Futurescaper for the Pax Pacifica

A few months ago I was contacted by Giorgos Georgopoulos from the Futurescaper team about the Pax Pacifica research proposal.

Futurescaper is a crowd based peer to peer foresight platform, a significant social and technical innovation and advance in the futures studies field. In its own words:

Futurescaper builds upon decades of research about how people see the the world (through metaphor, mental models, frames, and cognitive biases) and about how decisions are made (through trade-offs, group bargaining, and communities of influence). We start with stakeholders’ awareness and perspectives, then use advanced visualisation techniques to represents them as collective mental models. This reveals a picture of the complex cause and effect behind difficult issues, helping you converge on the most important areas of uncertainty and influence.

Continue reading “Futurescaper for the Pax Pacifica”

Beyond the machine: Making ecological organisations real

The Idea (What if it was easy?)

While organisations in the 19th century were principally designed around a patriarchal family model those in the 20th century (in the spirit of Max Weber and Frederick Winslow Taylor) were essentially mechanistic in design. Their ethos has been and is to ensure that a ‘idealised normality’ of simple, orderly, efficiency and certainty is both present and privileged. Consequently almost all ‘received wisdom’ in terms of organisation dynamics and institutional response in the past fifty years has followed that mantra.

Regrettably as the trailblazing entities of the emerging Collaborative Society emerge as an alternative force, in their internal arrangements they too often mimic the mechanistic arrangements of the very entities they are seeking to supplant. Over time these same internal mechanistic capacities erode the alternative ethos upon which these collaborative and networked entities rely.

Continue reading “Beyond the machine: Making ecological organisations real”

Vision Mapping Using Causal Layered Analysis

Vision Mapping is the conjunction of foresight and visioning techniques with online geo-spatial mapping technologies (such as Open Street Maps). This event is an experimental workshop where we are going to use the cultural exploration and reframing method Causal Layered Analysis, developed by Prof. Sohail Inayatullah, leveraging an open and editable visual artefact, map of Footscray or Melbourne (depending on composition of participants), to analyse and explore the cultural ands narrative dynamics of place, and develop ideas for urban resilience and urban commoning. Continue reading “Vision Mapping Using Causal Layered Analysis”

Vision Mapping – Design Update

I’m excited to announce that I’ve been given the opportunity by my good friend Darren Sharp (Social Surplus) to develop and apply the vision mapping method as part of the City of Melbourne’s Future Melbourne 2026 process.
Over the last couple of years Darren ran various map jams for the city of Yarra and Melbourne and I initiated the Maribyrnong Maker Map. During that time I began to conceptualise the possibility of linking geo-spatial mapping with visioning methodology – which I blogged on earlier.

Continue reading “Vision Mapping – Design Update”

Reinventing Democracy

reinventingdemocracy.org  is a website dedicated to documenting and compiling experiments and experiences in the reinvention of politics.

While theories of politics and democracy have value, and commentary on the political problems we face is also important, this website seeks to be a platform for documenting the solutions, innovations, inventions and experiments that are happening across the world today.

It represents the connect stage for the both the Democracy Commons idea and of the Liquid Democracy Documentation Project.

The original intention was to do a film on Liquid Democracy. Once this stalled, I reconceptualized the project as a documentation project where the video resources created and developed would be open sourced / made creative commons and opened for the public to use.

This means that the reinventingdemocracy.org site is designed as a locale for anyone to add to and to use the resources for their own reinventing democracy work / video, or to create a video on Liquid Democracy from the resources here, or a combination thereof.

In the connect stage, the idea will be to systematically add existing resources, and to connect these with various communities that have an interest in their documentation and use.

Commons Game – Initial Design Schematic

So, here is the next humble step in R&Ding the commons game.

I had a chat with friends Aaron Rosa and John Sweeney, both talented game design futurists, and we reviewed the various ideas and issues with the game as it was presented in the last blog on the game.

They recommended I produce a game “design schematic” to make the rationale, mechanics and logic of the game more explicit. And so that the design can be critiqued, refined and improved.

Here is my attempt at a design schema. I’ve even gone into premier pro to edit it (as keynote was bugging up)!

As the central idea of FuturesLab is to draw from a creative community o people in a peer to peer process to support potentially breakthrough experiments, social innovations, policy proposals, and methods / techniques, you are invited to be part of this game design process.

