by Jessica Mary Ramos & Noemi Baysa

The Committee on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Innovation, and Futures Thinking led by its Chairperson Hon. Pilar Juliana “Pia” Cayetano conducted on May 12, 2020 a public hearing on Senate Resolution No. 393 via Zoom.

Senate Resolution No. 393 is known as Resolution Urging the Committee on Sustainable Development Goals Innovation, and Futures Thinking to Conduct a Hearing, in Aid of Legislation, on the Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Various Sectors, their Innovations and Strategies to Prepare for and Adapt to the New Normal, and Their Action Plans to Prepare for All Possibilities and Outcomes in the New Normal and Post-Covid-19, taking into Consideration Strategic Foresight to Analyze Possible Futures Based on Available Intelligence and Knowledge.

The resolution provides information regarding the innovations and strategies to prepare for and adapt to the ‘new normal’ after the COVID-19 pandemic, and the action plans to prepare for all possibilities and outcomes in the ‘new normal’ that lies ahead.

Hon. Cayetano believed that there is a need for the government to provide its people the information they need particularly during this crisis.

“These are challenging times for all of us and it’s really important that the different sectors in the government including NGOs and private citizens are able to avail of the best information and knowledge coming from the government,” Hon. Cayetano said in her introduction after she called the hearing to order.

The senator further added that the country could put to good use Futures Thinking to better plan for the new normal.

“I feel it is crucial at this time that we take advantage of expertise that we can call on worldwide by virtue of these online hearings to help us understand more about what is Futures Thinking, what it means to be using this strategic tool and what it means to look at possible outcomes so we could effectively plan for the new normal,” the Committee Chair explained.

The public hearing was joined by experts from the Futures Platform: a team of futurists, and foresight analysts from Helsinki, Finland, that includes Dr. Tuomo Kuosa, the Co-Founder and Content Director; Dr. Saku Koskinen, Sales Director; and Dr. Sohail Inayatullah, member of the Content of Advisory Board.

Dr. Inayatullah presented a general discussion of what ‘Futures Thinking’ is, emphasizing that people now feel accelerated change, and that they see this change differently; thus Futures Thinking wants to make sense of this change not to predict per se but to use the Futures to change today.

 “We are all in this situation together; some are poor, some are richer. Of course, it’s unequal, but we have to learn new skill sets: futures thinking and futures literacy, which will help us to prepare for the future we wish to see,” Dr. Inayatullah said explaining how the country’s vision should be linked to its system and people.

Hon. Cayetano summarized Dr. Inayatullah’s discussion pointing out the idea that there is so much change that is happening and people will have different views and may make different stories as they take these changes from different perspectives.

“Decision makers like us would have a better sense of control of the changing environment; using Futures Thinking, we would be able, not to predict, but [be able] to see it through different lenses and create our own narrative,” Hon. Cayetano said as she gave a rundown of the discussion.

The Chairman of the Committee on SDGs, Innovation and Futures Thinking added that one of the things she learned from SDG, the new way of thinking is that budgetary process must be aligned with sustainable goals and that now she learned that it must also be aligned with Futures Thinking.

The other senators who joined the public hearing were also given time to ask questions, give insights or takeaways on the discussion.

Hon. Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa inquired about Futures Thinking entertaining another narrative which is espoused by conspiracy theorists that would tell people that COVID-19 is a biological weapon that has gone wrong.

Dr. Inayatullah reiterated that it is up to the people to believe whatever narrative they want, but as Futurists, they live in the world with scientists and technologists who have data and that their role is how they will link the vision with data and the story for transformation.

Hon. Aquilino Martin “Koko” Pimentel III pointed how the society should be more compassionate, understanding and supportive of the elderly, to which the speaker agreed to saying that people should use multiple skill sets, not just intellect, to create a better world.

“The future is going to be more complex and complicated; hence, society must be more understanding and compassionate to those who would have difficulty adjusting to this more complicated society, not only the elderly but also those who have handicaps,” Hon. Pimentel said as he noted that this is something the legislators should consider in doing the budget if they are to do some affirmative action or some support to sectors that would have difficulty adjusting to the future.

Hon. Risa Hontiveros, on the other hand, commended the concept of using the future to change the present and the narrative power value of stories.

The senator then confirmed with the speaker if the Futures Thinking mode is reflected in the scenario of trying to put together a change process among different stakeholders who never work before or work against one another before, getting all these stakeholders to commit to a common vision and then working backwards from that and adjust their interests in the present to achieve their common goals.

Dr. Inayatullah agreed to how the senator framed the scenario telling that it is brilliant and that most people use Future Thinking for risk mitigation, also for enhancement of opportunities, or for resolution of conflict, as how the Senator put it.

The next speakers, Dr. Saku Koskinen and Dr. Tuomo Kuosa gave background about the company and why they created the technological platform.

The foresight analysts stated that Futures Platform uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) based technology and Trend Radars which visualize the trends and megatrends that can shape the future and monitor possible phenomena and the changes within the phenomena, in the global perspective.

The ‘COVID-19-The World After’ Radar displays a complete view of the world post-pandemic period. The radar contains the trends which are currently happening rapidly and those that are getting stronger as well as those changes that could be unpredictable.

“Foresight as a process, as a methodology, the foresight tools [is] a great way of navigating this environment. You need to make long lasting plans for your government, you need to understand the future, this is where foresight really can help,” Dr. Koskinen said as he explained how Futures Platform help organizations deal with the challenges of overload of information and understanding foresight information.

Dr. Kuosa then gave a walkthrough in using the ‘COVID-19-The World After’ Radar, presented the data shown, decoded the representations used, and explained how to make sense of the data presented.

Dr. Inayatullah gave insights about agriculture and Futures Thinking, revealing that we are on the stage that we need to value agriculture because in the long run, it’s the end of agriculture as we know it.

Hon. Cayetano, claiming that it was difficult to fathom the end of agriculture, closed the session on a lighter note stating that the senators who are in the session could help her fund a new company that will be called New Rice, alluding to the New Milk that intends to disrupt the entire market in China.

Hon. Pimentel asked if it is possible for Philippine Senate to subscribe to the Futures Platform, to which he got an affirmation from the Dr. Inayatullah’s team.

Hon. Cayetano rejoined that it was actually what she wanted and would ask her colleague to back her up on this.

The public hearing for the innovation and strategies regarding the world after the COVID-19 pandemic will continue on Thursday, May 21, 2020 at 1:30 P.M.

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