Category Archives: Blog

The Makings of a Compassionate Code

INITIAL AI MUSINGS

We create technology, and in turn it creates our society. We may like it or not, but our technological creations define our lifestyle, decision making, economy, relationships, and yes, even moral compass. We can say we are even birthing a new ethical identity.

When East-West Center had its Symposium on Humane Artificial Intelligence (Cultural and Ethical Diversity and The Challenges of Aligning Technology and Human Values) last September 7-10, 2019 at Imin Conference Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, it was attended by: Futurists, Educators and Professors from various backgrounds, Philosophers, Digital/Data Designers, Silicon Valley professionals, Business Consultants, and so on and so forth. You can imagine the dynamics and the wide-ranging sharing of ideas and suggestions that went on the whole time. AI and technology are as varied as the number of cultures and educational backgrounds out there. Sometimes we think that technology should be digested linearly, but to do so will be one of our biggest mistakes. Our differing perception and reception of it must be taken into account even upon conception of an AI program. Because if Equity is called into operation, then social respect and justice conversations must have contributions from different cultures, religions, generations, and philosophies. This is where an interesting observation takes place in the presentation of Danit Gal. Her talk titled: “Human-Centricity in AI: Between East and West” exposes the cultural experience, with respect to AI, specifically of South Korea, China, and Japan. South Korea puts credence on Humans over Machines and treats AI plainly as a tool that functions only as an enabler and not a detractor. This is in line with their Anti-Social development policy, which highlights balance between individualism and the collective good. China sees AI as “conscious intelligent living becomings” and is seeing a Human-AI Harmony in the near future. Their Buddhism background made them approach AI techno-animistically wherein they set up principles for humans on how to treat AI; plus, there is the fusion of traditional culture and modern technology. An example of this would be Microsoft’s Xiaoice where this is more than just a chatbot, but rather an AI being infused with emotions. There is also an example of the Buddhist Monk “who” performs death rituals for the deceased whose families cannot afford to pay an actual monk. A quick story on this…when I attended a Futures Convention 2 years ago in Brussels, Belgium, one workshop of ours spewed a reality we projected to happen in about 15 years’ time. You guessed it! Our group forecasted Religious Leader Robots who will be administering the rites and rituals of different religious groups. So, when I heard about the Robot Monk, I did not expect it to be happening within 2 years’ time!! Going back, we now witness Japan’s treatment of AI as opposite of South Korea’s “AI as tool” outlook. “Japan’s Society 5.0” portrays AI as a partner, or a potential equal. This land of the rising sun sees AI integration and co-evolution as necessary and inevitable. Their 5.0 version of reality will be one that co-evolves and co-exists in a fully technological-enabled society. They also aim to utilize AI to address their pervasive national loneliness and super-aging society. Now this will be interesting to anticipate; how do you address loneliness with an “unfeeling” medium? Would their famous holographic wife enough to ease the pain? Or is it pushing people towards a psychological deadlock wherein the Japanese relieve themselves off of social obligation and transcendence? It seems in this circumstance that AI just amplifies the illnesses of our society. Moreover, this kind of dependency results to us de-skilling ourselves; ergo, decreasing our cognitive abilities. In the efforts to humanize AI, we must be careful not to dehumanize ourselves in the process.

Let’s move on to more ethical conundrums. Seeing that machines run with our human intentions embedded in them, is there even a possibility of uprooting human intentionalities? Is branding the marriage of our Attention Economy and Security Surveillance as Smart Capitalism really smart, or in a way deceitful? Are we seeing the free mining of data, its monetization and peddling as fair to all? In the midst of this Intelligence Revolution, I am personally worried that there might be a huge possibility that AI can replace human capacity and responsibility. In our state of constant conscious evolution then how do we create checks and balances on AI tech whose exponential growth is blowing our minds every minute? Can, say, a global AI entity keep up in governance? In this 4th Industrial Revolution, how do we encode ethics and humaneness in our digital DNA? Are we looking at a “Black Mirrores-que” kind of future, or are we a hopeful lot and trusting of human beings’ capacity to produce globally sound ethical parameters on AI development all the time? This is the part where it got me thinking, how do we develop the foundations of “Conscious and Compassionate” coding? Here I am banking on what De Kai said in his “Prescriptive versus Descriptive AI Ethic” presentation. He stressed that AI mindset may be the only effective solution to AI problems. How to grow a “good” AI mindset? He says let’s treat and raise it as how we do our children. From instilling respectful language and is respecting of opinions, to making them honor truthfulness via fact-based checking, and one that can co-evolve with society.

