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.

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

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Source: Photo series I – DDT in Brussels https://ddtconference.org/2017/07/24/photo-series-i-ddt-in-brussels/

“May your futures always be preferred!”-

John Sweeney (his informal toast on last day’s party)

The Centre of Expertise Applied Futures Research|Open Time of the Erasmushogeschool Brussel and M HKA co-designed a 3-day Futures conference that is not only collaborative, but interactive and creative as well. Partners in the DDT are: The Association of Professional Futurists, The Centre for Postnormal Policy and Futures Studies, Teach the Future, Graduate Institute of Futures Studies and C-FAR of Tamkang University, Journal of Futures Studies and Agence Future, Etoile du Sud, and our very own, Center for Engaged Foresight. The conference, headed by Dr. Maya Van Leemput, senior researcher of Erasmus’s Applied Futures Research and creator of Agence Future, was indeed a success! As repeatedly remarked by participants during the last day’s Fishbowl Landing, “it has been the most fun conference of my life!”.

The conference was a cornucopia of panels, workshops, performances, exhibits, breakout sessions, and most importantly, both formal and personal conversations with diverse contributors and participants. The first day was started just aptly, with keynote speaker, professor em. Jim Dator of Hawaii’s Manoa School, briefly describing his 4 Generic Images of the Future. These futures are: Continued Growth, which is the most common of the alternative futures, continuously highlighting “economic growth”; Collapse, the second alternative that should not be portrayed as the “worst case scenario”, for in every disaster there are winners as well; Discipline, the future whose requisite is to orient our lives around a set of fundamental values; and lastly, Transformation, which talks about the emergence of a “dream society” as the successor to the “information society. This last future focuses on the transforming power of technology—especially Robotics and A.I. These 4 futures paved the way by serving as the looming theme of the conference. And this is seen visually via the venue of the second and third day of this foresight summit.

M HKA Museum, the main venue of this confluence of futurists, was just the perfect place. The ‘A Temporary Futures Institute’ (ATFI), composed by the museum, is the binding element of the “Design Develop Transform” event. The exhibit was truly captivating for it showcased 9 artists’ take on the future, and 4 futurists’ artistic manifestation of their researched futures. Alexander Lee, a Tahitian artist, was given the privilege to paint the museum’s walls (and paint he did for 3 months!) according to Dator’s 4 Futures.

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Source: Photo series I – DDT in Brussels https://ddtconference.org/2017/07/24/photo-series-i-ddt-in-brussels/

Day 2, (UN) CONFERENCE, was nothing short of busy. Day started by the welcoming of M HKA’s ATFI curator, Anders Kreuger. After the opening remarks and morning panel, it was immediately -with gusto- followed by games. The gamification portion is an enjoyable connected learning that created incentive for sharing. Lunch was followed by more panels, and workshops such as “Prototyping for a Preferable Sustainable Future” by Christianne Heselmans & Linda Hofman, and “Cultivating Physiological Coherence with Possible Futures” by Tyler Mongan. Whole group was divided-depending on their interest that afternoon-into the Education Cluster and Story Telling & Science Fiction Cluster. One performance was presented that day by TOMI DUFva & Matti Vainio entitled “human and a robot DRAWING”; perfectly capping the day in the visual sense.

