What Is Shaping Our Future?


Jack Byrne, Brandwein Fellow and Keith Wheeler, President of the Brandwein Institute developed a program as Co-Founders of the Foundation for Our Future, at the Center for a Sustainable Future, Shelburne Farms VT for emerging leadership called Shaping Our Future. With the help of Shelburne Farms, the Grove Consultants, Culver Productions and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development – Scenario Unit, we have assembled a series of tools that have become the backbone for the Shaping Our Future Program. The Brandwein Institute serves as the public facing portal for these tools and their evolution.

The findings, from over a decade of working with adults, young and not so young, in the area of environmental and sustainable education, pointed to some alarming observations. Most people spend little time thinking about the future. Polls have shown that average young adults future time reference typically ranges from hours to at best a couple of months.

We began to consider these findings with respect to the work we have done for over three decades – educating for a sustainable and resilient future. We concluded that the majority of adults, young and not so young, do not have the context (in terms of a future thinking time frame) to meaningfully engage in action that fosters a sustainability and resilience paradigm. That revelation brought us to the world of strategic planners in multi-national corporations to learn about the tools they use to stretch their thinking and vision of the future and to incorporate resilience in the decisions they make.

Scenarios are imaginative portrayals of potential futures, where the process is as important as the pictures they help develop. Teams of people are engaged in deep conversations, at once free-flowing and rigorously constrained. These conversations are designed to help story tellers see past their own cultural blind spots, and to think the unthinkable.

Over the past several years we have developed and piloted a set of methodologies and tools to help adults of all ages visualize the possible worlds in which the unthinkable, the unimaginable, and the unpredictable actually come to pass. We have packaged this process into a program called Shaping Our Future, which has been distributed to many regions around the globe.

If a generation of young adults can imagine many possible worlds, then they can better prepare themselves for whatever future does come to pass. As they engage in this process of confronting their future, they can become enthusiastic about shaping a future that will mesh with their hopes and dreams.

It is our intention that corporations, civic organizations, schools, institutions of higher education and governmental organizations around the globe champion the notion of Shaping Our Future, by providing leadership in their communities that will help their citizens proactively embrace and engage in their futures in positive, constructive and resilient ways.

Shaping Our Future Facilitator’s Toolkit

SOF Guidebook cover image

Downloadable PDF Facilitator’s Guide

SOF Video (on YouTube)

SOF Templates
(Require PowerPoint)
Main Template
Key Questions
STEEP (Identify Driving Forces) Template 1
STEEP (Identify Driving Forces) Template 2
Gauging Uncertainty (Prioritize Driving Forces) Template
Future Wheel Template
Four Futures (Develop Scenarios) Template
Future Times Template

Shaping Our Future Action Plan