THOUGHT PROGRESSIONS

By the second day of the symposium, the room was divided into small groups to do AI Scenario-Building. Here, participants utilize fore-sighting tools to co-create four future scenarios; and the individuals’ identities, work and ethical commitments serve as drivers for the scenarios. Scenario 1 was about the “Rise of the Robots” and some talks on social and job inequalities; Scenario 2, the “Structural Dimensions of AI” underscoring its influences on different structures of society; Scenario 3 was about “Tech Company Hegemony” showing technocrats economic domination and all that jazz, and the 4th and last one, a “Big Brother” scenario where not only AI controls our behavior, but that “they” see us all the time, every time. It was interesting and curious to hear the groups’ outputs during the Plenary Discussion of the scenarios—even more so on the AI Scenario Strategy Discussions wherein participants are trying to make heads and tails of the 5 key strategic domains for actualizing commitments. The domains are: Dimensions of Governance, Equity: Inclusion, Human Flourishing, AI for Community/Altruism, and Education. I feel these domains were expected for these are the areas that are both the stimuli and aftermaths of the AI revolution.

Everyone in the symposium knows the benefits of AI to humanity, but everyone is secretly dreading the progression in this area because we know we need to assume exponential responsibility as well. We acknowledge the need to take on the responsibility, it’s just that our present state of technological dependency coupled with repeated disorientation gets us stuck in a swirl…on a loop. That kind of hyperbole of a situation already makes us dread the future of AI and leaves most of us, especially the AI illiterate ones, very fearful. This is the reason why when we mention futures of AI, a lot of people think about the alarming scenarios they picked up from sci-fi movies and TV shows. In terms of educating the mass about AI, I feel it is also essential to reveal all shades of it in order to move forward with the dialogue. There should be balance in any kind of planning towards progression and solutioning. There needs to be the right amount of caution and hope in the mix. We ought to highly consider too that AIs are integral, active, influential, learning, imitative “members” of our societies. They are still “intelligence” after all. Despite its operative artificial label, it’s still created to think and act (within bounds) like us. The reorientation of thinking: “Technology is US!” must be one of the key messages in AI 101.

One thing I wanted highlighted more during the Symposium was the recognition of the significance of Empathy. If we are to make AI humane, then we should not be tackling the matter using only identical perspectives.  Diverse and multi-perspective openness are the first steps to discovering how to encode equity and integrity. This must be inclusive of all races, genders, cultures, religions, and age. Take for example our constant overlooking of the children factor —children who are very much impacted by the digital age and AI revolution as presented by Sandra Cortesi’s“Youth and Digital Life: AI Ethics for the Next Generation” talk. We have repetitively disregarded the youth’s privacy and safety, their inclusion, their mental and emotional health and well-being, and stifled their creative motivation to do artistic work. The youth’s voice is somewhat lacking in existing digital and internet-of-things debacles. We made ourselves believe that adult values and reality are the only quantifiers in the equation.

ON CONCEIVING OPERABLE STEPS

Everyone, regardless of their prejudice and biases, must realize that the kind of AI future we want depends on our capacitating ourselves practical and ethical-wise. No one should really be left behind because AI is a commodity and like all kinds of articles of trade, it affects every facet of living. We, as the consumers, as always, dictate the characteristics and quality of products and services. As Alexander Means described in his presentation titled: “Computational Cities and Citizens: Silicon Valley Visions of the Future of Learning and Creativity”, educational development is indeed constrained by a value structure subordinated to 21st century capitalism and technology. True, it seems that our hypermodernity situation puts Market and Technology outside of human agency—out of our History even. Acknowledging this reality and not underestimating it help us demand for AI that is equitable and principled. We should anticipate psychological and philosophical predicaments too. We wanted something humane then we should not overlook the consequences or effects it can inflict on the human psyche; else, we are just simply tackling very human problems using very technological tools. This does not compute.

