Resilience Frontiers, Korea Global Adaptation Week 2019. Photo by the UNFCC 2019

What might a day in the life of a person feel like in a climate-changed world? If you were to wake up in a climate resilient futures Ala Rip Van Winkle say in the year 2050 and was given the privilege to ask at least ten questions, what questions would you ask? What might a climate-changed future be or how might a climate resilient world look like from a futures standpoint? How can emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics, biotechnology, big data and blockchain strengthen people, and communities resilience to cope with the adverse impacts of climate change? If technological growth is exponential, are humans and systems capacities to adapt exponential enough to meet new challenges of a fast-changing climate? In what ways can emerging technologies drive innovations in climate change adaptation? How might futures literacy or the future impact people and institutions perspectives on climate change? What new visions, new questions, and leadership thought streams could emerge when visionaries and thought leaders apply anticipatory tools to innovate and imagine alternative future worlds?

These among many other frontier issues were explored, imagined, debated and deliberated by 100 global visionaries and thought leaders in five-days of collective intelligence and brain-swarming sessions at Resilience Frontiers of the Korea Global Adaptation Week from April 8-12, 2019 held at the Songdo, Convensia, Incheon, South Korea.

The sessions employed UNESCO’s Futures Literacy Laboratory Framework and Futur/io’s Moonshot Approach to deconstruct and reconstruct climate change futures.

Resilience Frontiers is an inter-agency effort undertaken by the United Nations Framework for Climate Change Secretariat in collaboration with Canada’s International Development Research Centre, EIT Climate-KIC, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the Global Water Partnership, the Green Climate Fund, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the United Nations Environment Programme, and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs.

According to the UNFCC, climate change adaptation means solutions or actions that respond to current and future climate change impacts. Adaptation is systemic and structural (social, technological, economic, political, cultural, ethical) changes in responding to mitigate the impacts of and create opportunities from climate change.

Waking up in a Brave New World: Rip Meets Sophia 12.0

Imagine you were Rip Van Winkle who was deep asleep for the last twenty years; wakened up by Sophia, 12.0, an advanced AI, in a brave new world. Wandering, perplexed and confused, you’ve begun asking people what, how and why the new world.

Using a technological frame and imagining themselves as Rip Van Winkle struggling to make sense of the new world, participants were asked to ideate and list 10 personal questions about the future in which they woke up.

The participants were clustered around four emerging technology themes: artificial intelligence, biotechnology, satellite technology, and sustainability ethos. The groups were asked to ideate, write or list their questions about the world in which they woke up. Anchored on the probable impacts of the fourth industrial revolution, participants reflected on the convergence points of these technologies to explore probable futures.

I was tasked to facilitate one of the four Artificial Intelligence (AI) groups. Questions below were the most compelling that participants came up with. These were shared with the group and later to the plenary. The questions were also shared via social media:

  • Are there still programmers?
  • Is AI opensource and creative?
  • Can we trust data? Can we trust AI?
  • Are AIs used under human supervision or are they completely autonomous?
  • Was AI the best solution to climate change problems?
  • Can AI help mitigate the causes and impacts of climate change?
  • Was AI able to help reduce global temperatures to 1.5 degrees?
  • Do we have augmented human intelligence – body/machine interfaces?
  • Do most people work to make a living?
  • Do we have the resources we need to build and deploy AI tools and solutions?
  • Are Big Techs owning AI?
  • Are algorithms certified?
  • Is AI empathetic?
  • Do you trust AI?
  • Has quantum computing broken through?
  • Do AI technological solutions currently exist to solve some of the problems related to climate change?
  • Has general AI been developed and deployed?
  • Are we dependent on AI for survival?
  • Is seed AI a reality?
  • Has technology helped us in preventing/countering famine, wars and other global challenges?
  • Have machines taken over power?
  • Has politics become AI?
  • Do we have AI continents?
  • Are governments in charge of designing AIs we are relying on?
  • Is there a stable and effective to enforce global cooperation?
  • Am I living in a liberal-democratic nation-state?
  • Is China running the AI show?
  • Is AI regulated?
  • Are AIs regulating resource allowance? Work assignments? Schedules? Politics?

