Asia Imagined: Disruptions and Alternative Futures

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The Center for Engaged Foresight will present at the 4th APFN Conference this August 2018.

This time in Bangkok, Thailand. The 4th APFN conference takes a two-track approach to cater foresight practitioners and researchers.  This years’s conference seeks to understand emerging and distruptive futures of Asia. This conference focuses on how Asia is imagined in the long-term and explore how might the shift to solar energy and intelligent/autonomous cars transform the design of Asian cities? Will Asian cities become green, smart, and clean? How might disruptions in capitalism – the shift toward the sharing economy, for example, transform the economic landscape of Asia? Will advances in AI create new jobs or ensure a jobless future for all? Will meditation and yoga by integrating our various selves not only lead to inner bliss but enhance productivity? As policymakers often desire precise answers to these questions, futurists have learned that these are best answered as alternative futures, as scenarios of the possible, plausible and preferred.

Along with alternative futures, case studies of foresight in practice from government, the private sector, and the community arena will be highlighted.

Objectives

  1. To imagine Asia’s future; explores disruptions, and seeks to create alternative futures
  2. To share important methods, tools and innovations for futures thinking and foresight
  3. Through case studies, to motivate and enable the participants to apply the appropriate methods
  4. To promote cooperation and networking among participants as well as share experiences between members of different organizations and backgrounds
  5. To increase the profile of futures thinking and foresight in the Asia-Pacific.
  6. Create awareness for the need of creating future literacy with future (younger) leaders

For more about conference fees, venue, accommodation, how to participate and present please visit the official 4th APFN Conference web link.

 

The City Of Good Life: Oroquieta City 2030

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With Mayor Jason Almonte and the local government officials of Oroquieta City. For more about the City. Check this – http://oroquietacity.gov.ph/

What will the city of Oroquieta be like in the year 2030? What are the people’s hopes and fears? Are there alternatives to a business as usual future? What is the city’s preferred future? What is the city’s transformed future? Which future do they wish to become a reality? What steps can the city take to trigger emerging alternatives and create a transformed future for the city and its people? Is the city moving in the right direction?

Are existing platforms, policies, programs and framework flexible, adaptive? Is the economy responsive to local demands and needs? What are the drivers and factors that might influence the city’s future? How can we engage the youth to participate in the creation of alternative and transformed future?

Can it re-envision the Good Life? Is it authentic? Transformative? Meaningful? What are the indicators of a Good Life for Oroquieta City? What type of values and leadership models could kick start and sustain the vision of a Good Life? How can we legitimize the Good Life? Are there existing socio-economic-political models, best practice and local experiences that could support, expand or extend the concept of the Good Life?

These are some of the interesting and provocative questions that emerged in the 3day Futures Literacy and PROUT workshop attended by the local government officials of Oroquieta City.

Futures Thinking and PROUT Workshop

Facilitated by Shermon Cruz, Director Center for Engaged Foresight and Dada Dharmavedananda, PROUT Maharlika and monk of Ananda Marga, the City of Oroquieta organized an introductory futures thinking, strategy development and PROUT workshop to explore alternative futures for the city. The workshop and applied a variety of techniques/methodologies  in PROUT and Strategic Foresight to identify potential drivers and influencers  that may shape the city’s alternative and transformed futures.

Shermon Cruz gave a briefer on Futures Thinking and Strategy Development and facilitated foundational futures workshop to map, anticipate, question and imagine possible, probable and plausible city futures. Dada Dharmavedananda linked the participants output by questioning the alternatives and to address specific sectoral issues that may disrupt and transform Oroquieta’s future.

Videos on Futures Thinking and PROUT were shared to the participants to inform and deepen the context of the 3 day workshop.

Futures Literacy, Futures Thinking and Strategy Development

According to the OECD (2016), Futures Thinking and Strategy Development is an emerging policy and governance applied by global governance institutions, public and private institutions, the academia, non-government and people organizations, social movements among others to map, anticipate and create  alternative and preferred futures. Futures tools and workshops aims to stimulate strategic dialogue, widen understanding of possibilities, strengthens leadership and informed decision-making.

Futures Thinking in public policy and governance uses a multidisciplinary approach to pierce the veil of received opinion and identify the dynamics that are creating the future. A variety of methods – qualitative, quantitative, normative, and exploratory – can help governments illuminate the possibilities, outline policy choices, and assess the alternatives (OECD, 2016).

Futures Triangle on the other hand is a tool invented by Sohail Inatullah to to map three narratives of time – the past, present and future in context.

The PUSHED OF THE PRESENT: quantitative drivers and trends; THE WEIGHT OF HISTORY: challenges, issues, barriers and narratives prohibiting and/or restricting preferred futures and PULLS OF THE FUTURE, these are the compelling images and preferred futures (Inayatullah, 2010) .

