Shared Futures Lab

Imagine that it’s 2074. What we considered extreme heat events in the 2020s are common now, with each year’s high temperature exceeding the previous. In parts of the world closest to the equator, some people are choosing to migrate to more hospitable climates. More than 45,000 climate migrants have arrived in your community as part of the U.N.’s Global Climate Resettlement Program. What programs are in place to help these migrants settle across the state? How are existing residents welcoming new arrivals?

Let’s move closer to the present and imagine that it’s 2034. A majority of Tennesseans wear mixed reality eyewear. These glasses superimpose virtual content onto our daily surroundings, allowing us to seamlessly integrate the digital world into our physical lives. What new opportunities does this provide for sharing stories? 

In both of these scenarios, what is the role of examining and reflecting upon ideas, stories, history, arts, and culture?

Photo collage of people walking, students in class, street signs that say History and Future, and a hand holding a leaf that is half green and half on fire. The text in the middle reads "Imagining & Creating the Future of Tennessee." Banner image for Shared Futures Lab.

Welcome to the Shared Futures Lab (SFL) – a space for Humanities Tennessee to explore how the outcomes of past and current humanities programming may impact the future of Tennessee communities and civic life. We will investigate how our work today is uncovering ways to create a more empathetic and connected future. We’ll also ask how current programs are already looking toward the future by reframing how we understand the past and present.

Photograph of Elizabeth Merritt

In addition to exploring these ideas, Humanities Tennessee will host Strategic Foresight workshops in each grand division in August 2024. Led by Elizabeth Merritt, VP of Strategic Foresight at the American Alliance of Museums & Founding Director of the Center for the Future of Museums, these workshops will increase cultural organizations’ capacity to imagine the future, identify sources of hopes and anxieties, and acknowledge the future impact of current choices. [Registration for these free workshops is now open.]

Out of these workshops, we will convene a SFL cohort from statewide participants to chart the course for later projects.

We are undertaking this initiative in a spirit of experimentation. Along the way, we will explore what the future could hold for humanities organizations and programs. We’ll also encourage individual Tennesseans to become informed, imaginative, and intentional about the future. The more we uncover, the better we will be able to shape our shared future.

Together, we will engage in stories of the present and past to build a better future for Tennesseans, and we invite you to join us.

“It’s a waste of what the future is really good for to try to predict it.

The gift of the future is creativity.” ~Jane McGonigal

Curious about futures literacy? We encourage you to:

And then tell us what ideas you uncover!

Text reads "Living Futures Scenario Kit"

Shared Futures Lab Blog

Exploring the Memphis Heritage Trail with the Shared Futures Lab

McClung Museum Reimagines Future by Centering Native Voices

How to Sue the Klan: A Story of Resilience and Justice

Tennessee History Day & the Next Generation of Citizens

Future of Museums: Playful Exercise Sparks Serious Questions

Clement Railroad Hotel Museum: Giving Voice to Dickson County’s Women

Sharing the Untold Story of Tennessee’s Enslaved Iron Workers

Generative AI and The Public Humanities – Humanities Tennessee

Preserving Rosenwald Schools Legacies Through Traveling Exhibits

Humanities in Action: Building a Better Future Podcast

Humanities in Action: Building a Better Future is a podcast about the work being done today to create a more empathetic and connected future. Through interviews and researched stories, we’ll share Tennesseans’ visions for the future and the programs, decisions, and choices they are making today to bring those futures to life. Listen wherever you get your podcasts!