The Fourth Industrial Revolution Influencing Futures of Basic Needs

The next session had the participants reshuffled around five basic needs to survive and thrive in a climate-changed world: Food, Water, Nature, Human Security, and Health.

The groups were asked to take the discussion points from the probable futures of technologies session and explored their convergence points and impacts to futures of basic needs. Each participant were again asked to ideate individually, reflect on them and share their ideas and insights to the group. The group would then report back to the plenary to share the group’s output.

Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon addressing the Korea Global Adaptation Week. Photo by UNFCC 2019

I facilitated one of the groups that tackled food futures. Below is a summary of the groups’ output on the future of food in a climate-changed world:

  • Technology or ethos discussed: Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, Blockchain
  • Key points that summarized their discussion: 1) Technology, when it aids for production, is promising! 2) There is a need for an integrated farmers systems that universalize access to trade and markets and that helps and sustains them to stay resilient; 3) There is a need for a technology enabling global food system that guarantees food safety, security and sustainability.
  • Hashtag for each key points: 1) #foodcanfixit; #osmosis; 2) #resilientto1.5C; 3) #unchainedfood; #ALOHAS; #singularfood
  • Brief Thematic Title: Resiliocene or Sustainology

Envisioning Desirable Futures via Moonshot Thinking

Climate change, its magnitude, and multiplicities of impacts, real or imagined, to people and communities are huge wicked problems. Business as usual solutions is usually not enough to solve complex global challenges like a pandemic, food crisis, water crisis, species extinction, terrorism, etc. Simplistic or one size fits all solutions makes wicked problems even more wicked. Tackling wicked problems such as climate change requires individuals, people, organizations and systems to imagine and do the impossible. In other words, you need to shoot for the moon or create wicked opportunities to address wicked problems!

Moonshot thinking according to Google X is the creation of ridiculous ideas or solutions that borders between reality and sci-fi! Moonshot thinking is all about taking on global-scale problems with radical solutions through some form of breakthrough technology with 10X more impact. Netflix disrupting streaming, AirBnB disrupting hotels, Uber disrupting public transportation, Tesla PowerWall disrupting energy storage, self-driving cars, power loons providing internet to everyone are examples of moonshot ideas and solutions creating more impact.

The first moonshot sessions enabled participants to learn foundational moonshot via future/io’s structured, design thinking inspired and Zen-like approach to moonshot thinking. Building on Day 1’s discussions and output of probable futures, participants envisioned their desirable futures, individually reflected on it and designed moonshot ideas in breakthrough technologies to solve food, water, security, nature and health problems. Here are some of the participants’ moonshot ideas in a climate-resilient world:

  • Remote sensing energy irrigation systems and aggregation platforms that facilitate sustainability and that support smallholders farming/farms access to fair markets, manage climate shocks and avert losses;
  • Transparent pricing systems for agricultural products through blockchain and application based systems that compute agricultural carbon emissions. The system transforms consumer choices and empowers them in their investment decisions supporting climate-resilient food systems and choices.
  • Outdoor working transport pods connecting people and nature to create healthier homes and a better working world. Less physical and more virtualized services reduce carbon emissions during construction and operations.

Reframing: Breaking Free from the Business as Usual Trap

The moonshot thinking session allowed participants to imagine their desirable futures by conceptualizing, inventing or improvising a breakthrough technology or new sustainable practices to create a climate resilient world. Building on their previous discussions on the convergence points of emerging technologies, they were able to reflect on some radical solutions to some huge problems facing food, security, water, health and nature futures. What I have shared here was just the tip of the iceberg as participants might have roughly conceptualized around 50 moonshots.

Now the reframing session was about enabling participants to question their probable and desirable futures. By identifying the gaps and making upfront their biases about the future of basic needs and knowing what informs or drives them in perceiving alternatives and in imagining a climate resilient world, participants were able to distance themselves from their probable and desired futures and think of alternative ideas and questions their assumptions of the future.

