions about possible futures, drawing on foresight techniques and complexity management principles.

MOOCs impact: ITCILO explores learning analytics to boost engagement

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In December 2016 the ITCILO released a new report on Massive Open Online Courses for Development which builds on an extensive literature review and draws upon the internal expertise built by the Centre. The most controversial feature of MOOCs is probably low completion rates, typically around 7%. It’s easy to count certificates, but MOOCs are so much more! For this reason, the Centre is adopting a new approach based on Learning Analytics to assess participation with metrics that encompass all desirable learning activities, such as browsing and exploring, and not just completion. Building on its internal expertise, the Centre has developed a MOOCs4Dev Toolkit, which gives guidelines on the three phases of MOOCs rollout: design, implementation and evaluation.

learning analytics

From September to November 2016 the Centre launched its fifth MOOCs: the Crowdfunding MOOC for Caribbean Entrepreneurs, in partnership with the World Bank Group.

CMCE banner

The MOOC aimed to provide entrepreneurs with the knowledge and skills to use crowdfunding to test the market demand for their product or service and plan their own rewards or presale Crowdfunding campaign. The course registered 296 participants from countries belonging to the World Bank Group’s Entrepreneurship Program for Innovation in the Caribbean (EPIC). 57% of the selected applicants were female and 42% were male. This is in contrary to MOOCs statistics found in the literature, where female participation is typically lower than male participation. Furthermore, thanks to 2-step facilitation strategy the MOOC achieved a record-high completion rate of 19% with 57 Crowdfunding Campaign plans submitted by participants. One of them was already launched on Kickstarter and has not only reached but exceeded the crowdfunding target of CAD $8,000 with over 140 backers to expand Taste Tea Naturals, a social enterprise based in Antigua and Barbuda.

Kickstarter campaign

Together with the MOOCs4Dev Report, the CMCE contributed to building the growing expertise of the Centre in MOOCs4Dev. The course also received very positive feedback, with all participants saying they would recommend the course to a colleague.

“I want to sincerely thank the team for designing a great course. I have learnt more than I could have ever imagined. I have the tools necessary now to do my campaign […]. I am eternally grateful for what I have learnt on this online course and hope to be one of your greatest success stories.” CMCE participant


If you want to know more, contact us at

New Report Release: Fostering development through MOOCs @ITCILO

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During the last edition of the Training of Trainers Forum on Sustainable Learning Solutions for the Future which took place in November we discussed among practitioners and development professionals the potential of MOOCs for development.

To MOOC or not TO MOOC”: this was the statement around which three case studies were presented through the 5-minute elevator pitch method. The group was then invited to debate around MOOCs main opportunities and challenges.



*The Elevator Pitch is a time-effective methodology that can be used as a substitute for formal presentations. The pitch has to be short enough to deliver in an (imaginary) elevator ride but at the same time it has to be informative and compelling. To further familiarize with learning methodologies, get your Compass Toolkit.

Below is an extract of what ITCILO presented:

What makes Massive Open Online Courses revolutionary for education? Their availability and scalability, and therefore the great potential this format has to democratize education and foster development.

Why MOOCs and development? Education is at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals. In this context, the scope for MOOCs to tackle the needs of the developing world has recently been explored. In developing countries, a small proportion of people are enrolled in higher education, while globalisation calls for a rapid catch-up process to take place.

The above may sound as a stereotype and it is clear that, although this format present many opportunities, it also faces challenges.

Between 2015 and 2016 ITCILO implemented 5 MOOCs in topic areas which are in line with the overall areas of competencies of the Centre: crowdfunding for development, the role of technology at work, crowdfunding for young entrepreneurs, gamification for development.

Taking into account the experience and data we gathered, we have just released the “MOOCs4Dev @ITCILO Report”: a guide providing a snapshot of MOOCs for development and the main challenges they face in developing countries, with a focus on ITCILO recent experience. The guide provides a summary of MOOCs design, pedagogical principles, completion rate ratio with a special focus on how to overcome challenges such as lack of a business model, lack of a standard quality assurance framework, access barriers and lack of facilitation quality support. The different tips and recommendations are also tackled in a MOOCs Toolkit which provides a series of tools to facilitate your MOOC design experience.

Are you a development organization interested in designing MOOCs for the first time?
Do you already have experiences with MOOCs but you would like to exchange ideas and experiences?