The last day served as an open space for the public. Exhibiting Futurists were: Stuart Candy, Mei-Mei Song, John Sweeney & Ziaudin Sardar, Maya Van Leemput & Bram Goots. Exhibiting artists were: Alexander Lee, Myriam Bäckström, Nina Roos, Michel Auder, Guan Xiao, Darius Žiūra, Simryn Gill, Kasper Bosmans and Jean Katambayi Mukendi. Tours in the morning was guided by curator Mr. Kreuger, and the afternoon one was guided by curator Ms. Leemput. Apart from art exhibits there were also book presentations and numerous topics (both pre-listed and bring-your-own-style) to attend to. An interesting afternoon walk was crafted by An Mertens wherein Trees were observed and studied as a Futures thinking tool. This was the perfect way to end the day since the notion of trees as our future is very much highlighted. Peachie Dioquino-Valera, a representative of Philippines’s Center for Engaged Foresight was asked by Ms. Mertens to share her culture’s beliefs when it comes to trees. She made everyone present participate in a gentle exercise which is “talking to the trees”. Here, she explained what was to be done, which was for individuals to choose a tree which they resonate with. Then, their left hand was to be put on the trunk, and with their eyes closed, send a message to the tree, or even ask a question, and hear their response. Replies came knowingly through a gentle breeze, and the first thing that pops into their mind. Ms. Valera asked everyone to not rationalize, and let things flow. The purpose of this activity is to send forth a message that these living beings are messengers from the future. They tell us their secrets, woes, and ancient knowledge. The bridging of such primeval tribal practices to access the future is what made the activity an apt ending. This is where we see the past connect with the future. The activity also brought the lesson of reflections on our environment: whatever we do to the environment, we do unto ourselves.

The third day ended with a fishbowl landing which poured forth reflections and sentiments. The last and special day was capped with a farewell dinner and party which brought the participants much closer, and contact exchanges indeed was a harbinger of future networking and awesome futures projects.

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Source: Photo series I – DDT in Brussels https://ddtconference.org/2017/07/24/photo-series-i-ddt-in-brussels/

Musings and ideas run aplenty despite the short period of time that accommodated such insightful and meaty topics. One universal belief that popped all throughout the conference; and it is best exemplified by our national hero, Jose Rizal’s famous quote: “Ang taong hindi marunong lumingon sa pinangalingan, ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan.” And it’s true. As Dator explained about our present situation, that we are barely adapting to the new, when we have barely mastered the past. There is also the constant reminder that it’s impossible to look only at one future, and discard the others. This very thought also gives humanity a great chance and obligation to start over again. And what about conflict transformation? Unbeknownst to most, this is one of the ideal characteristics of futurology. This is embodied during our first day session with our very own Cesar Villanueva, Filipino board member of World Future Studies Federation & a peace futurist. His workshop “Creative peace futures workshop on futures of South China Sea” is the perfect living example of conflict transformation. As Einstein once said: “As long as there are men, there will be wars.” Humanity does not need wars. Futures or Foresight studies is very much essential to preventing this useless and unnecessary creation of man. This is one of the things worth fighting for…this is one of the things worth dipping our feet in futures for. This is where we connect all the dots and analyze all complications—its intricacies, nuances, and all. This experience of a conference truly demonstrated and taught us how to DESIGN our preferred futures via different thinking tools brought to the table by the contributors and partners. It also taught us how to DEVELOP our cooked-up ideal futures so eventually we can TRANSFORM them into reality. They say that Reality Check is necessary, but so is a Futures check. Else, we might end up with Utopian irresponsibility and drive us further away from a sustainable and preferred global future.

By Peachie Dioquino Valera, Futures Learning Advisor

For more please check the DDT link  Design. Design. Transform and DDT Conference Impressions

Call for papers and other contributions

The centre of expertise Applied Futures Research – Open Time of the Erasmus University College in Brussels and M HKA (Museum for Contemporary Art Antwerp) are collaborating on an exceptional three day conference linked to the 2017 summer exhibition ‘A Temporary Futures Institute’.

We will host academic and professional futurists from the global North and South as well as artists and designers, professionals from development (cooperation), (public) policy, business (management) and civil society. DDT sets the scene for connecting images of the futures, futures orientations and experiences from these different fields of practice.

We are now inviting contributions on how futures approaches are applied in the wild, including:

  • the diversity of approaches to futures and their theoretical bases
  • futures methods, projects, programmes and related images of the future from your practice
  • what artists and futurists make of the futures
  • practical futures perspectives in developing contexts, in business, policy and civil society
For more please check: