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Announcing the Alliance Scholarship for Strategic Foresight

Category: Center for the Future Of Museums Blog

The first item on my wish list for the second decade of the Center for the Future of Museums is: “more museum futurists.” By which I mean, people who appreciate the importance of strategic foresight, and have whatever formal training they need to integrate futures work into their organizations. One of the goals of the Alliance’s strategic plan is to “influence and inspire action in the field,” and by cultivating a cadre of museum futurists, we can foster thought leadership around the long term strategies museums will need to thrive in coming decades.

Here’s one step towards achieving that goal: the American Alliance of Museums has established a scholarship to fund participation in the University of Houston’s Foresight Certificate program. This 5-day, project-based, face-to-face workshop covers the basics of understanding, mapping, and influencing the future using a combination of lectures and small-group exercises. I took the course in 2010, and it provided a sound framework to guide my continuing self-directed learning on futures studies.

Each iteration of the course accepts 30 students, typically a 60/40 percent mix of US/international students, with a diversity of backgrounds. My classmates included a member of the US military, two international security consultants, an independent marketing professional, and a fellow museumer (Joe Cavanaugh, director of the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas).

The first scholarship will support participation in the spring 2019 program, which will be held Apr 29-May 3 at the University of Houston. The $5,000 award covers tuition ($3,000, prepaid by the Alliance), and a $2,000 stipend for travel, housing and per diem. Scholarship recipients will be expected to become active participants a growing network of museum futurists, participating in CFM projects, seeking out examples of museum innovation, sharing their own thoughts on trends shaping our world and our field, and building bridges to other sectors.

If you’re intrigued by this opportunity, take a look at the curriculum, and read blog posts written by other museum graduates of the course—Joe Cavanaugh, Lisa Eriksen, Kate Burgess-Mac Intosh, and the Alliance’s own Nicole Ivy.

Eligibility criteria

Applicants must be:

  • Currently working in a museum of any kind (using AAM’s broad definition that includes zoos, botanical gardens, art centers, historic houses, etc. etc.), or in the case of consultants, conducting a majority of their work for museums.
  • Individual members of the Alliance, or employees of a member museum.
  • Able to commit to the full certificate program including: all required pre-work; the full 5 day program; and completion of the post-program certificate assignment.
  • Able to commit to writing two to three posts for the CFM Blog about their experience in the course, subsequent project, and experiences implementing the training at their organization.
  • Have the support of their organization to participate (if they are not independently employed). Specifically, the organization must provide paid time off for the week of the certificate course; pay any expenses not covered by the scholarship award; and provide travel expenses for the applicant to attend either the 2019 or 2020 AAM annual meeting, on work time. (AAM will provide a complementary registration.)

How to apply

Submit the following by COB Friday, February 8 to emerritt (at)

1) A condensed resume or cv (2 page max)
2) A letter of support from a leader in your organization (2 page max) that:

  • Recommends you as an applicant and explains how the organization would make use of the knowledge you gain in this training.
  • Commits the organization to providing the support outlined in the eligibility criteria, above.

3) A letter of application (2 page max) outlining:

  • Why you want to train as a futurist.
  • How you intend to integrate the training into your work.
  • One thing about the museum field that you want to work to change in coming decades.
  • (Optional) how you self-identify, e.g. by race, culture, gender, (dis)ability. This will help the Alliance implement our commitment to promoting diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion in the museum field.

By helping more museum people complete this certificate course, the Alliance will increase our sector’s capacity to engage in deep and thoughtful strategic foresight. I look forward to recruiting our growing cadre of graduates to participate in a variety of CFM projects.

Best wishes for a bright 2019,


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