Puruesh Chaudhary is a futures researcher and strategic narrative professional. She has a professional master’s degree in International Negotiation and Policymaking from Institut De Hautes Études Internationales Et Du Développement, Geneva. Her work mostly involves futures research, knowledge-collaborations and content intelligence within the framework of human security. She has featured amongst the world’s top female futurists. She is the Founder and President of AGAHI, a non-governmental organization, which works extensively on creating shared spaces for interactive learning, collaborative thinking and knowledge sharing. Pakistan Foresight Initiative is a project of AGAHI which aims to improve policymaking and strategic narratives on key priority areas of the Foresight Lab; facilitative platform – a thinkware that is engaging legislators, strategists, academicians and the community for developing shared understanding for effective implementation of decisions. She has produced foresight research compilation on Pakistan State of Future Index ‘Anticipating 2027’ a single measure that indicates that the country is relatively improving over the next 10 years; The Future of Pakistan up to 2060 building on four possible scenarios; is a published co-author for ‘The Future of Business’ a critical insight on rapidly changing world; The Big Idea: Next Generation of Leadership in Pakistan needs a ‘New-Think’ analytical overview of foresight decision-making and strategic narratives in country. In an exclusive interview for Pakistan Politico, Puruesh Chaudhary shares her views with us on the Pakistan Foresight Initiative and Pakistan State of Future Index report.
Q: What is “Futures”?
Puruesh Chaudhary: In a world of policythinkers and strategists this is not anything new – to think through; several governments, large corporations alike postulate possible, plausible, probable, and preferable futures. They study the worldviews and the myths that underlie them. This helps them create options, list decisions, test ideas, leading to actionable insights – the decision-makers in this sort of world in order to navigate, are continuously building on the sense of comprehension about the general direction in which something is developing or changing. And this what essentially Futures is.
Q:What is Foresight Lab and how do you distinguish it from any other research Lab?
Puruesh Chaudhary: The Lab is an open, systematic, participatory process that supports research design and formulation of policies as a result with a medium- to long-term perspective. It is more of a thinkware. There is an element of strategic thinking, which informs policy-making and enables strategic planning and action into implementation. This data-driven process is invariably very different from any of the Labs or Think tanks in the country – it systematically enables a discourse that creates futures by examining the past trends generating collective insight without prejudicing the autonomy of individuals or organizations participating.
Over the course of four years, we have been engaging different universities across Pakistan. And the way the lab is evolving, it has a technical team, domain specialists, a policy network, and a council are – and all of this is dynamic, intrinsically human-dependent and yet at the backhand we constantly improving the tools that we could make available for the academia. In short, there is an inherent dynamism which constantly fuels the ideation process. But say for instance, if this process does not lead us to being ahead of the curve, nor at the tail end of the innovative exercise, then we have to rethink, advance our agility and our capacity for sensemaking.
The purpose is very simple. If we are to improve Pakistan’s state of competitiveness or even the wellbeing of the people then it inherently depends on the ‘choices’ it creates in collaboration with multiple stakeholders as a shared value proposition; in a manner done for the decisions needed to be taken for a better tomorrow.
Q:What elements are essential for the “Futures Study and Research?
Puruesh Chaudhary: Data is critical to Futures’ research, but so is the expert knowledge and most importantly our perception of time. There are so many different ways of doing futures; one of which we have done recently is generating the state of future index report on 30 variables classified across social, technological, environment, economic and political imperatives. What we are further exploring is how would different trends affect the conditions of Pakistan across different timeframes. This will be quant-driven research in which we would study the impact of future events, the gaps in policy thinking, the possible actions required. Millennium Project, a global futures studies and research think tank, our knowledge and technical partner, has one of the most elaborate compilation on futures methods and techniques. Each year the team connects to its 63 Nodes all over world and reviews humanity’s 15 global challenges. This provides a very thorough framework to assess the global and local prospects for humanity. This effort enriches views, deepens the perspective – and really establishes unique global linkages.
Q:How is the Futures research likely to affect Government, Corporate Sector, Academia, and the Research community?
Puruesh Chaudhary: Due to increasing complexities and the socio-cultural dynamics of modern societies that comes with improving access to information and knowledge, the magnitude and therefore the nature of challenges that arise alongwith provokes a greater attention from the policymakers. Much of the world today, is gradually shifting from the grandiosity of geopolitics to bringing its immediate attention towards the cities and local communities. And, as and when the focus of power gravitates towards the individual, it will be up to the systems’ thinkers to prevent crises and negative effects of heightened intricacies. Foresight can facilitate the impact factors that can trigger the drivers of change to move in a direction that is in the wellbeing of the people. In the near-term, some of these drivers include but are not limited to: youth demographics, talent markets, artificial intelligence. And this affects everyone.
Q:What feedback have you received on Pakistan State of Future Index “Anticipating 2027” publication launched in 2017?
Puruesh Chaudhary: Although futures effort in the public space is very recent in Pakistan, but the feedback we have been receiving from the global foresight community, our very own academics, think tanks has been very encouraging. In Pakistan State of Future Index “Anticipating 2027” we attempted taking stock of the last 20 years. Recognizing that a lot has changed , the State of the Future Index indicated the 10-year outlook for the future of Pakistan. The Pakistan State of Future Index is based on historical data of selected variables for the previous 20 or in some cases more years and on judgments about the best and worst plausible 10-year outcomes for each variable. SOFI is constructed with key variables that are individually forecast and that in aggregate can indicate the potential trend of the future. SOFI is useful for assessing the consequences of different policies and for showing the combined potential outcomes in an easy to understand fashion. We are now working much closely with the academia in refining our canvas of approaching the challenges and the opportunities of Pakistan, in a rather systematic and holistic manner.
Q:How do you see Futures evolve in Pakistan at the federal and at the provincial level?
Puruesh Chaudhary: In Pakistan, we do not have a Futures Studies programme at the tertiary level. This reflects lack of an overall national discourse as well. However, this is not to say that there is no space for this form of learning. If systematically pursued, we will move towards transformational changes that would contribute greatly towards the wellbeing of the people. There is a need to connect foresight to decision-making in government training programmes in a way that a network could be developed for quick environmental assessments to improve insights that will gradually build the capacity to postulate random future events that may affect the policies. The Pakistan State of Future Index can greatly contribute towards organizing relevant knowledge of the local context in a manner that can identify policy gaps and provide space for new thinking. This should lead to establishing a permanent parliamentary “Committee for the Future,” as Finland has done to provide foresight to other parliamentary committees to improve their decision-making. Foresight Lab therefore can create a collective intelligence system linking related units in government agencies and e-government systems which can participate in informal long-term strategy networks to share best practices. Pakistan is a resource-stressed and a poorly- governed country – so, this way of thinking suggests that there is a need to take:
- An undertaking of an overall strategic review of the national system
- Process for identifying priorities for innovative actions with a multi-layered data-driven approach
- Mechanism for building common visions among actors and stakeholders
- Engaging wider expertise on human knowledge enabling robust decisions exploring alternate pathways
- Creating the likelihood of greater consensus on matters related to national security