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?
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:
Ethical Authoritarianism – “father knows best”, “confucian worldview”, “the tao perspective of leadership”, “datu”
Peer to peer platform in Asia – is it possible?
International day of failure – overcoming the fear of failure can inspire creative work
Refresh and invigorate – as futurist how can we refresh and invigorate the work of others?
Are we futurist learning, perceiving in a better way?
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.
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 –
Just brilliant! I got an invitation from the organizers to share some learnings and insights on Philippine city futures at the first Quezon City International Conference organized by the University of the Philippines National College of Public Administration (UP-NCPAG) and the Center for Local and Regional Governance (CLRGC) last month. The convention themed “Future Perfect: Cities at the Forefront of Change and Development” explored the immediate and long-term livability of Philippine cities with climate change impacts, urbanization, global integration, the emergence of new technologies and inter–metro-local cooperation as critical drivers of change. In celebration of the Quezon City’s 75th founding anniversary, the conference showcased innovative approaches and reforms to city administration, governance and development. I also attended the pre-conference seminar-workshop on livability facilitated by Mr. Benjamin De La Pena, Director for Community and National Strategy, Knight Foundation.
Keynoted by Mayor Herbert Bautista, the city chief executive, emphasized some of the major critical challenges influencing and impacting Quezon city’s livability and resiliency: disaster risk reduction, urban population and migration, urban mobility, overcrowding, public health and open spaces, peace and order, slums, and the ASEAN integration. Quezon city is currently the largest most populous city in the Philippines. Quezon city is the nation’s capital.
The conference also showcased the experiences and lessons learned by cities in the Asia-Pacific and shared how they imagine their futures for the next decades.
Along these three main strands, panels and plenary sessions were held to solicit insights and inputs to improve the host city’s future perfect strategies and approaches:
Climate Change and Urban Resiliency
Sectoral implications and impacts of climate change
Climate change and vulnerable groups
Climate change adaptation and disaster-risk reduction
Climate risk governance
Growing Cities at the Human Scale: Liveability in Cities of Rapid Growth
Urban mobility and transportation systems (e.g. BRT, pedestrian and bicycle friendly cities, interconnectedness of transport)
Green cities and green urbanism
Inclusiveness and cities without slums
Peace, order and security
Interlocal Cooperation and Metropolitanization
Twinning and city-to-city cooperation
Metropolitan and transboundary issues (traffic, pollution, flooding, etc.)
ASEAN integration and competitiveness
Some takeways and insights
# make cities walkable by linking networks and destinations, ensure accessibility and re-design surfaces;
# increase investments for micro-climate management by increasing tree giving sun shades, reduce urban heat temperatures, minimize pollution, minimize dust, noise and glare
# increase the “feeling” of security via good street lighting, open and lively street spaces and protection from crime and violence day and night
# invest on infrastructures and create mixed and multi-purpose events that encourage physical activity and exercise for all user groups, interaction and social transparency, play and street entertainment, talkscapes or street furnitures, edge effects and attractive zones that stimulate peoples sense of imagination and play
#invest on infrastructures and create events that creates a sense of locality and identity. Contextualize locality investments that informs and drives a sense of climate impact and resiliency awareness and actions.
# Mainstream children, women and the vulnerable sector in resiliency awareness and management
# Integrate out of the box and outliers and not just the worst case scenarios to make city more adaptive and responsive to future shocks like urban terrorism, urban heat and other plausible unknown unknowns
#engage the neighborhood, families and relatives by partnering with them in pre-planning and post-planning disaster scenarios. Question current initiatives. Expand the notion of disaster risk management and response.
A storm is brewing in Asia, will Philippine cities transcend beyond the narrative of trauma and disasters? Is there an alternative future for Philippine cities or would it learn from the past to innovate, act and create the preferred story?
Are current strategies enough to transform our cities or do we need to question our assumptions now of continued economic growth and rethink our ways of knowing the city and change the way we imagine our cities and leadership from the big man rule – autocratic, corrupt and isolated to the fresh food market – pluralistic, democratic and participatory?