 CAUSAL LAYERED ANALYSIS (CLA)

CLA is a technique used in strategic planning and futures studies to more effectively shape the future. Causal layered analysis works by identifying many different levels, and attempting to make synchronized changes at all levels to create a coherent new future.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Causal_layered_analysis)

Inayatullah’s original paper as well as his TEDx talk[4] identifies four levels of reality: The litany: This includes quantitative trends, often exaggerated and used for political purposes. The result could be a feeling of apathy, helplessness, or projected action. Social causes, including economic, cultural, political, and historical factors. Wordlview/Discourse: Structure and the discourse that legitimizes and supports the structure. Metaphor and myth are the emotive and unconscious dimensions of the issue. The deepest layer looks at the foundational myths, metaphors and archetypes that influence the unconscious and/or emotional undertone beneath the issues.

After understanding the layered causes of an issue, the method suggests looking at alternatives – either within each layer or beginning with a new myth/metaphor and working up through the layers to create an alternative scenario. From this alternate scenario, new possibilities can be distilled and translated into solutions, policies, and other types of actions that one can begin implementing in the present. (Source: https://libarynth.org/futurist_fieldguide/causal_layered_analysis)

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Futures Workshop Output

Participants mapped the pulls, pushes and weights of the city’s future. These drivers could well influence the Oroquieta’s future:

  • Transport (public and private)
  • Traffic and Congestion
  • Investment (local and global)
  • Poverty
  • Unemployment
  • Sports, Health and Wellness
  • Climate Change Risk and Disaster Management
  • Digitization and automation of the City’s business processes
  • Inadequate Resources (financial and non-financial)
  • Land Use Plan
  • Culture and traditions
  • Life expectancy
  • In-migration
  • Integrity and Branding
  • Grants and Aids
  • Conflicting values and priorities

The pulls, pushes and weights could reframe, redefine the context of city’s plausible future: The City of Good Life.

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Influencers to the City of Oroquieta

Deepening the discussion, Shermon Cruz  asked some provocative questions to participants to facilitate the reframing process: What is the city’s definition of good life? What does it mean to experience or to have a good life in Oroquieta? What are the indicators of a good life, at the personal, organizational, city, societal levels, in Oroquieta? What are its success indicators? Is Oroquieta’s version of the Good Life authentic? Transformative? Unique? Responsive to local context, development, growth , values and culture? Using INSPECT method, what are our good life indicators and/or innovation in ideas, nature, social, political, economy, culture and technology? How do we integrate the good life in Oroquieta’s programs, policies, events and activities? How do we storify the good life (health and wealth? Well-being? Work-Life balance? Preventive health care? Employment?)? What’s the narrative of good life for Oroquieta in the now and the future – City of Good Life 2030?

Causal Layered Analysis

Issue #1: 37% Poverty Incidence (2017)         Issue  #2: 20% Unemployment Rate (2017)

The Causal Layered Analyis gave the participants the space to deconstruct two interlinked sectoral challenges that may prohibit Oroquieta’s vision of the good life: poverty and unemployment.

Using CLA, participants deconstructed and reconstructed poverty and unemployment in Oroquieta 2023. Causal layered analysis works by identifying many different levels, and attempting to make synchronized changes at all levels to create a coherent new future.

Below are the workshops CLA output.

CLACity of Good Life: Negotiation as a Way Forward

The Sarkar Game is used to help individuals and organisations better understand macrohistory and the structured shape of the future(s) as well as to audit the leadership style of their own organisations or institutions (Inayatullah, 2013). Participants were divided into four social groups namely the laborers/workers, warriors, intellectuals and merchants/capitalist class. The game was facilitated by Shermon Cruz. Groups were given a script, tools and were asked to play their role according to the script.

In this game, the workers with the help the intellectuals emerged as winners given that they were able to establish and legitimize the call for fair wages. The merchants failed to bribe their way in as they failed to influence the intellectuals and warriors to threaten and/or shoot the workers. Merchants would give in to the workers’ demands when intellectuals acknowledged worker rights for fair wages and the military to keep the peace. All of the groups were willing to negotiate to keep the peace, the vision alive and achieve justice for all.

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Sarkar Game for the LGU officials. “We will protect the city no matter what. Key is negotiation to for us to move forward” said Mayor Almonte

 

Beyond the Factory and the Rule of Big Men: The 3rd Asia Pacific Futures Network International Conference

Is the future colonized? Are Asian leadership, management systems and innovation informed by patriarchal worldviews? What would governance and Asian leadership look like beyond the rule of big men? Can gender or women narratives disrupt how Asians perceive the future? What are the ties that binds, that unites Asia in the 21st century? Can Asia innovate or would it remain, despite technological growth and economic advances, a copy cat? Can Asia disrupt the factory model and create a socio-politic-economic model that champions a non-linear, emergent model of society (i.e philosophy, values, diversity, community, heterogeneity, culture, women, children and family that drives social transformation)? How do Asian futurist imagine the futures of Asia? What are the alternative, plausible futures of Asia?  Can Asia create a new story for Asia?