By the last day, East-West Center challenged us by asking us how to go about the target of making AI scalably ethical. Reflecting and mulling on the presentations, workshop outputs, and remarks being thrown around the room for the whole of the Symposium made me think of an evidence-based practical application. I stand by my idea of having East-West Center push the envelope by working with the government (or various governments), community, and different sectors in order to find out what will prove fruitful as a Humane AI model. I am quite certain that there are numerous talks, workshops, or symposiums that that have been done, and will still be done. Talks that analyze and scrutinize the nitty-gritties—and in a macro & micro level—of AI development is (almost) rendered passé. We will constantly be both glossing and deep diving over different variables that we think make up a Humane AI. However, I believe with the level of subjectivity that each individual possess, plus the multitude of experiences, belief systems, and moral codes that exist in the world, we can never get close to the compromised (at least) equitability that we so want to achieve. This is why I revert to the seemingly simple notion of prototyping a Humane AI system via a city for the purpose of both research and benchmarking.

Throughout the talk the dimensions of governance bring weight to the discussion especially in search for resolutions or some kind of order. I see other dimensions’ need for governance in order to thrive, and even operate—as the case of worldwide automatic equity and inclusion. As Danit Gal puts it, there is utmost urgency now in dealing with AI; ergo, actions cannot be delayed anymore. As her cybersecurity background prods her to think about the massive effect that a rogue program may perpetrate. That statement alone made me imagine (and even I could not even imagine!) how grave the effect can be. She also informed the group that no legal implementation has ever caught up to the AI systems yet. This is what further bolsters my idea of utilizing cities to be testing grounds for AI development. It is not far from what is happening right now in South Korea with their Samsung Village. Cities indeed can be catalyst for momentous global change. If we still rely on the old route of creating a global force to govern, and implement AI policies, then it will be a never-ending squabble because as I’ve said, we have got way too many irreconcilable differences. Take a gander at the Climate Crisis. There will always be disagreements amongst self-governing entities for whatever intentions and reasons. We ask too, “Who’s watching the watcher?”. This makes us expect scenes where there will certainly be intense colossal power struggles. If we want to be AI-ready, then at the very least we need to study an intelligent governed system that has adapted to an ever-changing system. What better way to have that than putting the theories and assumptions to a test. This kind of localized trialing will put a spotlight on the inadequacies, injustice, glitches, and all of extant AI systems. It’s much easier working out the kinks on a city level rather than a global scale. I am in the thinking that we should rather be afraid of city-level corollaries and setbacks rather than be blindsided by a global occurrence when we unleash AI systems we thought looked good in theory or in paper. Besides, when do we learn best but through our own actual mistakes and experience. Moreover, I am very critical of the time component. I feel that even if there is a governing worldwide AI entity, it will still take them time to implement and carry forth their function for one, global efforts take time. Secondly, they have their own partialities to thresh out, and again, that takes time. By the time they have met in the middle a new set of AI products and problems would have sprouted up.

This tangible proposal of mine was also inspired by Alexander Means’s talk on Utopic Impulse, which lies on the acts of Solutionism and Collaborationism. I feel that the level of collaboration to happen inside a model city will stand strong (as long as no city is coerced, and this can probably be remedied via incentivization by both government and tech companies) due to the desire of cities too to be a yardstick of any kind of success, or in this case pioneering. Means also talked about “shareable cities” and mentioned that finding the common paves the way to proliferation and production of societal values. If our prototype city aka Humane AI Model City ver. 1 is given the goal of participation in order to develop a humanized AI, then the citizens in turn —consciously or sub-consciously—pick up on the need for injecting Empathy. Consequentially, they will demand nothing short of a mindful AI future. This might be the birth of a new era of technological consciousness that we haven’t witnessed nor experienced before. Allowing us to put a microscope on this said experimental city will help us understand more the ever-evolving complex relationship of technology and Man.

