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BOOKS AND MEDIA REVIEW: BRIDGE MAKERS: BECOMING A CITIZEN FUTURIST




April Reagan encourages readers to think and act like a futurist in her new book, Bridge Makers: Becoming a Citizen Futurist. It serves as a guide for the average person to get involved in planning for the future.  


Written for the average citizen, Reagan defines a citizen futurist as one who is committed to looking – staying informed about scientific, technological, sociological and economic trends, thinking about the potential impacts and consequences of the trends, and acting – claiming agency and advocating for the potential of such advancements to improve the communities of which they are a member. 


In formulating her book, it’s safe to say that Reagan drew upon her experience with the high-tech world. She previously has worked for Intel, Microsoft, Samsung, and Fjord Design and Innovation (part of Accenture Interactive), among others. She has worked with clients across retail, financial services, consumer products, wireless communications, and digital media, as well as collaborating with non-profits.


Published in 2021, Reagan breaks her 282-page book into four sections.  After an introduction to futurism/foresight, she touches on scanning for signals and following trends, imagining different scenarios for the future, and building and executing a plan to start influencing and shaping a preferred future.  She suggests that the reader can pick and choose the sections they are interested in rather than read the entire book.  I recommend taking the time to read the entire book.   In addition to explaining what it takes to be a citizen futurist, Reagan exposes the reader to some of today’s well-known futurists such as Stuart Candy and Amy Webb and offers the reader a number of resources to learn more about futures and foresight.  She emphasizes the need for collaboration within our respective communities, bringing ideas and issues to the forefront for meaningful discussion, and hopefully, developing a mutually agreeable resolution and plan for action.


While at the University of Houston, I remember Program Director Andy Hines often reminding the class that an important part of practicing foresight is to “rally the masses.”  Bridge Makers: Becoming a Citizen Futurist feels like Reagan’s attempt to do just that.  


It aims to encourage the general public – the average citizen – to get ahead of problems today and work toward a better tomorrow. As Reagan warns in the book, if we don’t get involved in planning our future, we will be left having to live someone else's future – a future that we may not want.


There appears to be a shift in people’s perspective on the responsibilities of being a citizen, and I believe Reagan sees that and is concerned. She understands the potential danger if our current social atmosphere continues to trend in its current direction.  Over the past decade, political polarization and the increasing intolerance for diversity has been eroding communities and hinders us from making progress on the smallest of projects, let alone effectively plan for the future.  


As a metaphor for the citizen futurist, Mrs. Reagan uses the term “Bridge Maker,” which she defines as “making connections to bridge communities in a purposeful way and changing the tone of the conversation, shifting the tension, and making room for something new to emerge.”  


So many of the issues and problems we are aware of today, especially those we have deemed as wicked problems, such as climate change, need to be addressed sooner than later, and will require collaboration and a concerted effort for us to shape a preferrable future. Bridge Makers: Becoming a Citizen Futurist is a step in the right direction.


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Jim Murray graduated from the University of Houston Masters in Foresight program in December 2022.  He is a part-time/aspiring futurist working full-time as the Packaging and Distribution Manager at The Washington Post. He retired in 2017 as a Colonel in the US Army Reserve after thirty years of service.  He currently resides with his family in Lorton, Virginia, and can be reached via his LinkedIn page at https://www.linkedin.com/in/jim-murray-7106655b/.

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