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June 2007 Archives

June 26, 2007

Googleffiti

Dr. Joseph Voros of Swinburne University's Strategic Foresight program offers the following gem:

I was sitting here thinking about what to call things written for the purposes of being seen by Google Earth -- graffiti for Google, as it were, when it hit me:

Googleffiti, GOOG-le-FI-ti, n, pictures, words, symbols or glyphs created expressly for the purpose of being seen from space-based imaging devices and visible to anyone through Google Earth.

This is an example:

53 32'19.50"N, 1 20'49.22"W

Note the pronunciation: not Google - ffIti, but GOOG-le-FI-ti.

June 25, 2007

Advocacy and consulting: conflictual or compatible?

Something that has often held my attention the past couple of weeks is the conscious and unconscious roles of advocacy in futures work. This is particularly so in the context of where I currently work: a consulting firm that is specialised (at least on paper, the reality often seems different) in sustainability, or sustainable development - along with the often uninspiring area of corporate responsibility. As someone who has been a passionate advocate for these issues for many years and an activist it is clear to me that advocacy (along with toned-down activism) often creeps into my work... sometimes without me "knowing", other times because I want it to; because I feel nothing less than a compulsion to get people/organisations to ACT NOW to help address the myriad challenges that we face.

In analysing the current and emering issues facing a client I could, for example, only want to pay attention to the ones that are likely to lead them to embrace the concept of sustainability or to help create some aspect of the my preferred future. This may or may not be, strictly speaking, good advice (which is what a consultant is asked to provide - to lead to actions in the best interests of his or her client that will help them to achieve their objectives). Or it may be. Increasingly detached, unemotional analysis - which is the kind that I typically have to write in formal reports for clients - leaves me feeling cold... the meaning is lost in the translation... and it makes me want to join an international NGO and do some campaigning or advocacy work. What about you - do you ever grapple with this? How do you resolve these kinds of conflicts if you encounter them> What are the ethical dilemmas in amongst all of this??

A chance run-in to Sohail Inayatullah a week or so ago gave me the opportunity to ask Sohail his views on the topic...

Continue reading "Advocacy and consulting: conflictual or compatible?" »

June 18, 2007

Take a break from Enviro-Economic 'doom and gloom'

The Age today carries a truly inspiring story of what many might now consider "getting it right" with balancing the economy, the environment and society generally. Or in a word, a viable sustainability.

Vaxjo in Sweden started heading for fossil fuel independence in 1996. They hope to finally be free from oil by 2020 (they have no real fossil fuel resources themselves to speak of). And, while there are challenges ahead, they seem basically on track. The interesting lesson for other Western countries (although the article emphasises the interest that China is showing in their success) is that they have done it while keeping growth at 5%, unemployment at 4% and they've also been phasing out nuclear energy along the way.

Admittedly the Swedish culture is quite different from other nations of the world – its communal, progressive, nature loving features are hard to find so deeply embedded in other countries. But while their collective value system may be playing a huge role in their success with transitioning to sustainability, it isn’t something that can't be compensated for to some degree by novel approaches in other areas . Innovation being something that most Western countries pride themselves on.

So, instead of the doom and gloom, take a break, and be refreshed by the arctic fresh air of one viable pathway to a desirable, sustainable and prosperous future.

June 14, 2007

Quality Management Resources

For the past 2 months I've been in a quality management role at Australia's Swinburne University. Here I've started to gather some online resources on quality and its relationship to process, project and risk management; benchmarking; internal audits; and other methodologies.

Swinburne 2015

Swinburne University's Vice-Chancellor Ian Young has released a discussion paper, Swinburne 2015:

I encourage people to read this paper and discuss the proposals within it with their local manager, Dean or Head of School. I also welcome email comments from staff. Over the next few months, I intend to discuss these proposals widely within the University and obtain input from staff and students, which will enable us to refine and develop the proposals within this paper.

This should be an exciting time for the University as we define our
future and consider what we wish to achieve.

I look forward to your input.

How does Swinburne 2015 rate as a discussion paper on the probable future for a higher education institution? What "alternative futures" could Swinburne explore?

June 13, 2007

Ken Wilber's Integral Politics

For the past several years American philosopher Ken Wilber has been working on several new books that promise to expand and deepen his "integral" frameworks (as part of a broader initiative: the Integral Institute).

The first book is the long-awaited second volume of the "Kosmos" trilogy, after Wilber's Sex, Ecology, Spirituality (1996). The second book is The Many Faces of Terrorism which Wilber revealed in an Integral Naked podcast discussion, and which we've exchanged emails on, due to my postgrad studies in foresight, counter-terrorism and international relations.

Wilber has now revealed that Many Faces is now an Integral Politics trilogy. You can read three excerpts here: the AQAL Code, Integral Politics and A Summary of Its Essential Ingredients.

I'll give some feedback & reflections once I've read the draft excerpts.

Surveys of Futures in Higher Education

The World Futures Studies Federation has made available the Surveys of Futures in Higher Education study (PDF) that Jose Ramos compiled in 2002-03 as a Swinburne MSSF program intern.

I remember one of Ramos's "counterintuitive" findings was the growth of Futures Studies and Strategic Foresight courses in Europe and the Asia-Pacific, which challenged the view that FS was dominated by US courses.

Does anyone know if the WFSF or another professional futures organisation is planning a follow-up study?

June 12, 2007

Gabrielle Doonan on Organisational Storytelling

One Thousand & One's Gabrielle Doonan contends that "organisational storytelling" is a powerful methodology for change managers:

Essentially, change management is replacing existing stories in people's heads with new stories about the future. Narrative and story imagery are powerful ways to paint this vision of the future.

Cognitive Edge, formerly known as Cynefin, has been exploring this methodology for organisational change and knowledge management through its exemplar Dave Snowden.

Two fellow Swinburne MFFS alumni who are experts in this field: Luke Naismith and Tetradian's Tom Graves.

Robert Jungk: Secrecy In Futures Research

Note: Provided for self-education purposes only.

In considering at last the social role of science and technology, many natural scientists, especially physicists and biologists, have severely criticised the negative impact of security measures and proprietary barriers on the free exchange of all ideas, experiments and results created in laboratories and institutes. A similar stand has not yet been taken by those studying the future.

Yet all branches of forecasting are strongly affected by the ‘factor S’ (S for secrecy), because it puts deliberate obstacles into the field of vision; worse yet it may oblige those who are ‘in the know’ to publish half-truths because they are forced to leave out a decisive piece of information.

Imagine a panel of specialists working on a comprehensive study about the present and expected future energy resources of a nation. Among them might be those who have inside knowledge of some decisive breakthrough. They are immediately faced with the problem of how they should discuss the matter, or indeed if they should discuss it at all. They must weigh up the importance of their obligations to the community and to their employers, and they must decide whether to put their name to a survey they know to be partly wrong.

Continue reading "Robert Jungk: Secrecy In Futures Research" »

About June 2007

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