History of the Foundation

More than 40 years of futures research – from the BAT Leisure Research Institute to the Foundation for Future Studies

Professor Dr Horst W. Opaschowski with the aim of promoting basic research in the area of leisure. The (media) consumption-focused society of the 1970s had raised questions about the issue of leisure, with the result that the academic debate surrounding this topic became increasingly important.

The year in which the Foundation was set up also heralded the beginning of a period of profound sociopolitical change. For example, 1979 was the year of the NATO Double-Track Decision and the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. The former East Germany (German Democratic Republic, GDR) was celebrating its 30th birthday and socialism, in the words of Erich Honecker, then General Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED), was “real, existing”. Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran. The era was marked by a change in values, by oil crises and by anti-nuclear demonstrations. While themes like dying forests, the greenhouse effect and climate change increasingly determined social discourse – and the Greens were elected to the German parliament for the first time – microelectronics became part and parcel of everyday life. AIDS was discussed in the media for the first time. The establishment of the Polish trade union Solidarity was an early indication of the imminent turmoil that was to play out behind the Iron Curtain, reaching its pinnacle in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall.

As these changes took place over the last three decades, the Foundation extended its research focus to include the diversity of issues that would affect society in the future. Research into areas such as leisure and tourism, which began in the 1980s, was intensified during the 1990s and the research focus was extended to include individual sociodemographic sub-groups and investigate in particular the experience-oriented world of leisure. During this decade, this subject area was expanded to include current social trends, for example the co-existence of the media with everyday life/influence of the media on everyday life.

While the 1980s and 1990s were marked by an unparallelled rise in prosperity, it was apparent that this had possibly reached its zenith, and even surpassed it, at the beginning of the 21st century. The century of reduced working hours was over and a new paradigm change was ushered in. A question mark hangs over the guiding principles of the working society and the full employment society; the leisure and consumption-related ideals of the affluent and experience society are being usurped increasingly by a more realistic disillusionment. At the turn of the millennium, we therefore focused our research interest on social and sociopolitical issues. Within the context of increasing globalisation, the Foundation – under the direction of Professor Dr Ulrich Reinhardt – is now also looking beyond German borders and expanding its research work to include a European element.

These changes in structures and values in the world also provide an opportunity to think about quality of life and not just standard of living. In the tradition of the BAT Leisure Research Institute, the Foundation for Future Studies is also making a contribution to this development.

In the transition from Leisure Research Institute to the Foundation for Future Studies (2007), British American Tobacco, as initiator, founder and benefactor, has broadened the view of just one future to encompass different ‘futures’, from which we can choose and which we can also shape. Amid all this questioning of social trends, the studies conducted by the Foundation for Future Studies always also reflect a positive viewpoint, outline practical approaches to solutions and provide reassurance about the future. After all, the future needs to be vigorously and pro-actively shaped and not just passively and reactively managed.