CEF at the 5th Asia Pacific Futures Network Conference Bangkok, Thailand

Shermon Cruz Director at the Center for Engaged Foresight is one of the speakers and workshop facilitators at the 5th Asia-Pacific Futures Network Conference & 1st ASEAN Foresight Knowledge Exchange. Hosted in Bangkok for the second time, the 5th APFN conference intends to take a three-track approach catering for practitioners, academic researchers, and government leaders simultaneously. The organizers of the conference intend also to increase the profile of the work futurists are doing especially in the ASEAN region. This year Thailand is the chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Thailand is also actively discussing the 4th Industrial Revolution, the Digital Economy 4.0 and other futures-oriented themes.

This years’ conference seeks to understand the changing futures of Asia with a concentration on ASEAN. Our focus, in particular, is on ASEAN 2030. Thematic areas for the conference are economy, knowledge, and security. Based on current trends, what might the region look like in a decade? What are emerging issues/disruptors that could take change this trajectory? And what are the alternative futures of ASEAN and the broader Asia-Pacific. 

For more and registration please proceed to APFN 5 official link https://sites.google.com/view/apfn2019/home

CEF at the East-West Center Human 2019 AI Symposium, Hawaii

Peachie Dioquino – Valera, Futures Learning Advisor at the Center for Engaged Foresight, will be joining as a discussant at the East-West Center Human AI Symposium this September 7-10 Honolulu, Hawaii.

This symposium is part of an intercultural, intergenerational, and interdisciplinary East-West Center (EWC) initiative aimed at engaging the societal challenges and opportunities that are emerging with advances in artificial intelligence, robotics, machine learning, and big data. The purposes of the initiative are: to establish an ongoing forum for exploring differences in understanding the goal of aligning artificial intelligence with human values and societal wellbeing; to foster globally-shared commitments to equitable and humane artificial intelligence; and, to engage emerging perspectives on the evolving interplay of people, artificial intelligence, and related technologies. 

https://www.eastwestcenter.org/…/humane-ai-i…/2019-symposium

Co-creating a Climate Resilient World in 2030 and Beyond

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…)

Anticipation through emergence: transforming child and adolescent preferred futures

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.

Playground for Inclusion: The LAO PDR Futures Literacy and Policy Visioning Workshop

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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.

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

Flavors of Practice: Creating the Asia Pacific Futures Network

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How can Futures studies in Asia be different from Western offerings? How can it be localized in native languages, ways of knowing, and experiences? Can Asian futures, if such a thing exists, address emerging challenges, raise new questions, and disrupt systems of knowledge and power as they currently exist? What capacities exist to create and enhance futures thinking? How can Asian philosophies, cultures, and experiences shape alternative flavors of Futures Studies and practices? What ought to be the thrusts of an Asia Pacific Futures Network (hereafter APFN)? What types of educational models and researches should it pursue? How can the APFN make itself relevant to an emerging field and respond to an increasing demand of futures and foresight in Asia and the world? What changes within the field and practice of futures and foresight can occur and might ensue by creating the APFN? What ought to be APFN’s priorities, goals and measures of success? How can Asia innovate and take the lead in Futures Studies?

Flavors of Practice: Developing the Asia Pacific Futures Network Conference Report by Shermon Cruz, John Sweeney and Mohammadali Baradaran out on the Journal of Futures Studies. Report link http://jfsdigital.org/2016-2/vol-21-no-1-sep-2016/report/flavors-of-practice-developing-the-asia-pacific-futures-network/

Human Futures! launched

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The World Futures Studies Federation (WFSF) just launched a brand-new global, digital, interactive, online magazine – Human Futures! The WFSF magazine in its first re-launched edition featured the work of young and emerging futurist and shared the far-reaching impact of their work. Shermon Cruz was featured and wrote a short piece on the WFSF Women City Futures Learning Lab project in the Philippines. WFSF is a UNESCO and UN consultative partner and global NGO with members in over 60 countries. WFSF offers a forum for stimulation, exploration and exchange of ideas, visions and design for alternative futures to business as usual, through long-term, big picture thinking and radical change.

