Studying the influences of the forces of change
With the support of the Asian Farmers Association and  the Global Forum on Agricultural Research, Don and Gaspar from API, an Indonesia farmer organization,  Nikka, Esther and Jonathan from PAKISAMA, a Philippines farmer organization and Sonali, Sudhir and Manoj from INHERE, a local development NGO in India met from 2-7 February in Quezon City in the Philippines for a six-day capacity building in implementing participatory grassroots foresight. During their course they learned and practiced how to develop a grassroots foresight reflection engaging all local actors to build scenarios and identify related actions.
 

Identifying the forces of change

 
As a start of their journey into the future, they engaged in a simulation exercise, applying the method they were learning to a specific case combining key features of their own local situations. They identified and defined 34 forces at play in the transformation of a local community and its territory, separating those that local people and organisations can influence (26) from those they cannot influence (8). They were then able to analyze them and identify sic forces driving the changes:
 
  • the attitude of the government in implementing local policies and programs, including policies on organic agriculture;
  • the state of rural equipment in the local area including agriculture processing infrastructures and the existence and nature of market incentives for local products;
  • the local development of ICT;
  • the capacity of local organizations to influence decision making and policies;
  • the attitude and behavior of people with respects to rules, natural resources and social relationships, and
  • the type of engagement of young people in agriculture in the area
Exploring future scenarios
Exploring future scenarios
 
Foresight is not about prediction; it’s not about projection. Foresight is about exploration and anticipation. Don, Gaspar, Sonali, Ester, Manoj, Nikka, Jonathan, and Sudhir worked together constructing a range of contrasting scenarios, exploring plausible hypotheses of evolution for each of the six driving forces by 2035.
 
Combining them, they built a set of nine contrasted scenarios covering a diversity of plausible futures for the local communities. 
 

From learning to action

 
After four days of hard work, they all were quite satisfied with the results but still wondering how this would translate into practical operation and actions and how to implement it in the field. As they continued they learned how appropriate communication can help reach out to audiences beyond those locally involved in the scenario building process to create awareness and ownership.
 
As the participants all started to head back to their own homes, they reflected on how they will implement what they learned.  With an action plan in hand, and the continuing support of AFA and GFAR, each will return home and identify a core group of local people, craft scenarios together and engage in shaping their future. 
 

Foresight - changing people’s mindsets

 
The teamwork over the training inspired other goals as well. In Indonesia, Don plans to contact the other national officers of API to see how this approach could be used on a larger scale within API to strengthen its members. INHERE intends to locally engage in the training of more people to use this approach. PAKISAMA has already requested Nikka to present this approach during their next meeting, only two days after the end of the workshop.
 
Nikka, Esther, Sonali, Jonathan, Don, Sudhir, Gaspar and Manoj have seen that foresight is much more than a tool; it is a way of thinking. It is a process that has the capacity to change the mind set of people, enabling them to explore what might happen to them, to their livelihood and their environment. With foresight they see more options today than they thought because they know that, even if the future can never be predicted, they can be prepared for what might happen, influence it and shape it – hopefully for the better.
 
By Robin Bourgeois, Senior Foresight Advisor, GFAR Secretariat