Pedagogy of Hope – Futures Thinking in a world of “shifted baseline”

“There is a distinction between beliefs as our best ability of understanding a situation  or relationship, and beliefs based on hope, intuitions, and these should be backed with critical thinking..this is especially important if  the beliefs that we accept or dismiss can have life-altering consequences at a planetary scale”

Karen O’Brien, You matter more than you think

Pedagogy of hope (bell hooks) is a critical thinking process for individuals and collectives to practice the right of young people (learners or students) to be hopeful about the future(s).  

Taking away HOPE is the practice of “business as usual”:

-cynicism voice hidden under efficacy and efficiency (voiced as “it really doesn’t matter”). I call “false” efficacy and efficiency, as by efficiency we relate to a “positive atmosphere where experience success is possible and regulate emotions” (Markus Talvio).  So powerfully,  Karen  O’Brien using the “frequentist approach” from a mathematical sense, decodes this systemic cynism as part of probabilities and uncertainty of change, as “historical observations,  are  considered to have little value for projecting future trajectories..”

– the formal acceptance ( hooks, 2003) is giving away autonomy (giving away the decision-making capital of teachers). 

– no compassion no heart work, shows up as teachers burn out and students learn out, as we humanly strive to make meaning of the world around us, hence education is the context in which students and teachers co-create meaning, and have a  higher purpose sense of “wanting to make life better for oneself and the ones around” such an important 21st-century transversal competence “taking care of oneself and other (Lonka, 2018).

Hope – the right of young people to have a positive image of life

Hope from students’ perspective is holding “a positive image of life” as a basic human right and without it, we cannot really thrive to be lifelong learners. By positive image of life, we do not mean all is bright and bubbled up words of “ everything will be fine” rather the opposite, it is the confidence and hence the process of ACTing; the learning process scaffolding outside the classroom and informs how we act in life, “teaching attitudes together with competencies and knowledge”.  

Hope informs Actions: what are we willing to do with what we learn. Students losing a positive image of life means they will not curate their autonomy, their capacity to make democratic decisions with respect to humans and more than humans rights. When it comes to the wicked problems of the 21st century,  no ability to know success in our current societies. It is stilling of their right to imagine futures (Kumar, 2021). That is why the voice of the youth social change makers from the African continent during COP28, just a month ago, was clarifying “we do not ask for grants, we do not ask you to invite us here so you check a box we ask to give us voice, so you could hear what young people think and Act about futures” and challenges during shifting baseline.

Ability to make decisions

Hope as pedagogy from teachers perspective, is decision-making capital ( Fullan, 2016), the practice (learning-based organization culture at school level) of making up their mind to the best of their knowledge at that moment in time, and understanding at a certain time and proceed with a decision than looking to observe what works and very important what doesn’t work ( making mistakes and not knowing). HOPE from teachers’ perspective is “holding the process” in the classroom instead of focusing on the results. So yes, if we teach for assessments our hope capital is shrinking “on a daily basis” and then we have teachers burn out and students learnout.

Being progressive

Our visions for tomorrow are most vital when they emerge from the concrete cirscumstances of change we are experiencing right now”

bell hooks

Progressive teachers “do not indoctrinate students”, says bell hooks. They create a space in which making up their mind is possible; cultivate a space of awareness. guidance to imagine and learn from the unexpected, allowing insights “backed by critical thinking”.

we “stopped” a moment as in the middle of our training room with no outdoor windows space, on a cold October morning, a butterfly landed, principle Anne asked if she could interact with the situation and offered a piece of her apple and then we stayed a moment, our (deep) work was informed and integrated that unexpected,October 2022 Vantaa Finland, “New learning way and spaces”

Two strategies for practicing pedagogy of hope – teaching with Alternative Futures (future anticipation, UNESCO) in a time of shifting baseline ( climate change, teaching meaningfully with Sustainable Development goals)

  1. Setting learning objectives, individually and collectively: Invitation to the teachers to notice that there are two different skills (Lonka, 2018)  needed as lifelong learners to set, follow and assess learning objectives for oneself and setting objectives for the the group learning, equally valuable. Students are creators or co-creators of their learning objectives and of their process of assessing progress. We develop thinking and learning to lean skills, and in a world of nonlinear problems ( Bateson, 2010) we need the ability to look at objectives with an “enlightened mind” being curious and interested in the process ( opened perspective) instead of tunneled vision on getting the objective “the right way”. In other words, the learning process is a design-based learning process we might actually meet our learning objectives yet they look in a very different way than we initially would think they look. In setting objectives we also remember to practice unlearning (critical).
one practice, drawing by artist student Tea, inspired by Eva-Lotta Lamm visual artist activity proposal
  1. Insightful-based learning: practicing with simple active tools in the classroom capacity of students to build imaginary muscle. Imagination supports 

Creativity is a  thinking skill. We support it by trying out different. states of the creating process, allowing one to ponder instead of jumping to immediate results outputs ( learning from the past not from the future). Such practices as formulating visions, and intentions as well as opening to many different ways of knowing (part of multiliteracy) and cultivating one’s attention. When we work with such practices in the classroom the students and teachers attention expands. With imaginative practices we allow and cultivate the ability to stay in focus (Vygotsky) and not react to stimuli. “We become aware of our thoughts when we put them in words”. With such imaginative short practices, we invited students to be very concrete focused powerful storytellers as journaling,  very specific and honest and allow to be surprised. Knowledge and learning “unfold” during the day, and week of learning, it becomes integrated learning. And make decisions, even in matters that seem complicated and brittle; different emotions in different contexts, choosing the words and language considering the context part of self-management competencies ( Markus Talvio). 

