About the Urban Futures Studio

The Urban Futures Studio explores sustainable and meaningfully democratic futures, and ways to get there. We investigate what we call ‘futuring’ - the social creation of the (imagined) futures that direct collective action. As a transdisciplinary institute, we collaborate with policymakers, activists, artists, and students to enable alternative futures.

We seek to democratise pathways towards more sustainable futures, to break from inertia towards a sense of hope that inspires transformation.

What we do in the present is profoundly influenced by our expectations of the future. Faced with escalating climate change and biodiversity loss, inequality and injustice, society is largely unable to imagine the alternative ways of living we need. By engaging with alternatives, the Urban Futures Studio aims to explore and open up public debate over different futures. Our focus: to enhance the transformative capacities of our societies by exploring more sustainable futures with the stakeholders who have the greatest potential to bring them into being. 

We experiment with new approaches to researching, teaching and gathering that bring together policymakers, students, activists, citizen groups and artists to enable collective action.

Through research, teaching, and other interventions, we bring together a diversity of scientific, artistic and political approaches to explore what we call ‘techniques of futuring’. Fascinated by the question of what makes actors agents of change, we do not aspire to find a single optimal future. Instead, we probe, test, and tinker in unusual coalitions to service democratic debate on possible futures and enhance societies’ transformative capacities. To do so, we:

  • study how ideas about the future come to affect the present
  • explore different pathways to sustainable futures, to open up the collective imagination,
  • experiment with new forms of gathering and teaching, questioning established routines
  • convene academics, policymakers, activists, citizen groups, artists in new coalitions for change
  • contribute to the academic literature and broader public debates at the intersection between futures and sustainability

We are a transdisciplinary institute that conducts empirical research and helps to initiate experiments.

Our team of researchers led by Professor Maarten Hajer contains expertise spanning sociology, political science, urban planning, theology and STS. We operate in a broad network of academics, students, policymakers, artists, and practitioners all engaged in processes of social change. The Urban Futures Studio is part of the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development at the Faculty of Geosciences at Utrecht University. We are supported by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (IenW), the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (BZK and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate (EZK).