Spotlight on Sohail Inayatullah

In the lead up to the Asia Pacific@Hawaii Futures, we wanted to ask speaker Dr. Sohail Inayatullah to reflect on his work in the Asia-Pacific region. We put forth four questions. This is what he had to say!

1) What are the top three changes you’ve seen in the Asia-Pacific region over the past 10 years?

  1. Wealth accumulation
  2. Rise of China
  3. Confidence – An Asia that can say “Yes” to itself – shift in self-image as non-west to centre of global economy

2) How have you seen foresight successfully enacted within Asia-Pacific contexts?

There are many examples. In Malaysia, scenarios and envisioning were used as part of a long-range plan at Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang and Universiti Teknikal Malaysia in Melaka. We also worked with the Ministry of Higher Education. From Singapore to Bangladesh, I have seen foresight become an integral part of the planning and policy process but also be a tool for capacity and team-building within a variety of organizations.

3) What would you say drives your work in the Asia-Pacific region?

At one level, there is a great demand for foresight in the region, so it is a place to do good work with good people. At another level, there is an opportunity to empower people to envision and craft truly alternative futures, which is to say help them not to make the mistakes of the West and, perhaps most importantly, jump out ahead and raise the bar for what might lie ahead.

4) What is the biggest challenge and opportunity facing the Asia-Pacific region?

At Tamkang University, we are working to build a culture of foresight. Developing an appropriate and impactful foresight curriculum for 75,000 students over the past 10 years has been an immense challenge, but it has also been an extraordinary opportunity, especially to move beyond the “used futures” epidemic. There is always a tension between innovation/foresight and the historical “used futures” that suggest “copy-and-pasting” is the best pathway forward. Ultimately, the biggest challenge is bringing futures to the centre of policy thinking and finding creative and engaging ways of making it a core capacity throughout the region.

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