dubai future forum
Prof. Alex Fergnani, Sarah DaVanzo, Alisha Bhagat and moderator Dr Gabriele Rizzo at the panel discussion on What makes a Futurist, at the Dubai Future Forum on Monday, November 27, 2023. Image Credit: Alex Abraham / Gulf News

Dubai: Are you a futurist? Are skillsets needed to be a futurist or is it anyone’s game? And how do we measure what a futurist does?

On Day 1 at the Dubai Future Forum, a three-member panel debated this question and helped come up with a few answers.

The Dubai Future Forum is being held at the Museum of the Future on November 27 and 28.

The Forum is hosting more than 2,500 participants from varied future-focused sectors and 150 speakers over 70 sessions.

Futurists are not just people who look ahead, they also influence policy making and help people understand how to make decisions.

“There is no job market for a futurist at present, so one cannot make a living out of it,” said Prof Alex Fergnani from the Rabat Business School.

But the panelists were united in saying that diverse voices were important in the field, and quickly pointed out that skillsets were definitely needed.

Key skills

What does one look for in a futurist?

“A person who goes beyond the trends, current ideas or events,” Prof Fergnani said. “The person should be able to provide scenarios”, without being swayed by fear caused by current circumstances.

“No degrees are needed, but it is important to develop skillsets.”

Sara DaVanzo, from the Pierre Fabre Foundation, pointed to curiosity as one of the defining qualities of a futurist.

“Specialisation is needed in the field, just like in other professions,” she said.

Communication and client engagement skills, and being able to manage emotions are qualities that are favoured in futurists, according to the panelists.

So, are imagination and curiosity skills or talents?

“They are talents that can be cultivated. Everyone has the capacity to imagine and take risks,” said Alisha Bhagat, from Forum for the Future.

But what is important is understanding what people need, she said.

The panelists also felt it was important to measure the outcomes of impact presented by futurists. Key productivity indicators (KPIs) for futurists would help do this and ascertain the degree to which they are accurate.

Do we need credentials to be a futurist?

To a certain extent. “But it is only a baseline,” said Bhagat.