UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage


New social futures from heritage - Short course

09 November 2020–13 November 2020, 9:30 am–4:30 pm

Collection of images show people, protest, cities and the natural world

This course will help you think about the long-term futures of what matters. Using the capacity of heritage to articulate what is important to us, the week-long course will equip you to identify what matters to you, or to the communities or organisations you are part of, and create ideas of the future that support action in the present.

Event Information

Open to







Prof Richard Sandford

The ideas we have about the future shape the actions we take in the present.

Across the world, groups working in public policy and social innovation use foresight and futures thinking to develop new ideas of the future, helping them to act in the face of uncertainty. But acting in uncertain times requires having somewhere solid to stand.

Heritage can offer this solid place, not just by showing how things came to be this way, but by showing us what we care about, what needs protecting, and what needs to persist into the future.

In conditions of uncertainty, knowing what matters and what is worth working for can be the compass we need to move forwards. The way we think about the future has to start from what we care about.

This course will help you think about the long-term futures of what matters. Using the capacity of heritage to articulate what is important to us, the week-long course will equip you to identify what matters to you, or to the communities or organisations you are part of, and create ideas of the future that support action in the present.

Along the way, you’ll encounter core heritage concepts like value and significance, make connections between different theoretical perspectives on futures and society, gain experience with a range of futures techniques, and turn these ideas into practical recommendations for action.

This course introduces a new way of thinking about the future, and about heritage, to help produce the new social futures we need. 

Jump to: ContentFormat - Audience - Teachers and Facilitators - Fees and MSc refund - Register interest


This course offers practical hands-on experience in using futures methods, and connects these methods with theories and thinkers from a wide range of disciplines, synthesising key perspectives from relevant fields within sociology, anthropology and philosophy, alongside futures studies and critical heritage studies. Each day is organised around a different topic, building over the week into a rich set of resources for supporting action.

What matters? Care, stewardship, maintenance, and recognising what we value.

—Futures in policy: trend analysis, scenario planning, and critical futures for policy.

—Heritage in futures: inherited future imaginaries, values embedded in the present, and drawing out the future from the past.

—Utopias and alternatives: speculative visions, processes and becoming, and radical possibility.

Acting in the present: what needs to happen now? Making recommendations for policy groups and adopting new stances towards the future.

At the end of each day participants will have collaboratively produced a worked example of a particular futures method. By the end of the course, participants will have developed an understanding of the possible futures of a topic or question relevant to them or their work, and produced a summary that can be brought back to their organisation, deepening the strategic conversation beyond the course. Outputs from the course—videos, scenarios, visions, texts—will be collected and shared online, showcasing the work and creativity of participants.

The material in the course introduces and summarises key themes of the MSc in Heritage Evidence, Foresight and Policy, which will run in October 2021. 


The course will be delivered online, using Zoom (https://zoom.us/) and Miro (https://miro.com). Learning will take place through a combination of group work, prerecorded lectures, facilitated workshops and independent study.

Taking place over the week of the 9th November, each working day will offer a variety of activities, with regular breaks, and run from 09:30 to 16:30. Group sessions and workshops will be structured to ensure that participants are online for no more than 40 minutes at a time, while each prerecorded lecture will be under 20 minutes.

Reading will be provided, and time allowed during the course for individuals to engage with relevant material: no work is required before the course begins. 


No prior knowledge or experience of foresight or futures work is assumed.

The course is intended to support people with a practical need to think about uncertainty and change over the long-term, in order to support social action in the present. You will be working alongside people from public policy groups, social enterprises, NGOs, charities, and educational institutions.

Experienced strategists and foresight practitioners will benefit from engaging with new perspectives on futures practice and theory. 

Teachers and facilitators

The course is led by Richard Sandford, Professor of Heritage Evidence, Foresight and Policy. Professor Sandford has extensive experience in foresight and futures work in public policy, in the private sector, and in academia. He has led foresight teams within the UK Civil Service, and worked with groups in organisations such as UNESCO and the Singapore government.

Additional teaching and facilitation will be provided by visiting lecturers from Historic England, the national body in England for the historic environment, alongside guest contributions from experts in the fields of foresight and public policy.

Fees and MSc refund

The fee for the week-long course, including access to reading materials, is £500. This reflects a 50% discount of the regular ISH short course fee, recognising the economic pressures faced by many groups for whom the course material has practical relevance.

Attendees who successfully enroll on the MSc in Heritage Evidence, Foresight and Policy in 2021 will have their fee for this course refunded.

There are 3 fee-free places available for current UCL undergraduate students in any faculty.

If you are currently enrolled on a UCL undergraduate programme, and would like to be considered for one of these 3 places, then please email bseer-communications@ucl.ac.uk by October 16th with:
- a 300-word outline of why you're interested in the course, and how it would support your current studies or postgraduate plans
- your student number (to verify your enrolment). 
A panel of three ISH academics will assess the entries. The panel's decision will be final. Successful applicants will be informed by October 23rd. 


To sign up book through the UCL Online Store. For more information about the course, or for any other enquiries, please email bseer-communications@ucl.ac.uk

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