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The 3rd Asia Pacific Futures Network International Conference, Seoul, South Korea. Photo source: Science and Technology Policy Institute, South Korea.  (Note: The little kid in the middle, surrounded by futurist around the world is my son Sanjeev Cruz. Its his first international conference and happy that it was with the APFN) All smiles here 🙂

These among others the participants of the 3rd Asia Pacific Futures Network explored through lectures, paper presentations, workshops and games, keynotes for three days. The conference dubbed as “Creating New Stories for Asia: Beyond the Factory and Rule of Big Men” deconstructed and explored alternative and plausible discourses and worldviews that might disrupt or challenge the so-called factories and rule of big men. The big men concept could might as well be a product of a belief or society subscribing to the Chinese narrative “Let the father act like a father and the son act like a son” , “Great One”, “The Great Leader”, “The Chosen One” types of societal, political, economic, leadership and organizational models. This created a tradition some sort of closed elitism in Asia.

Organized and sponsored by the Science and Technology Policy Institute of South Korea, the Asia Pacific Futures Network and the Korean Association of Futures Studies, the 3rd APFN conference was participated in by futurists and development managers from Iran, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Philippines, South Korea, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Dubai to Thailand, Japan, the United States and Singapore to name a few. The conference was held at the National information Society Agency in Seoul South Korea.

The conference was opened by a welcome and keynote speech from Jong-kuk Song, President STEPI and Sohail Inayatullah, UNESCO Chair in Futures Studies.

The conference kickstarted with a plenary on why we got together in South Korea and politics for Asia? Jeanne Hoffman, Tamkang University presented her paper on Taiwan Trap: Rethinking Taiwan and China Futures, our very own Shermon Cruz, Center for Engaged Foresight, on the Futures of the South China Sea and Data-Driven Future Strategy: Korean Approach by Jong Sung Hwang, National Information Society Agency, South Korea.

Morning parallel sessions tackled Alternative Futures to Technology-driven Asia and Doing Different Asia. Varied topics on Artificial Intelligence, Mobile Gaming, Ethereum and Singapore Ready projects were presented in the afternoon session by Michael Jackson, Naohiro Shichijo,  Keke Hsian Mei Quei, Cheryl Chung, Shubangi Gokhale and Patricia Kelly.

Afternoon sessions. Shermon Cruz chaired the panel Young Foresight in Asia and featured the works of Nur Anisah Abdullah, Dennis Morgan and Shakil Ahmed on futures studies in UAE and South Korea. Shakil work delved on questioning the factory model in Bangladesh and envisioning  alternative education futures.

The parallel afternoon session was moderated by Meimei Song. Ivana Milojevic, Yuzilawati Abdullah, Puruesh Chaudary presented their works on on Brunei and Pakistan Futures Initiatives.

Lesson learned on the first day. To thrive and make futures as a discipline, a profession and as an art, to make it relevant and significant to various sectors and industries in Asia requires constant effort, communication and campaign to demonstrate that futures and foresight enables people and organizations, nations and actors to imagine alternatives, recognize blind spots, to design new opportunities for organization and social transformation. Futures thinking like design while playful and iterative is prototype-driven, anticipatory and collaborative.

These are some of the questions, insights and keywords that came up at the end of the first day sessions that may require further study/discussion:

  1. Ethical Authoritarianism – “father knows best”, “confucian worldview”, “the tao perspective of leadership”, “datu”
  2. Peer to peer platform in Asia – is it possible?
  3. International day of failure – overcoming the fear of failure can inspire creative work
  4. Refresh and invigorate – as futurist how can we refresh and invigorate the work of others?
  5. Are we futurist learning, perceiving in a better way?
  6. Can we leave up to the expectation?

The 2nd day begun with the welcome and congratulatory remarks from Kwang Hyung Lee, President of the Korea Futures Studies Association and Byung-jo Suh, President of the National Information Agency of South Korea. Their remarks focused on the critical role of futurist and futures studies to an emerging Asia; that new discourses and imaginings are crucial to creating a better or perhaps an Asia that drives global peace, human-centered or driven robotic, AI technologies and progress.

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3rd Asia Pacific Futures Network International Conference. Photo by STEPI 2017. Seoul, South Korea.

Parallel sessions were held to discuss city futures, the 4th industrial revolution, futures and foresight at the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies including hands on workshops on the integrated visioning methods, civic education and community building and game futures.

To conclude, this conference sought to bring about a greater clarity  and understanding on the different phases of development, worldviews, priorities and leadership futures in the Asia Pacific. As all Asian nations aspire to reinvent the wheel, new futures and new possibilities also emerge.

Below are the conference acton photos courtesy of STEPI –

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Shermon Cruz, Center for Engaged Foresight, courtesy of STEPI. 2017.
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Michael Jackson, Shaping Tomorrow Network, courtesy of STEPI 2017
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Nur Anissah Abduallah, Strathclyde Business School, courtesy of STEPI

 

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Naohiro Shichijo, Tokyo University of Technology, Photo courtesy of STEPI