Questions such as was our probable and desirable futures a used, purchased or default futures? Was our moonshot ideas driven by the status quo? Were our assumptions about desirable futures business as usual driven? What are the gaps or what were our biases in imagining probable and desirable futures of a climate resilient world? Were our moonshots bold, daring, radical or ridiculous enough to create 10x more growth and 10x more impact? Or were these moonshots a byproduct of trends? were asked to trigger conversations at the reframing session. Tools such as the Causal Layered Analysis and the DESTEP framework were learned and applied to push the boundaries of extrapolation, map and deepen participants analyses and insights and explore the unimagined or unthought of.

The session began with the head of UNESCO’s futures literacy Riel Miller’s short video explaining the context and intent of reframing via the futures literacy laboratory framework. According to Riel, reframing is all about imagining the future without paying attention to probabilities or desirability. Reframing is about abandoning the idea that the future is something that we want to get to but rather reframing is the place where we play by using our imagination, a critical resource, the future. It is an attempt to rethink without being constrained by reality. Reframing is an exercise where we invent a world that we have not seen before. It has to with unique creations and acknowledging that the future is fluid and open requiring a change in the conditions of change. For more about UNESCO’s futures literacy laboratories and the learning intensive society, check and download https://www.routledge.com/Transforming-the-Future-Open-Access-Anticipation-in-the-21st-Century/Miller/p/book/9781138485877

Questioning Assumptions about Food Futures via Causal Layered Analysis

CLA or the Causal Layered Analysis is one of the most powerful foresight theory and tools used by futurists and policy analysts to analyze and integrate diverse modes of knowing reality to explore plausible futures. The tool is applied not for its predictive value but it allows end-users to peek layers of, vertical and horizontal, plausible futures. The real or the future can be deconstructed, understood and re-imagined at different levels namely: the news headlines or the litany and quantitative trends; systems – STEEPLE analysis or technical analysis backed by data; worldview – the deeper values that are actor-invariant or discourses we use to understand or frame an issue; and the metaphor or myth level of analysis that incorporates emotional feelings, the narrative that constitutes reality or the inner story level of experience that gives meaning to beliefs, values or cognitions. For more about the Causal Layered Analysis, check or grab a copy of CLA readers at http://www.metafuture.org/product/cla-reader-and-cla-2-0-pdfs/.

The group that deconstructed their assumptions of probable and desirable futures, the food group, in particular, acknowledged their biases in that each of them interprets the problem as they’ve experienced them. The fact was that they were influenced or that they’ve held onto some deeply held views or value propositions to what and how must the future of food be and should be like. It was difficult to distance oneself from the analysis and it was even more challenging to imagine the future beyond the business as usual. Via the CLA, knowing our cognitive biases enabled participants to not just be aware of them but to open up, disclose and share these biases for a deeper and more inclusive, sublime or perhaps a more spiritually or emotionally connected, or for lack of a better word, mindful or being-full conversation.

Youssef Nassef, Director, Adaptation, UNFCC welcomes the facilitators and participants of the Resilience Frontiers. Photo by UNFCC 2019.

Participants were able to individually and collectively reflect on what their biases in their assumptions were and questioned them. The breadth and depth and the layers of the group’s reflections revealed a previously dormant futures assumptions. The quality and inclusiveness in the conversations, the content and contexts were surprisingly different from what was imagined or discussed on Day 1. Some unique ideas and perspectives of alternatives hit the group and me, as a facilitator, to the core. The group began to re-frame the future by questioning them at different levels of reality.

News headlines – What if there are no one way of getting people or farmers organized to scale and upscale their interests in production, consumption, trade, and markets, etc. at the local and global levels? What if singularity or homogeneity leads to oppression or authoritarianism? What if our choices evolve into something more heterogeneous and not homogeneous? What if all that has been or that what we’ve had previously assumed or imagined are disrupted by some certain events like a global catastrophe that leads to global food crises? What if this one singular desired future or breakthrough technology increases single point of failure types of risks? What if suddenly our body mutates into something that requires lesser physical food? What if the food we eat becomes weirder? What if the way we produced and consumed food evolved into something really strange (something that was un-imagined in 2019)? What if we humans due to some human body induced, tech-altering human natural biology suspends or totally ends the feeling of hunger or need of food in human bodies (i.e. neural food ends human hunger in 2040)?