Link to the magazine https://www.wfsf.org/communications/wfsf-magazines

 

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Climate Reality and Engaged Foresight

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Climate Reality Leadership Training Philippines facilitated by Nobel Prize Recipient Al Gore, 2016, Photo courtesy of Climate Reality Project http://www.climatereality.org

A Decade of Environmental Activism: From 2005 to 2012 

A decade ago I was one of the many who got inspired from Al Gore’s seminal presentation and movie “An Inconvenient Truth”. The learnings I got from this would in many ways shape my worldview and deepened my understanding of climate change, public policy, environment governance, advocacy and management. The talk would disrupt me and then a couple of months later I would find myself organizing a local-based environmental network and advocacy group that would in a couple of weeks mobilize diverse environmental initiatives and actions in Ilocos from:tree surgery to tree management (https://frjessie.wordpress.com/2007/05/28/denr-ngo-want-poll-bets-cited-for-using-25000-trees/); to advancing and participating  in the review and consultation of renewable energy development proposals and CSR projects (http://bayan-natin.blogspot.com/2007/07/live-earth-at-seas-first-wind-farm-in.html); auditing waste management initiatives and programs;  opposing large-scale mining proposals (https://leadmovement.wordpress.com/2009/04/07/save-the-remaining-primary-forests-in-ilocos-norte/) and participating in the review of and implementation of Memorandum of agreements aimed to mitigate the environment impacts of existing quarrying projects among others.

 Our group would collaborate and partner with environment government agencies, the church, local government agencies, local environmentalists and NGOs in drafting and advocating the passage of a comprehensive environment code known as the Ilocos Norte Environment Code of 2006 and yes to ensure that trade and investment integrates environmental audits and compliance on small and large-scale invesments in the province  through the Ilocos Norte Investment Code of 2007. These codes are scheduled for review and I expect that the provincial government will hold a series of public hearings to address the gaps in policy content and implementation. This year I anticipate the passage of a Water Code for the next ten years.  

Also, the group which we organize known as the Green Ilocos Norte Network and Advocacy a not for profit NGO would represent “nature” as a member of a dozen of environmental  committees at the national, regional, local and barangay levels.

The group, engaged as it should, would  organize the first and succeeding Earth Hour, Earth Day, World Environment Day global celebrations in Ilocos Norte in partnership with like-minded groups and individuals.

The group would later receive an invitation to share and speak on many environment conferences and public hearings and would get scholarships on Community Based Renewable Energy Development funded by the Department of Energy and the United Nations Environmental Programme.

Later I would receive an invitation and appointment from a former Governor as Executive Assistant for the Environment and received an environmental leadership award from the Provincial Environment and Natural Resource Officer of the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources Ilocos Norte.

Many of these initiatives were institutionalized via the passage of ordinances, issuance of executive orders, adopted by schools and agency partners.

For more I am sharing some video links, photos and news articles of my advocacies as President of the Green Ilocos Norte Network and Advocacy environment:

https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/ines2006/d3k_JJW6AJ4

http://www.ucanews.com/story-archive/?post_name=/2007/04/25/diocese-encourages-care-for-the-earth-through-green-sacrament&post_id=5671

http://s192.photobucket.com/user/ginna_earth/profile/

http://penroinorte.wix.com/denr#!untitled/c1um7

http://krisablan.blogspot.com/2008/07/my-first-year-as-provincial-board.html

https://frjessie.wordpress.com/2007/05/28/denr-ngo-want-poll-bets-cited-for-using-25000-trees/

http://www.ucanews.com/story-archive/?post_name=/2009/04/01/catholics-support-earth-hour-lights-out-campaign&post_id=50153

https://blauearth.com/tag/ilocos-norte-earth-hour-2009-celebration/

Deepening Actions, City Resilience and Social Movements: From 2013 to 2016

After my stint at the local government level, I went back to the academe to pursue my interest in futures thinking to explore emerging and alternative futures of cities, organizational resilience and sustainable development.

From 2013 to the present, blending my environment and public administration background with strategic foresight, I saw the facilitation of foresight course as an opportunity to continue my worldviews at the local and global levels and I partnered with the UNESCO Foresight and the UNESCO National Commission of the Philippines to question business as usual and explore alternative and preferred futures of Philippine cities . These links and articles documented some of my initiatives in the area of futures studies, strategic foresight, climate change and city resilience:

https://vimeo.com/49368796 

http://www.unesco.gov.ph/content/article/Resilient%20Cities,%20Brighter%20Futures%20A%20ForumWorkshop%20on%20Anticipatory%20Studies%20and%20Strategic%20Foresigh

http://theilocostimes.blogspot.com/2014/05/city-futures-in-transformation.html

https://blauearth.com/tag/unesco/

2016 and beyond: Climate Reality and Renewable Energy Development

Just recently, I have been involved in the review and analysis of current and emerging renewable energy development projects in the province of Ilocos Norte as a specialist and as a concerned citizen.

