The Philippines

The Philippines activity held in the City of Vigan was developed by Cesar Villanueva (University of St. La Salle Bacolod), a former member of the Executive Board of WFSF and member of the International Advisory Board of the Center for Engaged Foresight and Professor Shermon Cruz (Northwestern University Laoag), and the Director of the Center for Engaged Foresight.

This project introduced futures studies and foresight to strengthen the foresight awareness of decision-makers and key actors involved in shaping disaster reduction and management programs and city development planning in highly vulnerable cities and communities to climate change in the Philippines. The two-day foresight capacity building course took place in June 25-27, 2015. The focus was to enable participants to design their own strategic pathways and enhance their foresight capacities for adaptive response and strategic renewal in a climate change era. Around 35 participants, of whom 90% women leaders – mayors, city planners, disaster risk management officers, programme directors, supervisors, specialists, legislators, professors, climate reality leaders and students, from all over the country attended the course. The learning lab introduced and combined creative, critical, interpretive and action-learning approaches and game tools to analyze and imagine alternative and preferred city futures from a woman’s STEEPCVLH (social, technological, economic, environmental, political, cultural, values, legal, historical) perspective.

This learning lab was designed to further explore and imagine alternatives for women-gender contexts and roles in transforming Philippine city futures. The Philippines is primarily a hierarchical and masculine society (Geert Hoffstede, 2015). Filipinos ways of thinking, perceiving, learning and shaping (city) futures is driven and informed by patriarchal ways of knowing and learning. At the same time, different issues and problems disproportionately impact women. This seminar workshop highlighted women as innovators and agents of change in mitigating and adapting to such factors.

At the outset of the workshop, participants questioned their previous ways of knowing of the future from a personal as well as a systems perspective. Initially the participants described the future as something that we should all fear. It was clearly controlled and shaped by the stories of the elite, “the forefathers” and the past. As they questioned these assumptions emerging insights included: “the future is so complex and uncertain”, “the future as open” and “the future is pregnant with multiplicity”. The need for anticipation also surfaced explicitly:”the future could disrupt us beyond what we might expect”, “the future is emergent and is full of surprises”, “expect the unexpected” and “we could only anticipate that much”. The awareness of multiple variables and factors pushing and driving our collective futures was undeniable.

The exercises that lead to these realisations made the participants feel vulnerable, volatile, unsure and less certain about the future but at the same time more intuitive, optimistic, insightful, hopeful and open. This was dealt with by unpacking value narratives that give meaning and questions pre-existing meanings, which showed up the rationale to the actions that we take or the decisions that we make today (i.e. awareness and emergence of Asian values and traditions that give importance to family and community) and our ways of knowing and perceiving the future. The participants accepted that to operate in an uncertain world, the gentle art of re-perceiving – questioning our assumptions on how our world works – is a lens that could help us see the world more clearly.

From the first day already, participants understood the link between the past, present and future including their personal, professional and social futures (must align the collective vision with the personal; the future is personal; decolonization as a crucial element to creating alternatives; the future is here but rather it appears to be inequitably distributed). The narrative of realism or realistic futures (fear and trauma driven perception) had dissipated at least in part. An atmosphere of openness and optimism and a hunger to explore alternative visions of a possible future society gained traction at this point.

With a session of playing the Sarkar game four types of power and their dynamics were articulated. Participants learned that clash and cohesion is natural or essential to social change; that each of the four ways of knowing has different and diverse ways of relating to the social and political environment and that this may define or contextualize or inform their preferences, strategies and solutions they offer or that they insist to create.

A video of our Transforming Philippines Cities: An Integrative Foresight Course for Women City Leaders is available by following this link to YouTube.