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Deborah Spicer

Futurist Profile


Deborah Spicer

Strategy, research, marketing, communication

Strategy, Public Reporting and Research Officer: One of the big 4 Audit and Advisory Firms


M.A. (Publishing)
M.Phil. (Futures Studies)

Deborah answered a few questions about her perspective and on being a futures thinker.


You identify yourself as an African futures thinker or practitioner. How would you describe to the woman or man on the street what it is that you do in this regard?

I try and understand trends that may influence possible, probable and preferable futures for the continent and the world.

How many years have you worked as an African futures thinker / practitioner?

About 10 years.

In which countries or places have you had working experience as an African futures thinker / practitioner?

I have undertaken strategic and high-level country reviews on Tanzania, Burundi, the DRC, Botswana, Ethiopia, Guinea, Lesotho, Mali, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa - unfortunately, most of this has been desktop work though ):

In what languages have you undertaken futures / foresight related work or research?


What is it that motivates you to work or participate in the foresight / future studies / related field

Foresight is important for all planning and allows one to influence and reinforce decision making.

What goal/s would you most like to reach with your work as an African futures thinker / practitioner?

Making Africa into a continent that is thriving economically, socially and environmentally.

Who or what most influenced your thinking as a futures thinker / practitioner, and how?

Nelson Mandela and Bishop Tutu for including the widest number of people in their decision making.

What is your main disciplinary background? (i.e. your primary training / qualification)

My latest studies have been in Futures Studies, but I have a background in journalism, communication, research, marketing and strategy.

How do other people describe you and how do you describe yourself?

Others describe me as… persevering
I describe myself as… thoughtful



What is one of your favourite quotes about the future?

"The thing in front of you is your teacher."

How would you describe the state of African futures thinking right now?

I am always in awe at the amount of thinking and research that is taking place. Researchers may not be calling what they do 'futures thinking', but many people are interested in trends, planning and policy development, etc.

What is, in your opinion, the main barrier to uptake of futures knowledge by African institutions and organisations?

Immediate needs are so pressing that they often take priority over implementing actions that will be important in the future.

If you were to give advice to someone who wants a career in African foresight / future studies, what would you say to him or her?

Most careers involve elements of foresight/ futures studies. The career options are therefore endless.

What are your recommended readings for every African futures thinker / practitioner?

I started being interested in Futures Studies through reading Clem Sunter and Chantell Ilbury. Their books provide a good introduction to futures studies and are particularly useful since they are grounded in an African context. Stellenbosch University's 'Introduction to Futures Studies' module had a fantastic reading list too - I particularly enjoyed De Jouvenal.

What are your recommendations for other favourite futures resources: websites, newsfeeds, mailing lists, associations, etc.?


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