Pedagogical use of Virtual Reality Applications

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The future of virtual reality has arrived already and is gradually moving beyond its gadget stage. With the introduction of Ocolus rift the access to immersive learning and simulation experiences has been widely opened. It looks likely that by 2020 computer systems that deliver convincing immersive reasonably reliable virtual reality will cost no more than a big screen television does not. The real-world-simulations make it difficult to distinguish what is still real and what virtual. With this blogpost we would like to build upon the results of a workshop we have done at the ITC-ILO where the pedagogical added value of virtual reality applications was discussed in the context of learning and training. 

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Green Gamification @ITCILO: Using Mobile Devices to Take Action in a Playful Way

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Gamification refers to:

the use of game mechanics, such as points, badges, leader boards and challenges in non-game settings.

As part of its Innovation mandate, DELTA has been experimenting with Gamification for Learning methods: from face-to-face methodologies towards integration of game elements into online learning modules and courses. In particular, we identified the potential of game elements to better engage learners and involve them throughout the learning experience.

Have a look at, which is the online portfolio were you can access the different projects.

Why gamification@ITCILO?

Games are suited to change the world for the better. Renowned author Jane McGonigal points out, “When we are playing games, we are tapping into our best qualities, our ability to be motivated, to be optimistic, to collaborate with others, to be resilient in the face of failure”. Therefore, games can also be a vehicle to promote green behaviours. The synergy between gamification and sustainability is based on the fact that, like gaming, greening is largely a social action that triggers an emotional response. Innovative companies and organizations recognize the opportunity to use “green gamification” to create shared value for individuals, communities and the environment.

As part of our gamification portfolio, in 2015 ITCILO partnered in the launch of Mobilize.Life, a mobile application suitable for building and deploying mixed-reality serious games. Developed for the purpose of “serious games” (crisis response training, security simulation exercises), Mobilize.Life can also have a number of fun applications for table-top exercises, team building events and peer-to- peer learning.

At ITCILO we decided to explore the use of mixed-reality and mobile supported games with a focus on “green behaviours” and therefore engaging staff on Campus in better understanding the reasons for environmental action and encourage them in adopting green behaviours such as correct waste management and recycling, green commuting or wiser energy consumption.

Watch the video below to have a snapshot of our experience:

Video credits: Andrea Agostini

Technology@Work MOOC: what’s the future of work?

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On 1st June, the Centre will launch a free, massive open online course (MOOC) exploring how new, disruptive technologies are reshaping the world of work in the 21st century. The eight-week Technology@Work course is the flagship element of the ILO’s Future of Work Centenary Initiative, and participation is free, on a full or part time basis.

“Our challenge is to continuously find new and innovative solutions as we look into the future of work”, said Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General. The unfurling technological revolution is so far-reaching in its labour-replacing potential, that is inherently different from what was experienced in the past.

(Video credits: Fausto Saltetti)

From 3D printers, the “Internet of Things”, to machine learning, new and emerging technologies are expected to profoundly change the way we work and the types of job, in the coming years. Harnessing the potential of these disruptive technologies will be crucial to meeting the ambitious targets set forth in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

With the participation of cutting-edge research, world-class thinkers, policy makers, technologists and UN staff , the Technology@Work MOOC will raise awareness of this global transformation, and provide a collaborative and innovative learning platform to crowdsource and explore policy relevant inquiries and insights into the nexus of the future of technology and work. It will ignite a much needed global conversation about disruptive technology’s impact on the future of work.

To learn more, visit, our new Technology@Work Blog,or contact

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Sustainable Learning Solutions for the Future

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Between 7 and 11 November 2016 the Centre will hold its bi-annual Training-of-Trainers (TOT) forum which this year will focus on sustainable learning solutions. In the world of learning and training trends, patterns and forecasts are identified on an annual base which will form the basis for reflection and discussion in this forum. Some of the questions we would like to launch already here:

  • How can we move beyond the traditional workshop factory model and move into more cost-effective learning solutions that have more impact? Which new trends can be scaled and can move beyond the pilot stage?
  • Which new forms of crowdsourced learning and peer-to-peer learning can really tap into the power of collective intelligence and views the ‘wisdom of the crowd’ hype from a pedagogical angle that adds value?
  • MOOCS, MOOCS and MOOCS … are there any other interesting learning modalities that focus on increased outreach, access and inclusion?
  • Can we move beyond our workshop interventions and dive into transformational learning solutions where the power of interdisciplinary thinking and complexity approaches are fully harnessed?
  • Which innovative learning interventions really made the difference this year (gamification, mobile learning, augmented learning, …)?
  • Which new metrics do we need to adopt to fully measure the quality of (e)-learning? What do learning and engagement analytics mean in the world of learning for development?

Which other questions and expectations do you have with relation to the theme of sustainable learning solutions for the future? Participate in this short survey or below and we will send you additional information on the upcoming TOT forum.




