Masterclass Retreat

Future Scenarios of Global Cooperation — Practices and Challenges

Essen – 15-17 March 2017

Taking place in the Triple Z Essen, the third Masterclass aimed to tackle the question of how social science can respond to the challenges of contributing to future scenarios on relevant issues on a global scale such as climate change or sustainable development goals. During the three days of the conference, participants had ample time to explore the nexus between modelling and assumptions of social change. By thus generating insights into social change and political conditions of global cooperation, we may better understand and perhaps improve our ability to assess how scenarios make claims about the future.

Global problems, such as climate change, hunger or pandemic diseases, have increased the demand for coordination and cooperation. Global governance institutions, ever since the reports of the Club of Rome, have relied on expertise and on forecasts, i.e. projections of present problems into the future, to create policies adequate to foreseeable and possibly unforeseeable challenges. Prediciting, interpreting, and most challenging, developing knowledge to change the future, are important tasks scientists and others have set out to master. Whether it is the creation of computer-based scenarios, the use of data to develop global development goals (like the current Sustainable Development Goals), or the construction of complex models, the future of cooperation rests on these vision of the future.

Bringing together experts from fields that have been largely unexposed to each other reflects an essential ambition of the Centre to initiate interdisciplinary discussions. For instance, the Masterclass offered an insight into future scenarios from a narrative perspective and addressed questions on what fiction and non-fiction authors tell us about the future. The wealth of research in these manifold fields allows us to assess general and more specific claims of how cooperation can be fostered. Understanding the social embeddedness and social function of scenarios and narratives is thus a way of accounting for the future of global cooperation.

The three-day event was captured by the visualisations of the graphic recording artists Helge Windisch and Enjoo Moon ( On a large sheet of paper the content of the presentations and discussions have been translated live into images and text.

The Masterclass was organised by Research Unit 1 'The (Im)Possibility of Cooperation', headed by Dr Katja Freistein.

Masterclass Report