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Two critical


The magnitude of the challenges that we are facing can limit our ability to imagine positive steps forward. Identifying critical uncertainties can provide a framework for considering possible futures for anti-oppressive and liberatory education.

Two critical uncertainties reflect future changes and outcomes that we do not know enough about to describe with confidence. The ways in which they unfold will shape what liberatory education looks like in 20 years.


Social Cohesion

The extent to which people will recognize one another’s humanity, foster interconnection and respect and be willing to work across differences for mutual well-being.

Uncertainty 1: What will be the level of social cohesion in 20 years?
People might foster trust across groups, or they might promote division and fear of difference. Those who have enjoyed relative social privilege might continue to protect it and work to maintain the status quo. Alternatively, they might choose to engage in dismantling oppressive systems, either because they recognize the harm that those systems have caused or because they see the mutual benefit in doing so. In the future, will social groups and communities practice high or low social cohesion?

Low Social Cohesion

  • There are a lack of connection and trust among people and within and across groups.
  • People fear one another’s differences and the discomfort they create and seek to preserve self-interest at all cost.
  • It is clear whose voices and contributions matter and whose do not.
  • There are a lack of interdependence and shared stake in the future.

High Social Cohesion

  • There are connection and trust among people and within and across groups.
  • People respect and value one another’s differences, cooperate to heal injustices and act on one another’s behalf.
  • Anyone can voice their needs and contribute in their unique way.
  • There are a sense of interdependence and a shared stake in the future.

Responsiveness of Public Institutions 

The extent to which various types of public institutions will recognize the needs and demands of their constituents and share power in creating solutions.

Uncertainty 2: How responsive will public institutions be in 20 years?
Public institutions might build or erode mutual trust with their constituents. They might share or hoard power and responsibility. These qualities will shape the ways in which priorities and institutional agreements are created. They will also determine the extent to which liberatory and anti-oppressive education can take hold systemically and grow within and across communities. In the future, will public institutions show high or low responsiveness to their constituents?

Low Responsiveness

  • Poor understanding of the complexity of constituents’ needs and priorities limits the impact of public institutions.
  • A lack of trust between public institutions and the people whom they serve prevents open communication.
  • Institutional agreements are rigid and are imposed without feedback.
  • Power grabs erode trust across public institutions. partners and constituents.

High Responsiveness

  • Public institutions align with their constituents to clarify and agree on priorities.
  • Mutual trust between public institutions and the people whom they serve facilitates open communication.
  • Institutional agreements dynamically evolve with constituents’ and partners’ feedback and needs.
  • Power is shared across public institutions, partners and constituents.

Current Forces Affecting Liberatory Education Futures

Several current forces will influence possibilities for liberatory education

Up Next:

Chapter 3: Imagining Futures for Liberatory Education

Four stories about possible futures can help us imagine what liberatory education could look like

Imagining Liberatory Education Futures ©2022 KnowledgeWorks Foundation. All rights reserved.