By training and inclination, Ruben Nelson is a big picture strategic thinker. A Canadian pioneer of serious futures thinking, Ruben has spent his life exploring and seeking to understand the forces that are now re-shaping our lives, our world and our future. Today, he is Canada’s leading researcher/ practitioner and teacher of strategic foresight – the new cognitive work of whole systems governance and leadership.
The question at the core of his life is this: “What would we do, if we truly knew what we were doing?”
Ruben challenges those with whom he works to commit to the creation of an economy and society that are truly aligned with the emerging conditions of the 21st Century. He does so because his research into long-term cultural change has led him to believe that the 21st Century is a rare hinge of history. The novel conditions of our time will require every existing culture to embrace the need for and reality of a fundamental civilizational transformation. At its heart, then, strategic foresight is not about succeeding as a Modern/Industrial culture, but evolving beyond it. Ruben calls this breathtaking task the Core Challenge of the 21st Century.
For over forty years, Ruben has offered strategic advice to Cabinet Ministers, Board Members and senior executives in every sector of Canadian society. He is equally at home in conference rooms, board rooms and church basements. He has advised a Canadian Prime Minister on the future of social policy and undertaken the only formal Canadian research into our long evolution and transformation from a late modern Industrial society and economy into a truly post-Industrial and co-creative form of civilization.
In 1960, as an undergraduate at Queen’s, Ruben organized Canada’s first formal conference on the future. Since then, he has taught at both Queen’s University and the University of Calgary. He has lived in India and worked in Ottawa.
In the 1970s, Ruben was on a two-person team with a mandate to re-conceive social policy for Canada. He also contributed to the articulation of Canada’s Multiculturalism policy and developed the New Horizons programme. In the mid-1970s, Ruben worked at Environment Canada’s Advanced Concepts Centre, where the early work on climate change, appropriate technology, and what later came to be called sustainable development were undertaken. There he was the first person to apply the concept of evolving paradigms to whole cultures and forms of civilization.
In the early 1980s, he was the Ottawa-based consultant for the National Capital Commission’s successful effort to resurrect the Rideau Area Project – a multi-government project with 47 identified stakeholder groups. Ruben designed a unique organizational and citizen engagement structure for the project.
In the late 1980s, Ruben designed and directed a three year multi-client investigation into the hypothesis that we face a future that lies beyond, not within, the paradigm of our Modern/Industrial form of civilization. It was then, and may still be, the most thorough investigation into this issue.
In the early 1990s, Ruben conceived and chaired the Calgary Information Port Project. He then served as its first Director. Its work and findings formed the core of Alberta’s several hundred million dollar ICT investments. He also served as the resident futurist for both the Alberta and the Saskatchewan Commissions on the Future of Health Care.
More recently, he and his Foresight Canada colleagues designed a two-year process that would enable thousands of Albertans to engage in the formulation of a strategy for the landscapes of southern Alberta. He directed the Foresight Canada team that undertook a fresh assessment for The National Research Council of Canada of the complex and swampy strategic issues Canada and the world will face to 2020. Ruben provided advice and counsel to the Deputy Minister who heads the secretariat for the Premier’s Council on Economic Strategy. He was an active participant and advisor to the Alberta Framework for Social Policy Project.
Ruben was a Canadian member of the International Futures Academy based in Vienna and one of six International Advisors to a major social futures project sponsored by the Federal Government of Germany. He just completed an assignment for the Fraunhofer Institute, Germany, as a member of a six person international advisory term for their strategic foresight project which will inform the German Government’s investments in technology R&D.
For many years, Ruben has lived as a freelance intellectual contributing to such diverse areas as civilizational change and transformation, social policy, technology assessment, futures research, strategic foresight, the emerging knowledge-based economy/society and citizen engagement. Today he is recognized as Canada’s most widely-experienced professional futures researcher. One of his current preoccupations is the creation, in cooperation with many professional colleagues, of a permanent, networked Canadian capacity for strategic foresight and governance.
Ruben has written extensively on a wide range of topics, including paradigm change, strategic foresight as the new cognitive work of leadership, the societal implications of ICT, the emerging information society, 21st Century social policy, and the future of democracy.
Ruben Nelson is the only Canadian who is a Fellow of the World Business Academy, the World Academy for Art and Science and the Meridian Institute for Leadership, Governance, Change and the Future. He is also a Paul Harris Fellow of Rotary International. Ruben has been honored with the Johnson Award for his sustained contributions to Canadian futures research by the Calgary Alumni of Queen’s University. He has served as a Director and President of the Asociation for Humanistic Psychology, and a director of the Calgary Economic Development Authority, the World Future Studies Federation, and the Enviros Wilderness School. He is Executive Director of Foresight Canada.
He lives in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta with Heather, his wife of 54 years, and their cats.
1-888-673-3537 in North America