After reviewing the design schematic, if you have any points you want to offer to support the R&D process, please do add them on wordpress and / or the FuturesLab Facebook page.

[commons game initial design schematic slides]

The commons game – initial design schematic from Jose Ramos on Vimeo.

Democracy Commons Project

The Democracy Commons Project (DCP) is a platform to publish resources, articles, videos, collaborative networks, to act as a catalyst in stimulating the social innovation of new democratic forms and projects.

We live in a time where a new generation of political activist call for participatory democracy, and where a new generation of technologies potentiate innovative modes of political participation.

Equally however, we live at a time when political oligarchies straddle global political systems. A time when a trans national capitalist class have unprecedented influence on so-called democratic processes.

Clearly it is time for a ‘mindful’ uprising! Clearly it is time for political transformation!

The DCP aims to provide resources for the global knowledge commons to support the understanding, design and articulation of efforts at Democracy for the Commons.

As such, the project platform at http://reinventingdemocracy.org/  will likely be an amalgam of existing resources from a variety of sources, focused on social innovations in democracy / governance. I would like to see resources from a variety of media types (essays and articles) as well as projects (Loomio, Liquid Democracy, etc etc).

Stage 1 – Anticipate

This project was originally conceived as a documentary film about Liquid Democracy. Much work was done, but post production got bogged down by bureaucratic complications.

Stage 2 – Design

A decision was made to simplify things and publish existing resources as  open source / creative commons resources. The initial resources are based on Liquid Democracy videos and literature.

Stage 3 – Connect

This is the stage we are in at the time of writing. Efforts will be made across the months of Dec 2015, Jan and Feb 2016, to communicate the Liquid Democracy literature through various social media.

Stage 4  – Evolve

Based on how this engagement goes,  the project will evolve and continue with those people that have shown genuine interest in developing it.





Crowdsourcing the Pax Pacifica: A new story for cross strait relations



This project proposes a crowd-sourced foresight approach to develop a set of scenarios that addresses conflict dynamics and resolution within China-USA-Taiwan/Republic of China (ROC) cross-strait relations. The method will engage participants in generating content for a Pax Pacifica vision and story-world, in which conflict dynamics have been transcended and a win-win solution created.

There is a great need to imagine a future in which China, Taiwan/ROC, the USA, and the many other countries of the Pacific Rim, work together in deep cooperation for the common good of the region. All too often, exclusive nationalist visions and narratives of the future prevail, where one country’s victory is another’s loss. The mutual exclusivity of hyper nationalist narratives for national power and prestige, or ultra hawkish foreign policy stances, ensures a future of conflict for the region. The vision for a Pacific Peace, a “Pax Pacifica”, is needed to provide new strategic pathways and leadership for the region.

Taiwan/ROC sits at the crossroads of both Chinese aspirations and the US’ powerful legacy. Taiwan/ROC is economically embedded into the Sino-global economic system, while likewise Taiwan/ROC remains in a legacy (Cold War) alliance with the USA. One might go so far to argue that Taiwan is at the nexus of US-China relations. Therefore, forging new win-win pathways for peace and cooperation in the context of cross-strait relations can provide new pathways for peace for the whole region.

Increasingly, nationalist, International Relations and ‘realist’ framings of social relations are limiting (Hoffman, 2012). We live in a global network society where peer-to-peer collaboration works transnationally. We experience social and ecological challenges (e.g. interstate crime and climate change) that require regional and global governance cooperation. New strategic visions need to be created that include these new realities.


Crowd-sourced and networked foresight methods are at the cutting edge of research into social change and risk assessment (Ramos, 2012). Singapore’s RAHS program (Risk Assessment Horizon Scanning) is an internationally recognized government based foresight system for the early detection of risks and the generation of geo-politically informed strategic foresight (Habegger, 2010). Other well recognized government initiated crowd-sourced foresight approaches include: Finpro (part of the Finish Foresight Network) supporting the internationalisation of Finish companies (Hiltunen, 2011), the UK’s Sigma Scan 2.0, the European Commission’s iKnow futures project, and the US’ Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), which funds two projects, Forecasting World Events and Forecasting Ace. In addition to such government based projects, a variety of civic and commercial organizations also run crowd-sourced foresight, such as TechCast Global, The Institute for the Future’s ‘Foresight Engine’, Futurescaper and Shaping Tomorrow. The common thread for all of these projects is their use of modern web technologies and network strategies to support government and society in anticipating change.

