Futuring for Sustainability

Course code
Course fee (no housing)
Advanced Master

Please note that this course is full.

Moving towards a sustainable future in which all can live well within ecological means is a deeply social challenge. What does a sustainable world look like? In what type of sustainable future would you want to live? How can we prepare and collaboratively create a sustainable world? In the Futuring for Sustainability summer school, these are central questions.

Our expectations about the future, and our dreams and imaginations for it, profoundly influence the way we act in the present. Visions of plausible, possible, or desirable futures are fundamentally important in shaping our social and environmental futures. For example, just think about the effects novels such as George Orwell’s 1984, films such as Back to the Future, and artistic styles such as Afrofuturism and steampunk have had on the way people feel about and prepare for the future. So too do unexpected downturns such as 9/11, the financial crisis, and the on-going C19 pandemic. Technological and societal developments always rely on images of the future, on people acting based on their imaginations and expectations. Expectations and visions are what makes people act. In society, people and groups are always futuring, always actively trying to shape expectations and visions for the future. They are always trying to shape the future.

The most important challenge of the coming decades is the need to craft a sustainable future. A sustainable future that is also just, desirable, and democratic. In this summer school, the Urban Futures Studio and Pathways to Sustainability collaborate to connect technical and environmental questions around sustainability to social questions around equality, democracy, and participation. Drawing on a wide variety of literature, ranging from political science to urban planning to integrated assessment modelling, the summer school offers the Urban Futures Studio approach to shaping and creating visions for desirable sustainable futures. It also offers our interpretation of how to give those visions a social life, our take on making them affect processes in the real world.

Join us for an interactive course to learn to understand how techniques of futuring contribute to realizing societal transformations towards sustainability: living well equitably within ecological means. Learn how to imagine positive futures and mobilize to achieve them in a democratic and participatory fashion. Understand futuring techniques including scenario planning, modeling, backcasting, experiential futuring, arts-based approaches, science fiction, and design. Lecturers from various disciplines will introduce what they deem to crucial insights for building a more sustainable future. Try out these techniques and insights by experimenting in a real-world setting in workstudio sessions. This course builds your capacity to develop new visions and imaginations of possible futures and alternative sustainability pathways.

Please Note: Under pressure of the C19-pandemic, we have decided to make our summer school fully virtual. Given the uncertainty about the current pandemic and related restrictions in global mobility, we concluded that it is not feasible anymore to keep organizing the physical event in Utrecht. Realistically, only two options were still on the table–to cancel or go virtual. We decided on the latter option. We will migrate the event to the virtual sphere, and it will take place on the planned dates of July 13-17, 2020.

Further details about the practicalities of the virtual summer school will follow in the coming weeks. For any questions, please contact j.j.oomen@uu.nl

Download the day-to-day programme (PDF)

Course director

Prof. dr. Maarten Hajer


Prof. Dr. Maarten Hajer

Dr. Tamara Metze

Dr. Vanessa Timmer

Dr. Peter Pelzer

Dr. Dan Hassler-Forest

Dr. Lenneke Kuijer

Dr. Roy Bendor

Dr. Jeroen Oomen

Dr. Jesse Hoffman

More to be announced

Target audience

Designed for graduate students from all disciplinary backgrounds, particularly advanced Masters and Doctoral students. We also consider Masters students, Postdoctoral students, and select practitioners who are interested in futuring and sustainability.

Course aim

The course aims to provide participants with an overview of techniques of futuring as tools and processes for catalyzing the transformation to sustainability through increased democratic participation and expanded imagination. Participants are equipped with the knowledge to understand and apply these techniques for further independent study and for addressing societal challenges.

Study load

1.5 ECTs


Course fee:
Course + course materials


Some scholarships may be available. Please indicate your interest in being considered for a scholarship in your motivation letter.


We welcome you to send us a motivation letter or alternatively send us another creative approach to express your interest in this course (e.g., slides, video, storyboard). Please also include your c.v.

Please note: unlike most other Utrecht Summer Schools, the Futuring for Sustainability summer school does not strictly work with a ‘first come, first serve’ system. We will periodically make a selection based on the motivation letter and the curriculum vitae. As soon as you apply, you will receive confirmation that we have received your application. Final decisions about acceptance may, however, take up to two weeks.

Please also note that we still encourage you to apply as soon as possible—we will start accepting people well ahead of the final deadline.

For this course you are required to upload the following documents when applying:

  • Motivation Letter
  • C.V.

More information

Course Lead Coordinator: Dr. Jeroen Oomen

Please direct your questions to: j.j.oomen@uu.nl


Application deadline: 01 May 2020

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