These are some of the questions that the participants of the UNESCO Resilient Cities, Brighter Futures workshop explored for four days. Using anticipatory thinking and strategic foresight methods, city leaders and experts, researchers, managers, advocates, social scientists, futurists, and consultants from the different parts of the country and the world debated, deconstructed and reconstructed Philippine city futures in a Post-Haiyan era.
The Laoag forum workshop is a part of a broader global foresight project launched by UNESCO and the Rockefeller Foundation on futures literacy and introduce foresight to decision-making, public policy and governance.
The initiative aims to help communities better prepare for the future and assist them to become future-literate. Similar workshops have been held in Oslo Norway; Munich, Germany and Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
Reimagining Philippine Cities
To Sohail Inayatullah, a fellow of the World Futures Studies Federation and the World Academy of Arts and Sciences and the main speaker and facilitator of the UNESCO future lecture series and knowledge workshop, “cities are fast emerging agents of global policy-making and change.”
And as cities faces multiple challenges like climate change, globalization and demographic shifts, Inayatullah argued that cities need to re-think the context, to be versatile and to be flexible enough to respond, innovate and usher in a new era.
Rigid concepts, models, priorities, worldviews and leadership practices of and in the city that leads to urban poverty, pollution, overcrowding, decay and decline must be questioned. Questioning the future of cities enables communities and leaders to create alternative concepts, frameworks and life-urban interfaces.
To do this, Philippine cities should embark and perhaps invest more aggressively on urban regeneration and knowledge creation projects that increases social, economic and community resilience.
Population drifts from rural to urban are expected to rise and if cities fail to read the weak signals they might end up becoming or repeating the stories of Metro Manila, Baguio and Dagupan cities – living beyond 3, 500% of sustainable levels, caught in the middle income trap and highly vulnerable to climatic changes and exposures.
In Asia, it is projected that its urban population will double from 1.6 to 3 billion by 2050. Philippine cities have to face up to this emerging population and migration trends but how many of its cities will be able to meet the challenge? Just imagine the social, cultural, environmental, political and economic cost of the ASEAN integration and climate change to an unprepared Philippine city.
To be forewarned is to be forearmed.
Simply put, if you know something beforehand, you can prepare for it.
Being aware of the critical drivers and taking the big picture approach can help cities regenerate and transform in the midst of rapidly evolving challenges.
Strategies and Metaphors to the transform the future
Participants were able to re-imagine the contexts and purposes of Philippine cities in a post-Haiyan plus the ASEAN integration, the rise of Asia, Chindia, etc. scenario.
New narratives, metaphors, images, strategies, policies and programs to achieve the preferred future Philippine cities were proposed. Cities are at the forefront of these solutions and innovations and when they happen it could accelerate inclusive growth, open up new value chains for innovation and better city living conditions.
The low hanging fruit was the Smart city.
Improving the efficiency and effectiveness of urban systems, social cohesion, innovation, infrastructure, architecture, energy, transport, national and local governance and the participation of the media, academia and the non-profit sector was essential to creating the smart city.
We have to be smart enough to see the intersection of all the drivers mentioned to create the smart city that we want participants noted. Changing the way we live, work and play in urban environments requires asking the unasked questions. Integrating or applying the best tools like anticipatory thinking and foresight can improve urban planning practices and innovation.
Technology is a critical driver to this type of city.
The metaphor was arangkada. Downside however was the tusong-matsing – a city trying to catch up with its neighbors, economic growth driven, getting smarter but stupidier.
The G4 city. This is the Laoagueno version of the smart and green city.
Here the city is smarter and wiser.
The green worldview of inclusive interaction, collective emergence and local creativities informs the G4 city. From pure gold in 2012 to the pure and interactive trees, from hypermart (big man rule driven) to the fresh food market (pluralistic, participatory and democratic) city in 2030.
The city’s strategies create the conditions for the greeny Ilocano way of life and lifestyle to thrive; the system and the city and its people finding their own path.
The city is emergent and organic, alive, breathable, walkable and liveable as well safe and inviting for brilliant people and ideas in this city scenario.
The metaphor was the garden of trees and the ecosystems of life.
Laoag emerges as the smart and green capital of the Philippines.
