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Artificial intelligence, climate change, and the rise of the developing world are just some factors driving change in the Asia-Pacific and beyond. The complex consequences arising from these changes are impossible to predict with precision. They also make traditional planning methods based on linear extrapolation techniques redundant.
To enable member countries to adopt modern foresight- and scenario-based, long-term strategic planning, the Asian Productivity Organization (APO) along with the National Productivity Secretariat (NPS) of Sri Lanka conducted a Scenario Planning Development training course in Colombo, 15–20 October 2018. It was the third in a series of training-of-trainers workshops conducted by the APO to build the capability of public-sector organizations in member countries to set forward-looking strategic directions using the plausible scenario development approach.
The five-day training course was designed to explain the functions of and requirements for establishing a strategic foresight center at the national level, including possible approaches or frameworks to institutionalize foresight thinking in overall development planning. It consisted of presentations by resource persons, group training, and exercises.
Delivering the keynote address, APO Alternate Director for Sri Lanka and Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Public Administration, Management and Law and Order P.G.D. Pradeepa Serasinghe stressed the importance of scenario planning and future thinking to deal with a world of scarcity. “While resources may be limited, creativity is unlimited and using techniques such as foresight allows us to leverage these capacities to deal with scarcity head-on,” she commented.
The training course was attended by 14 participants from six APO member countries. It was conducted by two international experts: Director of Designer Futures Dr. Anita Sykes-Kelleher; and Director of Looking Up, Feeling Good Marcus Barber. Both are co-founders of the Australian Center for Strategic Foresight. NPS Director G.U.K. Algewattage delivered the welcome address, while APO Secretariat Research and Planning Department Consultant Polchate Kraprayoon explained the link between foresight and productivity enhancement and the need for adopting strategic foresight for planning in the public sector.
Participants learned how to integrate strategic foresight practices into their work as public servants and in developing policy. They were also introduced to other methodologies, tools, and approaches used in foresight outside of scenario planning. An important aspect was training in “backcasting,” a methodology that helps uncover hidden assumptions within scenarios. This methodology is used to test the validity and plausibility of scenario narratives. The workshop culminated with the participants developing four scenarios centered on key issues and uncertainties affecting the Asia-Pacific region.