This project would draw from available commercial, civic and governmental resources to create a multi-media platform where public and expert participation and dialog can be crowd-sourced to generate and develop the scenarios, the narrative and the ‘story-worlds’ (e.g. transmedia approach) for the Pax Pacifica project. While residents of Taiwan/ROC would be the primary focus of participation, the project would be open to people from other countries.

Crowd-sourced foresight may also entail localized activities (workshops / events) that provide live engagement opportunities in the context of the on-line story-world, the experience and data of which will then be added to the crowd-sourcing platform. Finally, on-line group engagements will complement the crowd-sourcing, allowing a platform for non-local but experientially rich interaction and data input. In order to maintain coherence and cross cultural accessibility, critical content of the multi-media material should be accessible across three key Pacific Rim languages: Chinese (Mandarin), English and Spanish (as well as others where support is available).

Interviews would be conducted with key experts (approx. 20), which will provide valuable inputs into the development of the Pax Pacifica scenarios, which will also be uploaded publically to the crowd-sourcing platforms, to provide impetus and provocation for the public to engage, comment and add content. The interviews would work across demographic segments: business, civic, government, and across ethnicities and nationalities.

Scenario development method

The approach to the development of scenarios for this project will utilize the Transcend Method (TM), a conflict transformation approach developed by renown peace scholar / worker Dr. Johan Galtung. The Transcend Method is a methodologically and theoretically rigorous approach to the analysis and diagnosis of conflict situations. It is recognized by the United Nations as a leading approach, and has been used to address and solve over 40 conflicts worldwide (Galtung, 2000). It has also been used in the development of conflict transformation scenarios (Inayatullah, 2008).


The method’s central premise is that, the more alternatives to a conflict situation, the less the likelihood of violence. Conflicts arise when parties aim to prevail in zero-sum win/lose solutions. China’s vision of a China Century with the annexation of Taiwan/ROC is one such win/lose solution leading to potential conflict. The US’ ‘pacific pivot’ and China containment strategy may be another win/lose solution potentially leading to conflict. The method argues that conflict avoidance (withdrawal) and compromise scenarios are better than outright conflict, but not sustainable in themselves. Lasting peace is forged through conflict transcendence, where dialog leads to genuine win-win solutions for all parties involved.

Potential Project Outputs and Outcomes:

The project could provide a space for participants in Taiwan/ROC, but also across nationalities, both live and online, to dialog a vision for a future in which cross-strait conflict has been transcended and a “Pax Pacifica” is imagined, articulated and forged. Other less desirable scenarios would also be identified: the nationalist win-lose conflict scenarios, as well as compromise/negotiation and withdrawal/prevarication scenarios. The participatory and networked nature of the project methodology would ensure a strong degree of social learning, in which a variety of people from academia, civil society and commerce can draw from the research outcomes, ideas and insights. The results of the dialog and the developed ‘story space’ would remain an online resource for the public to use. Public access to the audio and visual archival resources would be maintained.

Works Cited

Galtung, J. (2000). Conflict Transformation by Peaceful Means (The Transcend Method). Geneva: United Nations.

Habegger, B. (2010). Strategic foresight in public policy: Reviewing the experiences of the UK, Singapore, and the Netherlands. Futures, 42, 49-58.

Hiltunen, E. (2011). Crowdsourcing the future: The foresight process at finpro. Journal of Futures Studies, 16(1), 189-196.

Hoffman, J. (2012). Unpacking Images of China Using Causal Layered Analysis. Journal of Futures Studies, 16(3), 1-24.

Inayatullah, S. (2008). Six pillars: futures thinking for transforming. Foresight, 10(1).

Ramos, J. M., T. Priday, G. . (2012). Foresight in a Network Era: Peer-producing Alternative Futures Journal of Futures Studies, Forthcoming.

Visioning using online mapping technology


This proposal anticipates the creative combination of emerging online mapping technology with strategic foresight methods such as visioning, into a powerful hybrid approach.


A new generation of online and editable maps increasingly gives people from all walks of life the ability to develop custom maps for their regions, towns or local areas.

Online maps, such as Open Street Maps (https://www.openstreetmap.org) or ushahidi (http://www.ushahidi.com), give users the ability to annotate, edit and customize existing maps. These can be tailored for extremely specific applications. For example, such maps have been developed in the context of the sharing economy (http://umap.openstreetmap.fr/en/map/yarra-sharing-mapjam-2014_19638#18/-37.80178/144.97971), to provide historical information, or for specific communities, such as the Maribyrnong Maker Map (http://maribyrnongmakers.com.au).