Worldviews – The bias of scalability is in itself a problem; The bias that I have the solution to every problem and jumping straight to a solution or our tendency to commit ourselves to a singular solution blinds us from knowing what the problem really is, is the problem. This holds us back from being, from knowing, from experimenting and innovating; Being super optimistic or being overly pessimistic is a negative cognitive bias.

Metaphor – Our tendency to upscale, intensify; the human addiction to speed and growth; the pursuit for excellence is our fatal flaw. The strong belief or the mindset to expect an outcome is a perceptual and behavioral bias. The expectation of an outcome is a corrosive cognitive bias. It shuts us off from imagining an alternative story of the future; of life and progress. (To be continued…)

What is futures literacy? What is futures thinking? What makes a futures literate person? How can we use the future in different ways? How do we make sense of it or “use the future” to change the conditions of change and transform the way we perceive and imagine child and adolescent futures? What are the products or possible outcomes or potential impacts of futures thinking and literacy to child and adolescent issues and concerns? How can a UNICEF facilitator build a futures-driven skillset and use anticipatory ideas, systems and processes to increase UNICEF stakeholders and partners capacity to use the future to innovate today?

From a policy and community development perspective, what might the futures of HIV treatment and services, adolescent engagements to governance and inclusive education access look like in the year 2030? What are the trends, the emerging issues and drivers of child futures at the local and global levels? How might it look and feel like for a child to live in an alternative future world where every child is free and protected from cyber abuse and exploitation?  What might a day in the life of a child be like in a world where every child can express themselves, develop their full potential and capacity and become active change agents of civil societies and communities? How can we better engage parents and families in reproductive health and create a stronger support system in the protection of the child from cyber world, physical and verbal abuse? Are UNICEF trainers and facilitators optimistic or pessimistic about their power and capacity to influence the future?

These are some of the ideas, topics and questions that participating UNICEF trainers and facilitators collaboratively questioned, debated and explored through the futures thinking and futures literacy workshop organized by UNICEF and facilitated by the Center for Engaged Foresight, a premier strategic foresight and futures literacy hub in the Philippines and the Asia Pacific. Around 25 UNICEF trainers and facilitators participated in the 2.5 days’ workshop held on November 22-25, 2018 at the Marco Polo Hotel in Pasig city Philippines.

The workshop was designed to introduce futures thinking and train UNICEF facilitators to become futures literate.

This workshop aimed to provide an open and safe space for UNICEF trainers and facilitators to survey and align diverse hopes, interests and perceptions about the future by learning futures thinking and developing futures literacy skills. The imperative of this workshop was not to fix or resolve a specific policy issue or to engineer a new solution but rather to elucidate the value of futures literacy and foresight in child protection and adolescent development. The project sought to engage participants in a collective reflection and spurred their creativity in the difficult task of questioning used and default futures, reframing and reflecting the future of the child in a world driven by emerging technologies, the cyberspace, social networks, family, multiple identities, climate change, etc.

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Playing anticipatory assumptions via the Futures Triangle. 2018.

Integrating Futures Thinking and Futures Literacy

Learning the importance of context and knowing how to use anticipatory systems and processes in different ways makes a futures literate person. The participants organized into groups explored the futures of the following topics:

  • Youth engagement and participation in governance
  • Access HIV/AIDS education, prevention, treatment and management
  • Cyber Child Protection Policy
  • Reproductive Health Implementation in the Philippines
  • Inclusive and Equitable Access to Education in the Philippines

The UNICEF workshop integrates five of the six pillars of futures thinking with UNESCO’s futures literacy process:

Reveal. To question and reveal participants contexts and assumptions about the future and that of their chosen topics, mapping tools such as futures in motion, the Polak game, shared history and futures triangle futures techniques were applied.

Rethink and Reframe. To learn how to rethink and reframe ways of knowing and perceiving futures and learn the value of imagination in the creation of alternatives and preferred futures – anticipating, creating alternatives and deepening futures techniques were used: emerging issues analysis, the thing from the future game, STEEEP analysis, double variable scenario method, storytelling and prototype construction.