Just recently we organized a group to look into some RED projects and questioned emerging gaps of RED projects.  I collaborated with the iconic environmental activist Father Robert Reyes and the National Coalition to Save the Trees to opposing the cutting of 1,300 trees for the installation of RED projects in Currimao.

For more you may want to check on these links –

https://www.change.org/p/provincial-government-of-ilocos-norte-municipal-government-of-currimao-department-of-environment-and-natural-resources-one-tree-is-too-many-rethink-the-ilocos-solar-power-project-one-step-forward-two-steps-back;

https://blauearth.com/2015/03/13/nwu-holds-governance-forum-on-tree-cutting-with-father-robert-reyes/; http://www.nordis.net/2015/06/groups-hit-ilocos-lgu-for-tree-cut-permit/; https://hronlineph.com/2015/06/05/statement-national-coalition-to-save-the-trees-collective-statement-on-world-environment-day/);

http://www.ilocossentinel.com/editorial/kasla-balitok-ti-pateg-iti-maysa-a-kayo.html;

http://bayanihan.org/2015/06/11/group-urges-govt-to-rethink-approval-of-red-projects/;

http://theilocostimes.blogspot.com/2015/03/running-priest-visits-laoag-city-urges.html;

And the effort to oppose the rationalization of black sand mining in Ilocos Norte

https://blauearth.com/2014/08/21/northwestern-university-holds-environmental-forum-on-black-sand-mining/; http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/609540/ilocos-folk-block-bid-to-lift-ban-on-black-sand-mining;

http://theilocostimes.blogspot.com/2014/06/ilocanos-reject-lifting-of-black-sand.html;

https://ibelieveinmygeneration.wordpress.com/

https://www.google.com.ph/?ion=1&espv=2#q=Shermon+Cruz+Black+Sand+Mining+in+Ilocos+Norte&start=10

Climate Reality Philippines 

Just recently it was amazing to be chosen as one of the recipients of Climate Reality Leadership Training project. I enjoyed the awesome presentation of Al Gore and discussions held to explore and critic the future of climate reality, renewable energy development and environmental movements in the Philippines.

An extract from the article of Mitch Esmino of the Ilocos Times om these event would best illustrate the experience I had from the training.

“The Philippines is one of the world’s most vulnerable countries in terms of climate change impacts. With at least 7,100 islands and an estimated 36,298 kilometers of coastline; more than 60 percent of the Filipino population are found within the coastal zone. Thus more than a majority are acutely impacted by climate change. Dangers include food and fresh water scarcity, damage to infrastructure and the devastating sea­-level rise.

With this in mind, the Philippines has now become one of the most serious movers in the world in terms of combating climate change. Acknowledging this, former United States Vice President Albert Arnold “Al” Gore Jr. and The Climate Reality Project hosted the 31st Climate Reality Leadership Corps Training in Manila.

The Climate Reality Leadership Corps is a global network of activists committed to taking on the climate crisis and working to solve the greatest challenge of our time. The decade­-long program has worked with thousands of individuals, providing training in climate science, communications, and organizing to tell the story of climate change and inspire leaders to be agents of change in their local communities.

The training produced 700 new “Climate Reality Leaders”. Of this number, Shermon O. Cruz, director and founder of the Center for Engaged Foresight and a The Ilocos Times columnist is included.

Learning from climate change scientists, organizers and spokespersons led by Mr. Gore himself, Mr. Cruz said he originally applied for Climate Reality India in 2015; and though he was selected he was unable to attend. But for this year’s Climate Reality Philippines, he said he made sure to attend.

