Futures Thinking Now: Reflecting on Vision

Topics: Systems Change, Vision and Culture

In times of crisis, articulating an aspirational vision can feel unnecessary or even naïve. If we envision equitable, joyful, life-affirming and meaningful learning experiences for every child and that image feels further from reality than ever, why bother?

However, there may be no better moment to reflect on our visions for education and for society. Many of us feel untethered by the changes happening around us, and some of us have experienced devastating consequences firsthand. But in addition to sending us into spirals of uncertainty, our current challenges are clarifying what really matters, and visions can serve as our touchstones as we navigate uncertainty. The questions below can help you consider how your highest aspirations might ground you in times of uncertainty.

  • What is your vision? A vision is a bold image of a future in which external reality aligns with our most deeply held ideals. Visions should feel daring and dangerous to the status quo. Though we are unlikely to ever achieve them, they can compel action. While many organizations have crafted official vision statements, few have vividly described a truly transformed future. Articulate the vision that drives your work, even if that vision is different than what appears on your website.
  • What about your vision resonates with you in this moment? Our visions should feel relevant and urgent, even amid changing circumstances. If your vision were achieved, would any aspect of our current situation be better? If not, or if your vision does not feel as courageous as the current moment calls for, consider what it might look like if it did.
  • Does your vision reflect any assumptions that no longer feel relevant? Our vision statements were created in a different context than we currently find ourselves facing. We should not shift our visions simply because external circumstances have changed, but we may recognize that our visions assume certain constants or priorities that may not hold up in a shifting landscape. Consider how your vision might need to shift so that it can be a guide, not an afterthought, as you navigate deep disruption.
  • What immediate decisions might your vision help you make? Our visions describe far-off dreams, but every day we have the opportunity to move toward or away from them. Our values and priorities are apparent both in our long-term ideals and our daily decisions. In high-pressure moments, reflecting on whether what we are doing today serves what we hope to see in the future can provide clarity.

The strategies we use to work toward our visions have undoubtedly changed amid the pandemic; we must respond to the moment. But particularly in difficult times, we must also remember the long-term futures we hope to achieve. Our visions can provide direction and can help us see opportunity to make an impact in a turbulent time. When everything seems to be changing, we have some power to direct that change.

Creating scenarios presents a challenge to communicate what could happen, not just what you think is most likely to happen in the future.

Futures Thinking Now Series