Reflect and Consolidate. This focused on participants reflecting on the process, their transformed futures and aligning the same with one’s personal values or future visions including capturing what was learned, what might work or not, some tips on futures facilitation and more importantly participants thoughts, ideas, feedback, comments and experiences about the workshop and futures literacy as a system or as process, as a concept or as a tool to trigger and manage social transformation. Possible next steps were explored. To do this, creative visualization techniques and questions such as what is the overall feeling? what were the lessons learned? what are the key takeaways? and what are the possible next steps? were asked in a brainstorming, feedback and Q&A session.

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Futures Literacy for UNICEF Facilitators Workshop. Manila. 2018

Anticipation through emergence: transforming child and adolescent preferred futures

Having been able to draw out four scenarios, the groups were then asked to choose their preferred future of the issue they had been working on. They were then given boxes of materials, colored papers, paper cups and plates, popsicle sticks, scissors, tape, paste, magazines, and other art materials to make a prototype of their preferred future.  The groups were asked to make the prototype as vivid a representation of their preferred future as possible. They were asked to give a title for their prototype and can answer questions about it. By doing the prototype, the participants could have a tangible representation of the future they want and are working on to achieve.

Building prototypes enables participates to demonstrate, test and refine their alternative future worlds and encourages invention with a purpose in mind. It allows participates to provide in more details into their stories of for instance a day in the life of child in alternative future environments (i.e. the future of HIV or anti-child pornography in the Philippines). It makes more vivid or visual the stories of alternative futures that participants create. Building prototypes brings workshop participants alternative and preferred futures to life. It helps them to go beyond preconceived notions of the future and explore alternatives as much and as deep as they can.

The participants presented in plenary through lively and creative narration of their transformed futures prototypes: 1) The Peak – In Pursuit of Filipino Excellence and Well Being One Step at a Time; 2) Fantasia Our Reality – Zero Stigma, Zero New Cases, Zero deaths in the Philippines; 3) The Village of Clouds (Barangay Langit) – A Safe Haven for Kids; 4) Pangarap kong Bayan (The Town that I Dream Of) and 5) Freddy’s Dioaramic Future. The scenario narratives will be shared by UNICEF in a publication this year. A UNICEF futures literacy toolkit and the comprehensive final report will be shared to target audience and participants.

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The Village of Clouds, prototype of an alternative future world where children are safe, secured and protected from all of forms of online harm, cyber sexual exploitation and abuse. 2018.

Overall feeling? Lessons learned? What we take with us? Next Steps?

For the final synthesis, UNICEF facilitators were asked to share the lessons they have learnt and insights gained in the plenary. All the participants expressed appreciation for the experiences, insights, learning and new tools they gained within the two-and-a-half-day workshop. Most agreed that their expectations like “enrichment”, “development” and “fun learning activity” have all been met and expressed their desire to apply and share this new capacity and skillset acquired.

Using the future requires the understanding and application of a spectrum of futures literacies. Like history where we focus the study or analysis of the origins and implications of the past to the present, futures literacy increases our competency and capacity to anticipate possible and unfamiliar futures and study which does not exist yet.  Futures literacy uses images (imagined or real), values (contexts and experiences) and meanings (the way we interpret stories and data and reframe things, policies and stuff for instance) including using a wide range of tools to learn the capacity to explore, negotiate and create alternative future worlds, preferred futures and anticipate emergence.

This futures literacy workshop is a learning journey. Through the futures literacy lab, participants learned how to facilitate a futures literacy workshop and learned how to use the future to improvise, experiment and innovate in the present. And through the pillars of futures thinking, they learned how to use and blend different ways of learning and futures facilitation —creative, critical, interpretive, action-learning, intuitive, games and evidence-outcome based approaches – to create alternatives, identify and transform preferred futures. While they learned new knowledge, and gained a new skillset, the participants felt a renewed sense of commitment to their advocacies and to social transformation. This workshop according to them also kept their desires for change alive. That it radically changed their perception, perspectives and ways of knowing the future. They also acknowledged the value of anticipation in decision-making, policy analysis and strategy development. They realized the beauty and worth of imagination and self-awareness in building a better world for all of us.

