Futuribles was initially created in 1960 by Bertrand de Jouvenel as an ‘international committee’ consisting of some twenty intellectuals from different countries (USA, France, UK, Japan, India etc.) and various disciplines (political sciences, economics, sociology, science and technology etc.). It was funded by the Ford Foundation. Between 1960 and 1965 the ‘Futuribles International Committee’ published some fifty future-oriented essays (in the Bulletin de la SEDEIS) and organized major international conferences (at Geneva, Paris, New Haven etc.).
The Futuribles International Association (a non-profit-making organization) was created in 1967 under the presidency of Bertrand de Jouvenel, who very soon handed over to Pierre Massé (former Commissioner for French Economic Planning). This foundation received substantial subsidies from the French government and brought together in one place most of the french centres involved with foresight studies. These included, in particular, the Centre d’études prospectives, initially created by Gaston Berger (which quickly merged with the Futuribles International), the Collège des techniques avancées, SEDEIS (the Société d’étude et de documentation économiques, industrielles et sociales, which at the time published the journal Analyse & prévision) and, subsequently, Revue 2000, published at the time by the French National Agency for Spatial Planning and Regional Development (DATAR).
At that time, Futuribles International fulfilled two main functions: on the one hand, it managed an important documentation centre and a library of foresight-related publications; on the other, it operated as an international meeting point for all those — whether academics or decision-makers — interested in the long-term future. The World Futures Studies Federation (1973) was created during an international conference hosted in Paris by Futuribles.
However, as subsidies dried up, the fundation ran into major financial troubles, forcing radical change. In 1973 the stabilization and relaunch plan implemented by Hugues de Jouvenel, who was elected general director, set three objectives for the Futuribles:
- To continue its activity as a documentation centre, but to re-focus this on the analysis of the content of the main foresight studies, to identify the major lessons to be learned from them and develop an early-warning function (a new bulletin Actualités prospectives — i.e. facts and ideas likely to shape the future — was published).
- To continue its activity as an international meeting point, but limiting the number of gatherings held and ensuring optimal value from these exchanges.
- To develop the production of foresight studies, funded by subsidies and contracts. Futuribles International regained a stable footing in 1975, began recruiting once again and moved into independent premises. At this point Hugues de Jouvenel created the Futuribles journal to replace two defunct publications: Analyse & Prévision, previously published by SEDEIS, and Prospectives initially created by Gaston Berger.
The 1980s and 1990s were characterized by a significant development of the association’s activities: a database of futures studies centres and a bibliographical database were created; several European foresight conferences were organized (particularly in cooperation with the European Commission); a large number of contract foresight studies were produced; and in 1987 Futuribles Ltd was created as to publish the Futuribles journal and develop consulting activities. Since then, Futuribles has greatly expanded its horizon-scanning activities and its work on foresight analysis (‘Lookout’/’Vigie’ and Bibliographie prospective) for the benefit of its members (companies, administrations, local/regional authorities), its training activities in the concepts and methods of foresight studies, its engineering and consulting activities in applied foresight exercises with both local/regional authorities and organizations, and its publishing activities, both physical and digital.
Since 2006 Futuribles has been based at 47, rue de Babylone, Paris.