Empathy, Understanding and Play: Considering the Future with Katherine Prince

Topics: Future of Learning

Katherine Prince is the Senior Director of Strategic Foresight for KnowledgeWorks.When speaking with educators, parents and others within the communities she engages with, Katherine Prince, vice president of strategic foresight with KnowledgeWorks, keeps her own first experience considering the future of learning in mind.

“I was one of the crowd, uninformed,” says Prince, who worked at KnowledgeWorks in 2006 as a program manager when KnowledgeWorks published the first formal future forecast, Map of Future Forces. “I felt really steamrolled. I didn’t have a frame for understanding how to work with things that felt scary, or work with things that felt exciting. I had a big emotional response.”

That “big emotional response” is one she always leaves room for in her engagements around the country, and the world. Empathy and understanding have, for Prince, always been a part of her work in strategic foresight, grappling with future challenges and opportunities as a way to shape the future that we want. Prince transitioned into her current role in 2007 after pursuing a certificate in foresight from the University of Houston.

For Prince, strategic foresight is “a form of play; serious, adult play” that is deeply intellectual but also aspirational.

“Exploring the future invites us to imagine, to just say ‘What if?’ To get creative in thinking about different possibilities might mean for us, what we could do with them,” Prince says. “It can be hard work, but there’s also a dimension of fun and creativity.”

That creativity is also a means to contend with the persistent inequities we face in our society. Education foresight, especially, provides not only teachers and district leaders the opportunity to think about how their choices impact the future, but how everyone can play a role in shaping a future that better serves all learners.

“If we look at the future with a lens toward ‘we can do better by all people,’ it gives us purpose,” says Prince. “It’s a huge invitation and a place of possibility, as well as an act of stewardship – using insight into the future and what could happen to think about how we can shape our preferred futures.”