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The future was yesterday!

At the Institute for Generational Research we analyze future social and technical developments and theirDevelopmentiinterdependencies in order to make better decisions in the here and now. Since the world we live in is very complex, we have to use different methods in future research to be able to capture “the world”. To do this, we work hand in hand with qualitative and quantitative methods. Always with the aim of getting to know the here and now better for the future.

The research approaches and methods at the Institute for Generationresearch

The research projects at the Institute for Generational Research use various research approaches and methods. Here is a short excerpt from it:

Participatory future research as a research approach

The starting point for this approach is the assumption that a person's idea of the future, the so-called “narrative” about the future, determines which actions are carried out in the present. And which narrative a person develops depends on their personal past experiences.

The assumptions about the past, the present and the future are merged in the approach of “participatory future research”. Participatory research is originally a social science research approach that focuses on the perspectives of the people being researched: those who are to be researched change sides. They become researchers themselves. This is also necessary in terms of acceptance, as the focus is on a person's actions. The perspective of each individual is crucial to research; researchers can thus contribute to their future or their futures. What futures do I imagine? How can I implement these in the present? Which past experiences influence my vision of the future?

Philosophy about the future and sustainability

75 % of the earth has been changed by humans so far, 65% of the species in Africa have already become extinct, 24% of the species have been lost in Europe.

Comprehensive current and future transformations and disruptions, such as the exploitation of nature, repeatedly push the limits of our moral concepts: Can I continue to be responsible to future generations for acting in a certain way at the moment? What do I have to do today to realize my vision of the future and will my future narrative not harm my grandchildren? What course can I set today for tomorrow?

Answers to all of these questions can be found based on philosophical theories. In times of climate change, questions of sustainability are always closely linked to the philosophy about the future. At the Institute for Generational Research we are therefore dedicated to this“climate ambition gap”, the gap between what is currently being done for the climate and what should be done for the Earth according to certain ethical principles. This can be used, for example, to design models of new economic forms that are aimed at sustainable economic activity.

Multidimensional use of methods

Our multifaceted world challenges us as futurologists to combine different methods. Our research is characterized by combining qualitative and quantitative methods. Using communicative validation through focus groups, expert interviews, confrontational interviews and creative writing techniques, we manage to support the knowledge gained through surveys through reflection processes and meanings. For this purpose, our data is statistically evaluated, extrapolated and processed, for example using gaming approaches and dilemma flipping. 



Generation research meets future research

We were able to gain in-depth experience with our intensive study on, among other things Generation Alpha (GenAlpaha) and Generation Z (GenZ) that enables us to make forecasts for future developments based on extensive data. What we learned: To sharpen our perspective on the interactions between tomorrow's living conditions, past experiences and people's stories, here and today.


Next to psychological, philosophical and sociological expertise we rely particularly on our Engineers who, as part of our interdisciplinary team, can direct the focus towards the technical facets of future conditions. Because it is precisely this diversity of professional perspectives and the technological convergence of NBIC (nano, bio, information technology and cognitive science) that – brushstroke by brushstroke – create a picture of futures.

Generational research and future research.png

By combining generation research and future research, we can make statements about a wide range of future social phenomena.

The image of futures

What we have experienced in the past determines how we act in the present and how those actions manifest themselvesf impact the future. To predict the future, we must look to the past. This is our understanding of research at the Institute for Generational Research. Our future begins yesterday.

In order to give youth a voice, young people must also be consulted.
This is what participatory future research means. To research by and with those who will be the future. So that we don't have to regret our past in the future.

Futurologist Hartwin Maas, October 2021

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