Young people are often heralded as the vanguards of the future. But do they actively contemplate their future? Moreover, are we equipping them with the skills necessary to shape futures that transcend the status quo and embrace possibilities that may be radically different from the present? Addressing these questions becomes all the more urgent when we scrutinise whether these envisioned futures are equitable and just.

How does one become conscious of the future? Is thinking about the future a skill? Can one’s imagination of the future be harmful to others? And what dispositions, knowledge, and skills are needed to imagine equitable futures? According to UNESCO, it is crucial for young people to be able to imagine multiple alternate futures and be open to new possibilities of action in the present to bring such futures to reality. This ability is called futures literacy.

At Quest Alliance, we conducted futures literacy workshops with more than 500 students in the age group of 14–29 years. These students—all of whom belong to marginalised groups that have experienced varying forms of structural injustice—came from 36 districts in the states of Odisha, Gujarat, and Assam. For instance, young Loiry* from Moregaon in Assam belongs to a tea tribe, one of the most marginalised communities with the highest dropout rate in secondary schools. Historically brought in by the British from Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and adjacent areas as indentured labour, tea tribe communities have continued to work for low wages in exploitative conditions. Similarly, development projects in Khadsaliya village in Gujarat have usurped the landholdings of Saurabh* and his friends. For others, agriculture is no longer a viable livelihood due to dust from the coal plants settling on their fields.

Read the full article about building literacy by Priyanka Krishna and Bhawna Parmar at India Development Review.