Future voting practice Principals and teachers from Belgium, Macedonia, Romania, UK together with Tuovi Ronkainen, lead the practice. Amazing opportunity to do the practice in the space of Design Museum Helsinki, during the Anticipating Futures installation 2022-2023.

Pedagogy of Hope – Futures Thinking in a world of “shifted baseline”

Learning from Nature

When it comes to Hope and pedagogy of hope we cannot have a better learning environment than a walk in the nearby forest or in the garden ( Kumar, 2021). My walk was in the Therapy Nursery Farm in Ruskin Florida meeting my farmer and Alternative FUTURES visionary host Michael. Michael has set up together with 90-year-old Cuban former farm owner and friend a future vision here on a 30-acre land and therapy farm. He created a nursery for trees and plants from all over the world, especially Asian countries that have easily not only adapted but thrive here. He imagines a world where we might need to return to the medicine of plants for different diseases, integrating it  with new science or preventing them for wellness and wellbeing enjoying life from children to elders. He also imagines and notices how these / certain types of trees and plants one “nursed” in this new place not only thrive but so many species- birds, fish, animals other trees thrive as well due to their presence. He also spoke with great HOPE and such a positive image,  by which I mean capital for little actions every day, and easiness to create around him partnerships,  about the “bright” future of abundance as food, a healthy ecosystem – fish, birds, wildlife, domestic animals. It was also  a place of great silent learning about bioregionalism (Mary Tucker), and principles of noticing how one consciously live with nature (care for)  in place. I asked him what he thinks is the element that makes all this possible he said: we are all from many different cultures humans and plants and there is also abundant financial resources here. He was very intentional in allowing human-made gardens to co-exist with the wilderness in a good partnership. He showed us a picture from a few days ago of a big yellow snake in the chicken coop, he was swallowing some chicken eggs, my farmer host smiling said he caught him and allowed some eggs to be shared with the shake yet was talking to other friends to see where might the snake be happy living away from his chicken coop. There is a natural balance and peace that comes with HOPE. 

Teaching principles…

In teaching students principles of knowing, understanding, and protecting nature around them, bioregionalism ( Tucker, 2021) we can also explore alternative future(s) like:

1.  ecological successions (further information)

2. a partnership and ecosystem services offered by “native plants (further information)

3.  Living shoreline plan. In the small yet important city of Titusville, Florida home to NASA Kenedy Spaces Center, the city has a living shoreline plan.

Pedagogy of hope is Teachers and Students realizing that learning with Alternative Futures in a world of “shifted baseline”, education during “ a world of wicked problems” is the opportunity for “phenomenal learning”. By phenomenal learning, teachers and students have the knowledge, competencies, and attitudes to integrate and look at topics from multiple lenses in highly complex systems thinking and feeling “playful”, the autonomy of exploring new meanings. Pedagogy of hope is continuously asking  “how is the learning happening”( Bateson, 2010) and opens a new urgent and emergent invitation to notice that in teaching and learning through climate change there  

Note: the picture of the article catches the Pedagogy of Hope “Deep Walk” in Lapland nature with the cohort of Integrative Practices – leadership in the classroom, co-hosted with wonderful Irina Sadakova, adult education teacher, trauma awareness expert, and amazing teachers from Spain, Sweden, Belgium, and Czech Republic, October 2022, Ivalo Finland.


  1. Shifted baseline is introduced in this article and interview with Christian Wagley from Pensacola. “With ongoing environmental degradation at local, regional, and global scales, people’s accepted thresholds for environmental conditions are continually being lowered. In the absence of past information or experience with historical conditions, members of each new generation accept the situation in which they were raised as being normal. This psychological and sociological phenomenon is termed shifting baseline syndrome (SBS), which is increasingly recognized as one of the fundamental obstacles to addressing a wide range of today’s global environmental issues. Yet our understanding of this phenomenon remains incomplete” source here
  2. Teaching Community: Pedagogy of Hope (2003) bell hooks
  3. In Transformative learning(2021) Satish Kumar and Pavel Cenkl (ed)- “Narratives of Hope” Jonathon Porritt (founder director of Forum for the Futures); “A Polar Star” Mary Eveline Tucker, Forum on Religion and Ecology, Yale University
  4. Play Cards for Hope, from SITRA Finland
  5. Climate Consciousness Summit 2023, parallel with the COP28. pannel with with Paul Dickinson, Kaluki Paul, Anita Soina & Abigael Kima
  6. Karen O’Brien (2021) “You matter more than you think”, Karen O’Brien is professor at Oslo University, Department of Sociology and Human Geographies, O’Brien shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
  7. Phenomenal Learning from Finland (2018) Kirsti Lona

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