From his training he explained that Climate Reality aims to mainstream climate science in policy and governance discourse. The group collaborates with multiple sectors to increase awareness and action. He said this is very timely for the Philippines as Filipinos appears to have a low risk perception and awareness of climate change. As such most of us also are unaware of its impacts to lives, communities and future generations. The low awareness of the majority however is contrary to the position the Philippine government has taken on the global stage. He learned from the training that the Philippines has been on the frontlines on climate change issues.

The climate change training afforded Mr. Cruz the opportunity to learn from leading global climate change persons. Mr. Gore was accompanied by several Nobel Prize winners, and top global climate scientists. Those people, he related trained and equipped the new Climate Reality Leaders with the latest information and data on the climate crisis; possible solutions; means of communicating climate change; on the digital tools for social action and organizing for change. The Climate Reality Leaders also explored new sustainable events strategy. This included the how’s to reduce overall energy and water consumption, waste reduction and diversion and engagements.

Climate change impact on PH

AS for the predicted climate change impact on the country, Mr. Cruz said the projections were dire. Projections indicate that sea levels in the country might rise at a rate of 7.6 to 10.2 cm per decade. This event is expected to impact roughly 2.3 million Filipinos.

By 2050, summer months in the country may become more arid; and rainfall is predicted to increase during southwest monsoon season. Day temperatures are seen to stay at 35 degrees Celsius. Extreme weather events and heavier rainfall were also projected to become more frequent.

With these projections, Mr. Cruz the extreme weather events could displace more people. The extreme weather events could also result in greater public health risks, reduced water flow, lower food production and greater hunger risks.

Mr. Cruz added that those in the lower income groups would end up being the most vulnerable.

With the total projected displacements due to climate change incidents pegged at 13.6 million Filipinos, Mr. Cruz said all concerned officials should sit together and come up with plans to both prevent and mitigate the climate change impacts.

He stressed that as an Ilocano and a resident of Ilocos Norte, he will start his climate change information drive in the province. He said he will try to sit down with concerned officials to help them to find ways in either preventing or mitigating the said impacts. He added that they should also come up with a specific map detailing the areas that are most vulnerable to climate change impacts. (Source: http://theilocostimes.blogspot.com/2016/04/climate-change-daunting-reality.html)

IMG20160314173701
With Ken Berlin, CEO of Climate Reality Project, 2016 (climate reality is a not for profit organization involved in education and advocacy related to climate change)

And my reflections on local impacts of climate change:

 GIVEN THAT climate change is happening now many nation-states, communities, networks and corporations are rushing or perhaps for a lack of a better word swarming to innovate with the hope that this generation could alter many of the world’s climate scientists worst case predictions and secure a better future for this generation and the next.

he enormity and scale of multiple climate change impacts could match any futurists’ version or any artists’ portrayal of a dark, dismal, ridiculous and dystopic alternative future world. An extreme cold snap and blizzard all over South East Asia, 60C or perhaps a sudden drop in temperatures at 10C over the city of Laoag and a recurring weekend typhoons in Ilocos Norte, local pandemics and more in the future could hit world news headlines. Recent records show that global temperature anomalies had been more frequent in the last five years.

February just smashed a century of global temperature records by a staggering margin as our planet suddenly became warmer by 1.35C according to a data NASA released. The world’s leading climate scientists would label this new record as “shocker” and warns of a “climate emergency” reported the Guardian. “We are now hurtling at a frightening pace toward the globally agreed maximum of 2C warming over pre-industrial levels” said climate scientists Masters and Henson. The Climate Summit in Paris two months ago confirmed 2C as the danger limit for global warming which should not be breached.

Last year, the heat index in the city of Bandar Mahshar in Iran were literally off the charts. Factoring in humidity, the astronomical heat index was 165 degrees or a whooping double whammy of an oppressive 74C (imagine that!). This outlier resulted to droughts, chronic water and electricity cuts and spike in energy and food cost and travel restrictions.

Just try to imagine if this happens in Laoag and Ilocos Norte.

Extreme El Niño and droughts according to the latest UN Climate Research could last from 12 to 18 months. Prolonged dry periods may significantly and negatively impact agriculture, water and food supply. It could exacerbate incidence of urban fires and may create huge forest fires as well.  Also, the link between El Niño and disease is so apparent that the cycle of epidemic types of diseases occurs in parallel with extreme weather patterns. The 2016 World Health Organizations research on climate change and diseases concluded that extreme drought could turn rivers into strings of pools and breeding sites for different, emerging and hybrid types of mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are adaptable insects and now are capable of transmitting virus and viral diseases.

