When openDemocracy invited us to examine the link between democracy, participation and the future through a guest week, we jumped at the opportunity. It is a timely and important topic to explore with you and with our colleagues from around the world.
2017 is a year where challenging long-standing trends are manifesting themselves very clearly – from crises of democratic legitimacy to concerns about social and economic inequality and global inter-connectivity; from volatility and uncertainty in global markets and security to the spread of populism. Yet 2017 is also the year after the 2030 Global Goals and Paris Agreement on Climate Change entered into force. We face our future with both great apprehension and hope.
The stories that we tell ourselves about the future matter. Narrating a positive story in which we can see our children and grandchildren thriving is key, especially in a world where bogeymen and fear reside, fomented by political and community leaders who wish to reap the benefits and latitude that anxiety, division and crisis confers. The act of developing stories about a collective future together is also a deeply political act. It is an act of reclaiming political agency – of empowerment and resilience in a world of turbulence where traditional forms of political representation from the local to the national level, no longer seem fit for purpose.
2017 is the year to harness the power of strategic foresight. We can double down on authoritarian and top-down decision-making processes, as one response to those challenges and uncertainties. Or, if we want to build on democratic processes, we need to engage with the future together. Participative strategic foresight is a key component of system stewardship: a 21st century vision for democracy, that can move beyond our outdated post-WWII governance model that relies on narrow representational forms of delegated legitimacy, and command and control policy processes; and instead act as a platform upon which citizens and communities can harness their insights about their past, present and future.
So the purpose of this guided walk is to explore these issues from different perspectives and different sectors around the world. We are interested in what might help or hinder our quest for a prosperous, secure and meaningful future. We want to explore how the challenges and opportunities provided by changing technology, demography and values might play out across the economy, humanitarian fields and government; how we go about doing the business of engaging with the future; and how we tell the story.
Allie Bobak, our coordinator, and myself have invited several of our colleagues and collaborators to co-create this passionate and analytical journey. They are all people who are engaged in preparing for the future – and have more than one role as practitioners, civil servants, politicians, business leaders and activists. We chose a wide variety of different people: Esuna Dugarova, whom we met when exploring together the future of her region, the Buryatia Republic in the Russian Federation; Henrietta Moore, UK professor and anthropologist on the future of global prosperity; Aarithi Krishnan who looks at the future of Asia-Pacific humanitarian challenges; Sergio Bitar, a Chilean minister under both Allende and Bachelet; Betty Sue Flowers, American storyteller and narrator of the future extraordinaire; and Peter Davies, the first Sustainable Futures Commissioner for Wales.
We encourage you to check out the contributions online.