Indeed, these open and editable systems that leverage off existing geospatial data and provide perfect platforms for context specific applications.

Screenshot 2015-11-26 23.55.24

Therefore, if such maps have already been used to map history and the present, it is a logical step to consider the use of such mapping systems to map preferred, probable, and possible futures.


In the field of strategic foresight there are a wide number of visioning techniques and methodologies. As a starting point three complimentary approaches are proposed, which can be blended as needed given various contextual situations.

Appreciative Inquiry

The first visioning approach is based on appreciative inquiry (AI). AI begins with a “discovery” phase were participants uncover the resources, strengths and assets they have as a community. Once participants get clarity on their resources, they move on to the “dream” phase where they can envision the best of what can be. The “design” phase follows were participants put together concrete plans and designs for enacting the dream.



(see: Ludema et al ‘Appreciative Inquiry’ Handbook of Action Research, Sage 2002).

AI is a strong fit with online mapping technology for a number of reasons. Mapping technology offers a strong canvas for which to conduct the discover phase and do community asset and resource mapping. Online maps then provide a canvas from which to dream in a geo-spatially rich way. Participants can use layers to add their visions in ways which are spatially specific. Finally, online maps compliment the design phase, allowing concrete elements to be super-imposed on the maps.

Causal Layered Analysis

The second visioning approach proposed is Causal Layered Analysis (CLA), developed by Sohail Inayatullah. CLA is an approach which analyses an issue based of for levels: Litany, Social Causes, Worldviews / Discourses and Myth / Metaphor.


CLA provides a way of reframing the social constructs that explain or give meaning to shared situations and events. It breaks apart social construct into 4 parts, and delves into each in a U-type process.

Applied to an online geo-spatial mapping tool, CLA provides a way for participants to move quickly from the sound bites and trivial stories about a particular place, into a more comprehensive understanding of the social forces impacting and shaping a place, and then deeper into the perspectives and cultures that imbue a locale. Finally, participants can get a sense of the narrative that has guided the develop of a place over time. Rather than just abstract ideas, the online map will allow these four layers to be embedded into the map itself, in geographically specific ways, so that the sources of each data point are geographical as well as qualitative.

When CLA is used on the up-turn, for re-framing, participants query a new story or narrative for the locale or region, and then begin to add geographically specific elements across categories of culture, systems and measurements.

Futures Action Model  

The Futures Action Model (FAM), developed by myself (in collaboration with many colleagues), is a framework which enables the rapid prototyping and rigorous conceptual development of breakthrough strategies, designs and models. FAM is a comprehensive approach in which team and network-based creative and analytic processes enable new strategies and models to emerge. It was designed to accelerate participants’ ability to ideate breakthroughs that are the seeds of the futures we intend to grow.

Screenshot 2015-11-27 00.05.51

FAM has four levels: 1) emerging futures, 2) global responses, 3) the community of the initiative and the 4) core model. Applied to an online mapping process, emerging futures would give space for participants to map the trends, emerging issues, and wildcards that could have an impact on a region. Participants would also map the global responses that are significant in relation to the issue or inquiry. Importantly, such maps can easily scale to global dimensions and easily allow for the embedding of data across a planetary scale while simultaneously maintaining a focus frame on local questions. Mapping a community of the initiative (the key partners in the enterprise ecosystem) would be especially useful through such mapping technologies, providing a place to map partners in a visually clear and localized way. Finally, the core model can emerge in relation to what has already been documented through the other layers, but can also be given specificity of place or geography if necessary.


Commons Game – Initial Design Features

Ever have an idea that will simply not go away … it is stuck in your head and it won’t leave until you actually get it out? well, this is one of those ideas: The Commons Game.

I wrote about the idea for a Commons Game about a year ago, let it go, but now it is here again.

I was reminded of a design feature that I was taught by Nicolas Mendoza, on a train trip from Berlin to Luneburg. It is a very simple but powerful idea, and I think now it would be key to any type of commons game.

The analogy comes by way of bitcoin. In the bit coin community, people ‘mine’ coins by formulating the next block of encryption that the system depends on to maintain an unbreakable public ledger. If they do it well, they may be rewarded with bit coins.

