Futures with an Asian Flavour: The 1st Asia Pacific Futures Network Conference

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CREATING AN ASIA-PACIFIC NETWORK

Representatives from a number of nations – Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Iran, the Philippines, and Taiwan – met from March 19-20th at Tamkang University, Tamsui to partner and co-create an Asia-Pacific Foresight Network. Many of the participants were futurists working in their respective Prime Minister’s Office and others were academics working at universities.

Participants expressed a need to create such a network as the types of questions futurists in the Asia-Pacific region ask differ from their Western counterparts. The Asia-Pacific region, the president of Tamkang University, Flora Chang noted, had undergone a dramatic shift in wealth, with the creation of a new middle class. But it was not just wealth that was increasing but changes the region was in the midle of shifts in the nature of family, changes in demographics (ageing and depopulation), gender equity, and for some the beginning of an Asia that no longer copied the West but inventing and innovating, indeed, leading the way.

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Participants agreed that Futures Studies could grow quicker if the partner institutions worked with each other in sharing research, finding internships for graduate students, and developing an Asian foresight approach or flavour. Currently some nations are stronger at futures studies at the university level; others at futures studies for national and Ministerial decision-makers and still others at futures studies for local cities and communities. By creating a network, each node of the network could learn from each other, strengthening research and action for all.

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Among the next steps agreed on was: 1. the creation of an Asia-Pacific Futures course for university students to be held at Tamkang University in 2016. Participants should not just be students but executives from major Asian multinationals, representatives from local, state and national governments ie policymakers and community organizations. 2. The sharing of curricula from the region so that researchers could learn what works best in pedagogy. 3. The development of a futures camp for young people. This could have four strands: wealth management and prosperity; the greening of the city; and wellness and health. Futures studies methods and tools would integrate these strands. 4. The next network meeting was to be held at Tamkang University in March of 2016. 5. It was intended that by 2017, the course and the network conference could be held in other localities such as Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, possibly hosted by the Malaysian government Myforesight Centre. 6. To work closely with global organizations such as UNDP and UNESCO in developing foresight throughout the region. And: 7. To edit a book on the best of Foresight in the Asia-Pacific region.

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Representatives also were clear that they did not wish to create another bureaucracy or a single vision of Futures Studies. Rather, they wished to create partnerships where the community as a whole gained from each others’ differences, creating a “Food Court” of Asia-Pacific Futures Studies.

Report written by Dr. Sohail Inayatullah (2015) for Tamkang Times and the Asia Pacific Futures Network and photo credits to Tamkang University and the Futures Era Media/News/Publishing.

Some action photos here.

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