Human Futures No. 2 May 2018 - Page 44

Thus, I set off alone on this journey to bring the power of strategic foresight into the international development assistance community, by organizing workshops for management and doing my work in this way. It did not take then – I admit. But now, almost fifteen years later, I am vindicated as I see the International financial institutions beginning to support a few scenario exercises and we see that the UN is proposing that foresight training be adopted for all national planning agencies. In fact the agencies in the UN are employing a few futurists here and there. I did not plan to start The Futures Forum. In fact, I assumed that given my profile, I would quickly find work in a Futures Think Tank or consulting firm. After all, I thought, such organizations would be actively looking for diversity in order to better identify the diverse futures; and thus, someone with my profile (woman, black, engineer, 30 years of development planning across all sectors, and a proven creative i.e. playwright and performance poet) would be in high demand. However, job postings were few and far between. Worse, I could not even get an informational interview. I have put it down to ‘blindsight’. The Futures consulting industry is mostly white and male – much like other consulting industries, benign bias is the norm. So, rather than keep on beating my head on a wall, I decided to do what I have always done, when faced with a barrier – roll up my sleeve and get cracking to break down the walls. I started The Futures Forum to provide a platform and access to people of diverse backgrounds especially scientists and engineers – women and minorities – whose voices don’t usually get heard. I was the only Black woman in all my engineering classes at University of Buffalo 44 and Purdue University. I was the first Black woman engineer hired at the Bank where I worked. I know that making change is not easy. But, I have never been able to retreat in the face of opposition, when it comes to things I am passionate about. I am passionate about global challenges. I am passionate and helping to crew Spaceship Earth to #Thrival2030. If Bob Marley’s song ‘One Love’ can be a global anthem, then my views can be a global call to change. When I began the work (unassigned and unwanted) of promoting economic inclusion of people of African Descent in Latin America – it was not the status quo. When I wrote and published that racism and racial discrimination in the Americas were a primary reason for endemic poverty – it was not a popular stance. I believed then and now that while I may not able to write like Stiglitz and Sachs, my worldview with respect to global development challenges is equally valid. I see the global challenges as systems of systems challenges that are often under-resolved owing to the fact that most decision-makers in the leadership of the development assistance industry are not systems thinkers. I truly believed then and now that development assistance would be improved by application of what I call evolutionary leadership – of which foresight is a critical skill. So despite the initial lack of enthusiasm by the gatekeepers of the ‘Futurati’ that is the leadership of the Futures community, I persisted and still persist. Early on, I borrowed the mantra –of Zora Neale Hurston who when asked about discrimination said, “It astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It’s beyond me.” M AY 2 0 1 8 My persistence has paid off. It resulted in Tim Mack inviting me to join the Board of the World Futures Review Journal and to be the Special Guest Editor on a theme near and dear to my heart, i.e. Agenda 2030 and Our Shared Future – which has now led to an enduring working relationship with the former editor – Lane Jennings. He is my muse for writing Future Poetry and is a sounding board for many of my various project ideas. I also sit on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Futures Studies. But truly, there is a lot to do, we have a long way to go, and given my age, I am in a hurry. 2030 is around the corner and 2040 coming up closely behind. Why the trends project with women futurists? One notices that there are not too many women who style themselves as futurists. So over the years, I have made it a mission to capture what women are thinking and doing to shape the future. Our podcast interviews diverse change makers and leaders that are at the forefront of change, but who don’t often get quoted or noted. The trends project is an outshoot of my angst against the status quo. Every year when company X, Y or Z proclaims trends of one sort or another, it is a rarity to find women futurists quoted. So rather than complain (a useless exercise) I decided to get busy and invited women futurists I knew to send in their ideas on Trends to Watch in 2018. It was fun work. And, now that I have launched the concept, I realize that it is the first of its kind, and I am beginning to feel given the response that this just might be something worth doing again. Even though I have not done any studies to see how women’s views sta ck up against the men’s views – I think it is good that leaders in companies HUMAN FUTURES and organizations that use these documents for planning purposes, now have a documented review of what women are watching. I am committed to the idea that in order to make our shared future work for more people, leaders need diverse perspectives on the emerging future. There are people who are concerned about the lack of diversity, in the ‘futurati’. The invitations I have received to speak to the US Air Force or the American Association for the Advancement of Science or World Steel Association are confirmation that The Futures Forum is needed. I believe it is better to light a candle, than curse the darkness. It is my hope that by doing work that I believe in, I will find the clan of people who are also committed to creating our shared futures through more diverse perspectives -- one scenario, one story at a time. . Providentia’s Prospectus: thefuturesforum/docs/providentias_prospectus. final_a112660b265d05 45