Future's FrontlineNational

Futures Thinking with Young Legislators

April 4, 2024

By Reed Howard

“I spend so much time putting out fires, I can never do the long-term stuff.”

I hear this a lot from the young lawmakers I meet. They got elected with an inspiring vision for a future to build. And the onslaught of politics crowds out everything beyond the immediate.

In January 2024, we tried something new that I hope is a game-changer.

We’re building cohorts of diverse lawmakers— different states, backgrounds, ideologies— and giving them space to think big, together.

We kicked off the experience with the Futures Thinking Forum. Two world-class experts taught us “futures thinking” and “strategic foresight.”

The concepts were new to me. And new to most of the 30 legislators who joined us.

Futures thinking isn’t just forecasting. It’s exploring various potential futures. It’s preparing for the unexpected. For lawmakers, this means creating policies that are adaptable and resilient.

Strategic foresight is about long-term impact. It’s making decisions that stand the test of time. In politics, where short-term gains are top of mind, this approach is vital.

Our inaugural class of Innovation Fellows will now apply this to lawmaking. This is a big deal. It means policies that are sustainable and forward-looking. I’m excited to work with them throughout the year. Over time, we hope their colleagues in the legislature will look to them for expertise in applying a future-casting framework to policymaking. We’re building a pipeline of resident “futurists” in statehouses across America.

Imagining “what could be” is one of the best ways to break down partisan barriers. It builds a shared vision for the future.

That’s how we get the change our generation deserves.

Rep. Sara Jacobs


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