UNICEF training partners were asked to share the knowledge that they gained and test the toolkit and lessons learned that will be shared after. They were encouraged to apply the toolkit creatively and whenever possible customize or glocalize it to suit the needs and contexts of their respective stakeholders.  Participants were urged to be creative in facilitating their sessions, to document their experiences and insights and report back the lessons learned to UNICEF to improve the design of futures literacy lab at the community level. The effort to utilize the future in child and adolescent issues is a work in progress. Everyone was excited and see this endeavor as an adventure to create a better and brighter futures for all especially children and adolescents.

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Futures Literacy with UNESCO Bangkok for Lao People’s Revolutionary Youth Union (LYU) held at the LYU’s headquarters in Vientiane Capital, Lao PDR.

“If you want to change or transform world, you have to ask better questions”

UNESCO Bangkok in partnership with the Center for Engaged Foresight organized a workshop on Data Analysis and Youth Policy Development in LAO PDR. The Futures Literacy and Policy Visioning Workshop was facilitated by the Center for Engaged Foresight with UNESCO.

This briefly presents the preferred futures, visions and priorities that resulted from a two-day futures literacy/policy visioning (FL) workshop for the Lao People’s Revolutionary Youth Union (LYU) held at the LYU’s headquarters in Vientiane Capital, Lao PDR.

The workshop introduced and integrated futures literacy (FL) to UNESCO’s youth policy development for LAO PDR. The participants learned and used the future by employing select anticipatory tools and methods to question, explore, anticipate, imagine and design preferred youth policy visions on five thematic areas: education, health, employment, protection and participation. The methods used includes experiential questioning and shared history, futures wheel analysis, HMW (how might we) point of view statements for brainstorming, futures triangle, scenarios, designing prototypes and policy identification/prioritization tools.

The workshop concluded with five preferred future visions and prototypes including initial policy priorities complimenting LYU’s national youth development agenda, UNESCO’s Guidance Framework for Youth Policy Development and Agenda for Mainstreaming Gender Equality and Social Inclusion into Youth Policies: 1) Playground for Inclusion Aka Playground for Kids (Participation); 2) My Home: Call 1-4-5-4 (Protection); 3) Happy Health, Easy App (Health); 4) Just Click! (Employment); 5) Digital Learning for Kids and Inclusion in Laos (Education).

Context and Methodology 

What are Lao youth hopes and fears? What are they struggling with? What are their needs? What does the future mean to them? What are their images of the future? What are their future visions? How might a preferred future of employment, health, education, participation and protection look like to a Lao youth?  How might they articulate their envisioned futures? What are the steps they can take to achieve their preferred visions of the future?

These questions among others were explored during the futures literacy (FL) and policy visioning workshop organized by UNESCO Bangkok in collaboration with the Lao People’s Revolutionary Youth Union (LYU) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to explore, discuss and shape Lao Youth futures/policy visions in five thematic areas: education, health, employment, protection and participation.

To ensure rigor and relevance in answering these questions, anticipatory processes and tools were used: 1) experiential questioning and shared history to deconstruct and explore the present and to remember the past; 2) futures wheel analysis to anticipate the implications and impacts of the current reality or the default future, continuing; 3) questioning the default future via short HMW (how might we) point of view statements for brainstorming opportunities and solutions; 4) the futures triangle to map the drivers and trends, the barriers that resist change and Lao youth future visions; 5) scenarios, to imagine and storify the future; 6) designing a prototype via co-creating proof of concepts of the envisioned futures and 7) the identification of specific actionable steps, feasible, doable policy priorities/programs to create the preferred future.

As a segment of the four-day workshop on Data Analysis and Youth Policy Development in Lao PDR, the futures literacy/policy visioning session sought to impart knowledge of key FL concepts, application of anticipatory techniques including demonstration of anticipatory processes to agenda setting and policy formulation. The FL – policy visioning workshop had these objectives:

  1. Train young participants on key FL concepts, anticipatory processes and application of futures tools and techniques;
  2. Make use of the future to anticipate, imagine and design preferred futures;
  3. Learn the basics of policy visioning and prioritization.