To mitigate and adapt or perhaps transform in a climate change era, Laoag City like any other vulnerable cities in the Philippines should use foresight, prepare, invest and act to diminish the causes of climate change and protect Ilocanos from its impacts. Laoag Mayor Chevylle V. Fariñas may initiate the creation of a climate change city resiliency committee with the best, the most knowledgeable, passionate, experienced and capable community members as advocates. This committee acting as an advisory and action body of the good mayor—as volunteers—can help explore the most visible and unknown city climate driven risks and find ways to manage and mitigate their impacts. The committee may act as a think-do-act tank to support and expand her environment and resiliency initiatives. With Ms. Fariñas’ wit and will, she could devise multiple spaces and avenues for meaningful conversation to increase Laoagueños awareness, capacity and local climate change engagements. Through crowdsourcing and crowdfunding, they could generate and translate imaginative conversations and ideas into climate change mitigation and adaptation actions like reframing or refining climate change ordinances, resolutions, executive orders, projects, events, initiatives among others. 24/7 Agserbi could evolve and should make climate change and resiliency the core of the mayor’s community and city-futures based initiatives.  Filipinos risk perception and climate change awareness and engagements are apparently low according to Nobel Peace Prize recipient Al Gore. 

Laoag City and Ilocos Norte needs to deepen its engagements beyond the business as usual. The evil impacts of climate change represent unimaginable risk and it could offset the gains we’ve attained in the last six years. We need to formulate transformative plans to respond to the threats and seize the opportunities.  (Source: http://theilocostimes.blogspot.com/2016/04/preparing-for-evil-climate-change.html

IMG20160328124808

Acts of Leadership 

As a climate reality leader, I am scheduled to do a region-wide and pro-bono education and advocacy related to climate change. I intend to blend climate change, public policy, governance and strategic foresight in my presentations. I listed at least five acts of leadership to pitch in to the effort of educating and engaging more people to climate action:

  1. Present and share the learnings that I had whenever and wherever I can: Schools, Churches, Workplace, Government, NGO;
  2.  Write columns and articles related to climate change, local impacts and resilience;
  3. Participate in national and local actions aimed to reduce carbon emissions and advance renewable energy development projects, programs and policies;
  4. Engage in tree surgery and management initiatives, plant trees, participate in coastal clean-up and preserve the places that we love;
  5. Organize a province-wide eco-bikers mangrove tree planting this year.

Concluding this with more photos and videos! Enjoy 🙂

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lecturemont

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Rethinking Education through Imagining Future Scenarios

Sharing the video clip and news article (and related sites) of the UNESCO Bangkok and Chulalongkorn University Thailand spearheaded future literacy workshop entitled “Rethinking Education through Imagining Future Scenarios”.

I am so happy to be a part of this and looking forward to co-designing a couple of post-workshop events and projects in the Philippines, Pakistan, India and Vietnam.

Rethinking Education through Imagining Future Scenarios Video

Rethinking Education through Imagining Future Scenarios News Article

Link to related reports

This workshop engaged community-based learning and non-formal education practitioners from Asia and the Pacific in a three-day learning-by-doing knowledge creation process. Inspiration for this event originated in the important discussions taking place around the Sustainable Development Goals 2030, the critical role of learning in creating sustainable societies, and UNESCO’s efforts to explore these issues as discussed in a recent publication Rethinking Education: Towards a global common good? (UNESCO, 2015)

The design of this “FL KnowLab” starts with a deep appreciation of the significant societal role played by education, learning and training outside formal educational institutions. It recognizes the need for a more fluid approach to learning as a continuum, in which formal education institutions interact more closely with other less formalized educational experiences from early childhood throughout life (UNESCO 2015). The workshop design also incorporates the premise that the delivery of lifelong learning through flexible and need-specific approaches by practitioners of community-based learning and non-formal education can play a central role in the discovery and realization of opportunities to promote sustainable development. (UNESCO, 2015)