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Overview of the IFR

What is futures thinking?

Individuals, organisations and business are concerned with the uncertain future. Therefore, in today's volatile times, the field of futures thinking is more critical than ever before. So what exactly is futures thinking and what does it entail?

Futures thinking is concerned with decision making. It entails developing and fostering the ability to make decisions that are good when they are made and remain so in the long run. Futures thinking and futures research are the systematic exploration of possible and desirable futures to improve decisions and the endeavours to realise them. Futures thinking is rooted in the understanding that knowledge of the future is not possible. However, knowledge of the factors that shape the future are known and they consequently provide a palette of possible future outcomes, states or scenarios.

Futures thinking is inextricably linked to strategic planning and strategic management and can therefore assist to illuminate the ways in which policy, strategies and actions can promote desirable futures and help prevent those we consider undesirable.

The IFR supports the view of authors such as MacMillan and Tampoe (2000) who regard strategic management as envisioning and realising the future. It is the IFR's longstanding philosophy that the future can be measured and made. Hence, futures thinking and strategy should provide an idea of the future and generate the action required to realise that idea. Therefore, implementation is part of and not separate from futures thinking and strategy.


Who are we?

The IFR started life in 1974 as the long-term arm of the Bureau for Economic Research at Stellenbosch University. In 1984, it was transformed into a stand-alone institute at the University, supported by industry, among others Rupert International. The IFR is also the first and only Futures Institute of its kind on the African continent. Under new leadership, it was restructured in 2016, which resulted in the refocus of its research environments and service offering and the rebranding of the institute. The IFR has research capability in these areas: new world of business, social capital, sustainability, technology and innovation, and the art and science of decision-making.


What is it we do?

The IFR equips and assists individuals and organisations with the tools of good judgement and strategic foresight rather than accurate predictions. Good judgement emanates from an awareness and appreciation of early warning signs and systems through environmental scanning which is the source of strategic and business intelligence. Through environmental scanning the IFR assists organisations to see, realise and connect "the dots in their horizon" in order to evade and/or conquer challenges and/or to harness opportunities. With regard to strategic foresight the IFR equips and assists individuals and organisations to define and "make" the future they want. It equips individuals, organisations and business with decision frameworks, practical procedures, methods and techniques for futures and strategic thinking, planning and management. In short, the IFR equips and assists individuals and organisations to make good decisions.


How can you become involved?

To gain access to the wide array of services that the IFR offers, organisations are invited to become associates (members). As an IFR associate you will also join a unique network of business leaders and stakeholders who understand the importance of planning for the long-term future. Join as an associate today by contacting us at or on 021 918 4144.