To meet these objectives, the engaged foresight (EF) method was employed. The EF method is a solutions-centric and simulation driven approach to futures thinking. The aim is to provoke in participants to question the future critically and to imagine possible, probable and preferred futures. Through creative action learning via prototypes, participants are expected to create a model, storify their envisioned futures. The building of prototypes enables creators to validate their ideas potential for real world application.

Imagining the Preferred and Co-Creating Prototypes

“your home will always be the place for which you feel the deepest affection, no matter who you are and where you are” and  “home is where the heart is”

For this session, participants were asked to deliberate, to further imagine, create stories and develop prototypes of their plausible preferred futures of health, education, participation, employment and protection in Lao PDR.  Leveraging from their outputs of the previous futures literacy sessions, participants were given guide questions to facilitate conversation: what do we want the future to be like? what is your plausible preferred future to the future of their assigned topics.

Shared Visions, Valuing Compassion and Proactive Engagement

“Investing in young people is investing in the future”

The future is awesomely bright for LAO PDR as young people are expected to play a greater role in shaping the futures of health, education, participation, employment and protection in Lao. The current focus and targets to provide young friendly services, the championing and integration of inclusion and diversity in government programs and initiatives, the acceptance and recognition of LGBTI, the PWDs, the disadvantaged and the marginalized, the capability training and up-skilling of youth leaders among others will in many ways impact how the Lao youth will address these challenges in the immediate future.  As more young people are expected to engage in the years it is likely that they demand for greater participation and engagement. A critical turnaround could occur on how Lao society in general value young people’s ideas, opinions and leadership. These could be triggered by emerging digital and social technologies and network platforms that makes access to opportunities and social transformation engagements easier. The insights and output of the futures literacy and policy visioning workshop offered three critical insights crucial to the success of achieving Lao youth preferred futures and priorities in the short term:

1) A Shared Vision of the Future. What was obvious during the FL workshop and their outputs were the groups complimenting each other’s assumptions and envisioned futures. Their full protection, the observance of basic human rights, the need to recognize young people’s urgent needs and requirements, inclusion and diversity should be central to national youth policy development. Failure to recognize and realize these fundamental rights may lead to youth unhappiness, depression and suicide. If the youth is the future then all stakeholders must invest to ensure that young people issues and interests are championed at all levels. The shared vision preferred includes creating safe spaces to engage them in village and community decisions, to speak up without reservation and to listen with compassion. The awareness of the need to recognize that others have special needs and that each person is unique in terms of gender orientation, ethnicity, capacity and status, etc. must be acknowledged. Existing government services and future initiatives should recognize these differences. One of the group championed a multiple door policy or health service access to cater the needs and sensitivities of disadvantaged. Guaranteeing the access and equal opportunities for each sector are important. A shared vision energizes, it provides direction to current efforts, it is an inspiration that drives young people to work for a better and brighter future for all;

2) Valuing Compassion. Relentless compassion and relieving human suffering is key to creating alternative and preferred futures. Insight was for Lao youth, kindness and compassion is effective public policy. Compassion articulates, drives and attracts institutional buy-in.  Lao youth are motivated by empathy and love. Compassion and love drives them to civic duty, to commit for public interest sake. They feel that they will succeed and will persist if there is compassion. The home was central to one of the groups envisioned future. The inner story felt like “your home will always be the place for which you feel the deepest affection, no matter who you are and where you are” and  “home is where the heart is” was instructive. A group envisioned to establish “MyHome” centers in all the 148 districts in Lao PDR.

  1. Proactive Engagement. Where training ends, proactive engagement begins. Once the vision is set and priorities identified, LYU must develop a plan to convince end-users and policy stakeholders to opt-in. As champions, they must inspire adoption and bring in others – the rural village and communities – to the conversation. New futures require new metrics and development indicators. Building networks and sustaining partnerships will drive better outcome and sustainability is key in the long-run. Proactive engagement is an opportunity for LYU members to build stronger relationships. Timing and persistence is critical for a successful policy program.

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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.

Oroq

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