A convergence of factors led Foresight Design to recognize the need for the Foresight Seminars @ Oberlin. They include:
1. Education = Impact.
Investments in education yield exponential results. While reflecting upon more than ten years of innovative projects to determine which had the greatest influence, Foresight Design came to a unsuspected conclusion: its education initiatives. Alumni of these programs have gone on to implement their own efforts to address a diversity of challenging issues across multiple sectors, achieving more than the organization could ever accomplish on its own.
2. Leadership Reconsidered.
Sustainability challenges necessitate a redefinition of leadership. The issues that will define a more vibrant and resilient future are systemic, complex and novel by nature. Addressing them will require the attainment of unique and diverse capacities. An outdated, singular mode of leadership will not suffice, but rather we need to reconsider the ways in which collaboration, resourcefulness, diplomacy, innovation, interdisciplinary knowledge, and systems thinking can be incorporated into new models.
3. New Opportunities.
Through its past programs, Foresight has encountered a cohort of determined youth committed to addressing urgent issues, and pursuing an educational and career path aligned with their values. Their evaluations have shown that existing opportunities are not enough. Motivated change makers require more extensive and intensive engagement to develop, including the chance to forge sustained relationships with experienced professionals.
4. Knowledge Transfer.
The first major wave of sustainability professionals have acquired a decade or more of hands-on experience developing strategies and implementing multifaceted solutions. Ensuring this knowledge is conveyed to their future successors is imperative for improving the rate, scale and efficacy of change.
5. Diversity Imperative.
Sustainability-related challenges have a particular impact on marginalized individuals and communities, yet the leadership of major institutions and efforts rarely reflects this diversity. Opportunities to cultivate representative and inclusive leadership are crucially important to forging progress informed by, and responsive to, different perspectives.
6. Leveraging Assets.
Over its first decade, Foresight Design has accumulated significant expertise in sustainability-focused education, and developed an extensive professional network. Employing these to their highest purpose, and in collaboration with individuals and institutions possessing complementary strengths, is fundamental to fulfilling its mission. Oberlin College has been recognized for its commitment to sustainability, and offers a range of unique assets, including physical (e.g. the Adam J. Lewis Center for Environmental Studies and Robert Lewis Kahn Hall), curricular (e.g. the environmental studies department and associated faculty), and programmatic (e.g. the Office of Environmental Sustainability and the Oberlin Project).
Four primary principles have guided the development of the Foresight Seminars @ Oberlin:
1. Educational Experience.
Provide a unique, empowering learning experience that inspires and informs. Combining world-class advisors, faculty, facilities and programmatic knowledge, the Foresight Seminars @ Oberlin will become a leading educational experience for students seeking hands-on learning about the systemic issues impacting their future and their role in addressing them.
2. Diversity & Accessibility.
The Foresight Seminars @ Oberlin will recruit high potential groups notable for their geographic, racial and economic inclusivity. The curriculum will incorporate a broad perspective, examining issues across a diversity of contexts, from the inner city to rural communities, and across professional sectors.
3. Holistic Leadership.
Create an environment in which different modes of leadership are validated, and the well being of the whole person is emphasized. The Foresight Seminars @ Oberlin will present a broad perspective of what it means to lead, and the many contexts in which this can occur. Opportunities to develop self-awareness, skills and insight will be incorporated into formal and informal elements of the experience.
4. Leveraging Resources.
Employ the assets of individual and institutional program collaborators to the highest extent possible. The program's success will rely on the contributions of its partners. By providing exemplary facilities, cutting-edge insight, and access to unique opportunities, The Foresight Seminars @ Oberlin will forge lasting, mutually beneficial partnerships to realize its mission and provide a fulfilling and meaningful experience.