Dr Bierwisch is an intentional changemaker. Through her Foresight and Futures Literacy work at MCI, she inspires students to innovate and anticipate in order to transform the future. Dr Bierwisch has agreed to take part in judging stories submitted through the Cli-Fi Contest.

We can all be grateful that, after 5 years of studying law, an Erasmus programme in Vienna helped Dr Antje Bierwisch realise that law would not allow her the freedom to create or shape the future in a meaningful way.

She changed her study path to Stadtswissenschaften (a combination of political, legal and business science) and, after completing her BA, MA, and PhD, she joined Fraunhofer-Institute for Systems & Innovation Research (ISI), one of the leading institutes for innovation research in Europe.

It is here in 2007 that Dr Bierwisch began her ‘Futures’ journey. She helped create the Foresight & Competence Centre at ISI and spent 10 years working on 50+ research projects for the likes of Bosch; BMW; the European Union; the German Federal Ministry of Education & Research; the Vietnamese Ministry for Innovation & Technology; and she helped develop the higher education strategy in support of Lithuania’s and Romania’s governments. To quote Dr Bierwisch, “the learning curve was exponential”!

One ISI project entitled ‘Stories from the Future’ (Geschichten aus der Zukunft) was one of two Bundesministerium für Bildung & Forschung (BMD) projects that Bierwisch led, where short fictional stories were written about markets, consumers and society in 2030 and anticipated how technology might influence future lives.

These stories were created to influence thinking in innovation and transformation in smaller businesses “but we found we were too early with our ideas,” Bierwisch explained. “It was sometimes challenging, especially on the political side, to get people to connect to our ideas, and it took another 10 years before governments could identify with our findings and, subsequently, adjust policy support for SMEs,” she said.

In 2017, Bierwisch joined Innsbruck’s entrepreneurial school, MCI, as Professor for Innovation Management, Foresight & Organizational Development, where she found it easier to get people to connect to her ideas!

Her courses work with trends, future journeys, road mapping, and methods of future research, which the Bachelors and Masters students must analyse or develop. Bierwisch says it’s a lot of fun and expands the students’ way of thinking.

“I want students to feel that they are able to change their own future and understand how they can play an important part in that future – whether it’s in their place of work or in their life,” Bierwisch said. “They need to be given the chance to change the world.”

According to Bierwisch, the process must begin with creative thinking. Many students are studying part-time and have careers in the corporate world, where they initially feel they cannot innovate because the traditional nature and corporate culture of their place of work precludes it. “But when we look at assorted scenarios and they’re encouraged to do something to create different, more preferable futures, students become inspired and tell me that they can see a route to transformation. When I see this mindset change it’s very cool!,” smiled Dr Bierwisch.

Her vision is to provide students (and the wider corporate world) with new capabilities that help them become changemakers.

To help realise this vision, her work is expanding into ‘Futures Literacy Laboratories’. The Labs are another starting point for Dr Bierwisch to study and develop the topic of ‘Futures’ with her students, by encouraging them to become aware of why and how they use the future.

In September 2022, Dr Bierwisch delivered the first Futures Literacy Laboratory at MCI. Through action-learning and collective intelligence, the Labs encourage students to co-create the meaning of sustainability, peace and inclusion where people live, work and play. When people are capable of deciding why and how to use the future, they become better able to respond with innovative and transformative thinking. They are less anxious about uncertainty. Humbler about controlling the future. And more confident about being able to comprehend and appreciate the potential opened up by change.

The anticipation of future sustainable and inclusive environments through these Labs caught the attention of Anthology project Founder, Leanne Mills, as these goals align with the initial concept of The Anthology Project. “My vision was to create a series of published stories about life in Tyrol in 2050 that would nurture hope, reduce climate anxiety, and encourage communities to adapt their behaviours in ways that meaningfully contribute to climate change mitigation,” said Mills. “Dr Bierwisch’s work is driving research that will lead to future transformation in the corporate world, and I believe it’s the corporate world that hold the key to positive action in the face of this climate crisis.”

To better understand and develop the concept of Futures Literacy and its impact in the educational context, Antje Bierwisch and a team of great MCI staff have applied for a UNESCO Chair in Futures Capability for Innovation & Entrepreneurship in spring 2022. “It would be great if we get the opportunity to work on this even more intensively,” said Bierwisch. We couldn’t agree more!

Read more about The Anthology Project (in German and English).

Find out more about the MCI research study to be conducted by Dr Bierwisch and Dr Oliver Som. 

Other information and links:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/leanne-mills/, https://theenglishwordsmith.com/