The city is shaped by her residents, community organizers, musicians, ecologists, settlers, farmers and artists and Pamulinawen finds her heart and wooed by a French artist and entrepreneur.
Laoag is globally connected and emerges as a global brand for city resilience and transformation by 2030.
The Bayanihan City – bayan (community, connectivity), bayani (hero catalyst, peer to peer, sharing economy), ani (wealth, next generation inclusive and sustainability).
Here, Philippine cities get transformed by resiliency and natural disasters.
An empowered, pragmatic and a climate responsive city is created in 2030.
Cities become a prototype, a model for disaster risk reduction and management.
The Japanese proverb that says a bamboo that bends is better than the oak that resist was the myth.
City’s in this context have future-proof flexibility and have adaptable spaces that accommodate multiple changes and challenges.
The city is bayani as it is also generationally inclusive. It accounts and imagines the need, the resources and the opportunity required by future generations. The future generation becomes a part of the policy discourse, planning and urban city design.
From the city of isa, isahan at naisahan to the city narrative of bayan, bayani and ani, Philippine cities creates new hero icons, stories, proverbs and opportunities for the future.
The Healthy, Interactive Living City.
The city takes the title for fit and healthy living.
Philippine cities invest and create the healthy, living cities and some would even take the top spot in an annual global ranking of healthy cities.
The indicator here was the walk or the bike score, number of yoga and meditation practitioners and decline in the number of citizens suffering from chronic health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity. Fruit consumption rate, investment in curative healthcare, number of homeopathy shops, tea shops, number of farmer markets, the decline in the number of patients were significant and are indicators of the healthy living cities.
Physical infrastructures are designed and invested on based on fitness and health impact index.
A healthy city strengthens personal and social immune systems.
Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz
From the King (the king can do no wrong, father knows best) and the Unruly Citizen of the past and present (bahala na, short term oriented, corruptible citizens) to Dorothy (creative, inclusive and emergent) and the Wizard of Oz (a future world designed by her community and friends, playful and organic and generative), people and local governments leads the way in the diversification and creation of new Philippine cities.
Participants aspired for a city and systems that are people oriented, novel and nonconventional.
They want the Filipino to prosper and participate in creating the preferred.
Too much democracy, closed economy that benefits only the ruling elite, feudal culture, the nation-state, hierarchy, strong power distance index, the raping of natural resources, the middle income trap, short-termism, systemic corruption, asyong aksaya (corrupt and wasteful leadership patterns trends), the alamat of ibong adarna (tinutulugan ang kalamidad at oportunidad) are weights of history, the restrictive factors and barriers to the preferred future.
The future is an active aspect of the present
Like the past, the future is an active aspect of the present. It is the ‘forward looking equivalent of history’. Using it as a medium to expand planning, policy and governance, the future can provide us practical and imaginative space to create and enact the future today.
Futures thinking can help us reveal the unknown unknowns and imagine multiple alternatives and choices. One does not need to be an expert to take part in futures thinking and strategy development.
Thank you! Thank you!
Now I would like to personally thank Mayor Chevyyle Farinas and Northwestern University President Liza Nicolas, the Northwestern University community and the Laoag City Government for their overwhelming and generous support.
Also, the futures team of the Graduate Institute of Futures Studies at Tamkang University and the University of Hawaii Research Center for Futures Studies and the International Society of Heal Being Studies at Chung Ang University, Seoul South Korea, Dr. Shunji-jie, Dr. Kou Hua Chen, Dr. Meimei Song, Dr. Jiang Bang Deng, Dr. Hyun Ryul Park, Mark Alexander, Cesar Villanueva, Dr. Mahar Lagmay, Architect Jun Palafox, Dr. Mario De Los Reyes, Dr. Merlita Panganiban, Mr. Moncini Hinay, Jerome Escobar, Atty. Ferdinand Nicolas, Dr. Rudy Bareng, Mayor Dolly Clementd and Vice Mayor Jessie Galano, Ilocos Times Publisher Jay Ramos and Mr. Mitch Esmino, the City Tourism Office of Vigan and the UNESCO National Commission of the Philippines Dr. Virginia Miralao and Ms. Emmy Yanga thank you so much!