Is educational technology changing the way we learn?

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Interesting educational podcast of the Economist about the transformational potential of educational technology. This is an interview conducted by Anne McElvoy at the World Economic Forum.

Massive Open Online Course On “Gamification For Development”

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As part of the Centre’s innovation fund we explored last year the added value of ‘gamification for development’, the integration of game elements into existing learning and training products to maximise their effectiveness. The results of these experiments are documented on the online portfolio There you will find 6 examples of gamified learning products in the areas of Market System Facilitation, Informal Economy, Employment Policies, Learning Methodologies. Two other examples regarding Sexual Harassment and Green Behaviours will be soon published.

After this experimentation phase, we think it’s now time to scale up this learning journey and we don’t want to do it alone. In collaboration with GIZ, UNITAR, CINTERFOR and thanks to the contribution of other valuable experts we want to engage YOU in a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). The objective of this collective networked learning experience is not only to share what we have learned already but to build upon this knowledge and crowdsource on interesting ‘gamification for development’ cases globally. 

If your organisation or institution is interested to explore the added value of gamification than joining this MOOC might be an excellent opportunity to transform your ideas into practice. The course will run over an 8-week period and will start on the 11th of April. Signing up is FREE and can be done here.


Before the MOOC starts on April 11th, we invite you to have a look at the MOOC Flyer which provides background information, details of the team, learning objectives and IT requirements.

A Facebook Community Page is also live: like the page and stay tuned with the latest news and information regarding the MOOC.


This MOOC adventure is for the Centre an interesting opportunity to assess the learning and knowledge sharing potential of the MOOC format in order to scale and to increase our outreach potential. In addition to this, it i salso an interesting experiment towards introducing game elements and features within an online learning environment: informal rewards, revealing content techniques, challenges and peer-to-peer collaboration will be some of the features that characterize the learning environment.

Last but not least, MOOCs are also in line with our strategic goal to become a more digital and connected training Centre which supports our learners with 21th digital literacy skills that are highly needed in this complex and fast changing societal context.

OEB 2015: Learning and Sharing about Gamification, MOOCs and e-Learning Quality assurance

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Participating at Online Educa Berlin has almost become a habit for the ITCILO Distance Education Learning and Technology Application (DELTA) unit. Why so? Online Educa is the global cross-sector conference on technology supported learning and training and every here there is the opportunity to meet about 2,000 learning professionals and exchange about education, training and technology.

In particular, there were 3 reasons why this year ITCILO attended the conference:

  • Launch of the Gamification Portfolio

As part of its Innovation mandate, DELTA has been experimenting with Gamification for Learning methods: from face-to-face methodologies towards integration of game elements into online learning modules and courses. We are currently involved in 4 training projects where we identified the potential of game elements to better engage learners and involve them throughout the learning experience. The is the online portfolio were further details are provided. Stay tuned because more updates will come!

gamification picture


Participating at OEB 2015 allowed us to get inspiration from other organizations working in the same field. Philipp Busch and Seynabou Fachinger from GIZ, the German Technical Agency for International Cooperation, shared the interesting results of their 2015 Gamifcation Hackaton for Social Good carried out in Addis Abeba. The event resulted in one winning team which conceived AfriOne, a mobile application that integrates game elements to get people experience different cultures in a new way, and prevent tribalism before it happens.



  • Launch of the Quality4Digital Learning MOOC

As part of the ECBCheck quality framework for digital learning, ITCILO co-facilitated the workshop on “Reconsidering the concept of quality in times of collaboration and simulation in new media learning” jointly with GIZ and UNU. The session particularly focused on how to adapt the existing ECBCheck framework of criteria towards the MOOC format. 40 participants helped us having an interesting discussion regarding media and learning design, assessment and technical support issues that need to be taken into consideration when our organizations are addressing massive audiences through open formats.

ECB-Check Team

From left to right: Volker Lichtenthaeler, Alessia Messuti, Erik Tambo and Anthony Camilleri.

The session also provided the opportunity to launch the Quality4DigitalLearning MOOC, where the discussion on how to adapt quality in new digital formats will continue! Starting date is February 15, 2016: registrations are open!

  • Participation at the UN Knowledge Networking

Finally, on our last day, we attended the UN Knowledge and Networking session facilitated by Mehmet Korkmaz (UNICEF) and Cristina Petracchi (FAO). The session brought together about 30 learning professionals from different UN agencies (UNHCR, UNOPS, UNESCO, UNSSC) and learning and development institutes exchanging mainly on the good practices and issues around 3 areas: instructional design for e-Learning, learning technology and blended learning.

UN session