Thursday, August 27, 2009

Building Futures with the IDS

Aug. 27, 2009; 1:30 p.m. - It is way past my regular lunchtime, and I have just finished my last of two IDS (Interdisciplinary Studies) 109 classes since 10:30 this morning. My stomach is hungry, yet my soul is full.

IDS 109, or Futures Principles and Futures Planning, is a major subject taken by IDS students to train them in futures thinking and in applying selected futures studies methodologies. We had the start of their group scenario building presentations on their selected and approved topics today.

In previous sessions, we did group exercises on scenario-building by using prepared data from Ging Deles’ presentation on Emerging Scenarios in the Philippine Political Environment for 2010, and Al Gore’s film documentary on climate change and global warming, An Inconvenient Truth.

Scenario-building is a futures studies method used especially when the circumstances and information are dynamically-changing and one wants to get a “hold” on what is coming, so one can better prepare and take proactive action.

In our IDS 109 class, we have distilled the method down to its essence. The students are asked to build their Possible Futures (Status Quo, Worst Case and Best Case) as well as their Preferred Future on an issue, before they outline their recommendations for strategic action.

This morning, they started presenting their own full cases, researching data for their selected issues and presenting the global and Philippine situations for these issues, before they present their scenarios and recommendations for strategic action.

In the 1030am class today, they presented their scenarios on the Futures of Work, Futures of Philippine Out-of-School Youth, Futures of Relationships and the Futures of Weapons/the Arms Industry. In the 1200nn class, they presented their scenarios on the Futures of the Philippine Militant Mass Movement, the Futures of Families, and the Futures of Food Security. In the first week of classes after Midterm Exams, more groups will be presenting on such issues as the Futures of Education, Jobs, Energy, GMO Food, Drugs, Population and even Sex!

I was very impressed with the depth of analysis and the richness of the scenarios the students presented today. Setting aside certain formatting weaknesses in the order of one or two groups’ presented topics, I felt both gratified and humbled at seeing them research information from many sources, putting this often-times seemingly unrelated information together, and coming up with analyses and scenarios that are at once deep, multi-disciplinary, experientially-truthful and achingly rich and still hopeful (preferred scenarios) despite the worst possible implications they also came up with.

For instance, the Futures of Weapons/Arms Industry group (August Baniel, Jeremy Fernandez, Shaundell Ferrer, Evrel Mabugat and Raffy Remitio Jr.) pointed out how, since war is a big, global business, to effect a just and lasting peace in the world, we must also make it more “profitable” for those already engaged in war to engage in peace. They pointed out that it’s not a question of having no money to take people out of poverty, but that the money is there, and it is just used for war.

The Futures of Family group (Laura Jane Biong, Berlyn Deoric, Ruth Ordoyo, Brian Palencia and Anne Villar) pointed out how, globally and nationally, the structure and dynamics of families are changing, facing multiple demands and challenges brought about by globalization in the context of families “breaking up” because of parents’ career and job demands and transfer to urban areas, intercultural marriages, single parenting and young children basically left to parent themselves early on. In their recommendations for strategic action, they proposed family-friendly employment environments, civic and government programs for the family, and a basic family-first orientation in otherwise business and government structures and systems. They discussed how doing otherwise have very damaging impacts on everyone concerned, affecting even our economic and societal lives.

I am looking forward to Sept. 8, when the groups resume their presentations again, with some groups even telling me that they have prepared video versions of their analysis and scenarios.

For now, times like these tell me—I am so blessed in the kind of work that I do, working with these young minds and hearts, having both the opportunity of influencing them and being influenced by them, and daily being able to shape and craft unfolding futures in a more solid and tangible manner, in my constant interactions with them.

With the IDS and students like these, the future is in good hands, after all.*