Now I will not go intro the politics of bit coin, whether it is an anarcho-libertarian challenge to capitalism, yet another ponzi scheme within capitalism, or just an adjunct to capitalism, or even a facilitator as the worst form of capitalism (silk roads drug trade). I know I know I KNOW that bit coin has many detractors! I am not advocating for bit coin! I simply care about the analogy.

The system ensures that people are awarded value for producing something a community values. In short, mining is the act of working for the values a community holds. In the case of bit coin, the community values the ability to effectively encrypt the next block in a chain of blocks that act as a public ledger. By doing this, the integrity of the coinage is ensured (making it hard or impossible to digitally duplicate or corrupt). From a crypto currency point of view, this is real value. Who wants to trade a digital coin that can be easily forged or corrupted?

The way that Nicolas explained it, to create a credit system that does ‘commoning’ (the verb that describes the act of generating a common), a community must gather to decide what they commonly value, and what they want to assign value to. If a community for example value the planting of trees in public spaces, they can assign value to that. If a community values care for the elderly or frail, they can assign value to that as well. Thus, a community establishes an agreement on what is of value for them collectively.

When a person then plants a tree in a public space, or provides care for the elderly, from within that community, they are rewarded. By way of analogy, they ‘mine’ credit by carrying out the activities that a community values and has assigned values to. Or in more general terms, they mine credit through ‘commoning’ – improving upon the world that a community values.

Design features of game 

I’m now moving toward converging on some of the conceptual design features of the game. It is likely that this game will be run in Melbourne in 2016, potentially using crowdfunding as a way to crib together a community of commoners to make it happen.

  1. The game brings together a community of people to create and exchange what is understood as “Commons Credits (CCs)”. CCs are tradable units.
  2. We will convene a community, through a crowd fund or other mechanism. The community will pick a number of activities which will be designated “commoning”. They will choose the value of the activities.
  3. In this way people are allowed to ‘mine’ (CCs). There would be certain limits to the trading by way of boundaries designated by the game design or community, as we don’t want them to be abused, hoarded etc.
  4. Then we need to put the CCs into action – it has no value if it has no avenues for exchange – e.g. a market.
  5. Therefore we need a critical number of game players. I’m thinking at least 100, but it is more a question at this point. How do we get these game players? Hence the idea of a crowd fund – to attract those people interested in experimenting with this. Perhaps for $20 / person one gets a chance to be in the game, mine and exchange CCs.
  6. Another question would be – would people simply have the right to buy CCs? Ideally no – as we want the creation of CCs to be linked to something the community says does commoning (e.g. planting trees, teaching english to migrants, maintaining the ability for the CCs community to function, etc.). But the problem is we need CCs to have a market to exchange. So perhaps only once – at the very start of the game when people opt in a they get a one off amount – after that CCs must be mined. As well, buying into the game is a commoning act – it potentiates the game. By definition buying into the game is the first mining activity. The challenge is for the market to be robust enough so that a credit system has a way to function / be exchanged.
  7. Therefore we would also need a register of all members and what they are willing to exchange for a commons credit. (All goods and services would need to be ethical and ensure that they support local and global commons).  There would also need to be some guarantee that they would exchange that service and at an acceptable price.
  8. As previously mentioned, to be able to mine we need agreement on what is of shared value. The game facilitators would perhaps start with 2-3 suggestions. However live meetings would help. Facilitators would convene meetings to ideate new commoning activities and assign value to them, or remove previous activities that are not working.
  9. Potentially, we could introduce a Liquid Democracy voting system as a way for members to propose and debate new commoning activities and the value these activities carry. This could later be made binding.
  10. Also, there would need to be a way to authenticate a commoning act. If someone claims to have spent 5 hours teaching english (or just helping) a migrant, we need a way to make sure they have actually done this. How can this be done?
  11. To further encourage the exchange of CCs, points can be give for particular achievements, e.g. most diverse exchanges (with the most variety of people).
  12. The purpose of the game would be to raise the profile of the idea of the commons through an engaging game format. A key outcome would be for people in this nascent community to get to know the idea of the commons and to meet other people who are likeminded, develop some relationship and deepen connections and the ability to collaborate. If this isn’t creating the commons – then nothing is.

I’ll be building a team around this idea in the expectation of carrying out this experiment in 2016. Please contact me if you want to be involved or just keep track of it all.