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Integral Futures

How is integral theory translated into futures studies? Deepening conversations, creating more holistic images for the future, putting the practitioners' own development as an important element in facilitating futures workshops… Rihcard Slaughter et al in the Australian futures community have a lot to say about it. A related, although somewhat different concept is “embodied foresight” discussed by Josh Floyd, Alex Burns and Jose Ramos - reading notes below.

Among the central discoveries of the Integral approach is that is it 'depth within the practitioner that determines how well or badly any particular method is used'. This is one of those rare 'new ideas' that changes everything. Among many other things it directs attention back and away from methods per se to the personal (and to some extent, social) interiors from which they emerged in the first place and upon which they entirely depend. Being a 'good futurist' or an 'effective foresight practitioner' is no longer a question that hinges on a one-dimensional concern for cognitive capacity! Many other lines of capability are involved along with requisite stages of development. A corollary is that the kinds of answers, solutions, that are now required cannot, in principle, be found in the domain of conventional thinking, conventional work (what I call 'problem oriented' futures). The latter has run its course and is now exhausted for non-trivial uses.

Both forecasting and scenarios focus largely on the external world. (…) If we direct our attention mainly to the external aspects of the human predicament then ways forward will forever elude us. The global context becomes a trap for humanity. In practice such conventional ‘exterior’ approaches to world issues cover only part of the territory.

Critical Futures Studies, on the other hand, examined what might be called the ‘social interiors.’ That is, it saw the familiar exterior forms of society (populations, technologies, infrastructure and so on) as grounded in, and dependent upon, powerful social factors such as worldviews, paradigms and values. (…) Critical futures work, however, itself lacked something essential – deeper insight into the nature and dynamics of individual agency. By addressing this missing element Integral Futures has, in a sense, completed a long process of disciplinary development, perhaps resulting in a new phase of innovation and change.

According to Wilber, “the upper half of the diagram represents individual realities; the lower half, social or communal realities. The right half represents exterior forms – what things look like from the outside; and the left hand represents interior forms – what things look like from within.”

Post-conventional work recognizes that the entire external world is constantly ‘held together’ by interior structures of meaning and value. (…) human activities everywhere are supported by subtle but powerful networks of value, meaning and purpose that are socially created and often maintained over long periods of time. Post-conventional work draws on these more intangible domains and certainly demands more of practitioners. It means, for example, that a focus on various ‘ways of knowing’ (e.g. empirical, psychological, critical) becomes unavoidable.

The next step was to begin to correlate different approaches and methods in futures/ foresight work with a new appreciation of the ‘individual interiors,’ the unique inner world of each person. One widely known approach was through ‘spiral dynamics,’ based on the work of Clare Graves.

Such developments imply that successful practice involves more than mastering some of the better-known futures techniques. One of the most striking discoveries is that it is levels of development within the practitioner that, more than anything else, determine how well (or badly) any particular methodology will be used or any practical task will be performed.

Integral Futures frameworks acknowledge the complexity of systems, contexts and interconnected webs of awareness and activity.

Integral Futures practitioners will therefore not be content with merely tracking external ‘signals of change.’ They will also become proficient in exploring different perspectives to find approaches that are appropriate to different situations.

From Integral Futures by Richard Slaughter

A key concept underlying Integral Theory is to include as many perspectives, styles, and methodologies as possible when exploring a topic

Integral Theory suggests that four irreducible perspectives (subjective, inter-subjective, objective, and inter-objective) should be consulted when attempting to fully understand any topic or aspect of reality.

The upper left Intentional (subjective) is the individual’s interior world, which can only be accessed via interpretation. The concerns are individual motivation, changes in people’s values, perceptions, and goals, and the meaning of life.

The upper right Behavioural (objective) is the individual’s exterior world, in which individual behaviour can be observed. The concerns are changes in the ways people act externally, e.g. voting patterns, consumer behavior, reproductive practices, etc.

The lower right Social (inter-objective) is the collective exterior world, often referred to as the physical world, or the world of systems and infrastructure. The concerns are objectively measurable changes in natural and constructed external environments.

The lower left Cultural (inter-subjective) is the collective interior world of the shared meaning of groups, as expressed in the culture. The concerns are shared collective structures, such as changes in languages, cultures, and institutions.

Chris Stewart applied Integral Theory to scenario planning. He suggested that the two most important criteria for scenarios are relevance and diversity of worldviews to provide appropriate depth and breadth. He proposed a generic scenario method using Integral and provided case study examples. His article provided the foundation for the four quadrant model along with principle of practice (POP) for incorporating them into a generic scenario method model.

Slaughter (…) imparts an observation of how Integral Theory has enhanced the futurist’s techniques for scenarios, environmental scanning, the T-cycle, and causal layered analysis. For scenarios and scenario planning, ‘In summary, the integral approach allows us to take scenario planning to a new and more capable stage of development. It means that we can go a long way beyond simple, pragmatic ‘mental models’ and the ‘generic business idea’ (themselves innovations in their time) to framing perceptions and the developmental capacities that underlie them. It also means that researchers and scenario planners can be more aware of the multitude of ways in which their own enculturation and interior development directly and profoundly affect everything they do.’

From: The Evolution of Integral Futures: A Status Update by Terry Collins & Andy Hines

Embodied Foresight

Embodied Foresight and Trialogues:

At the heart of an integral approach to any sphere of activity and inquiry is inclusion of the greatest possible number of perspectives, and practitioner reflection.

Methodology, though, is about more than the tools used: it involves careful atten- tion to the stance taken by the practitioner in the use of tools to enact knowledge and understanding.

Toward Integral Enactment: Trialogues & Embodied Foresight We argue that integral enactment of Integral Future methodologies is itself a meta- methodology within which tools and practices should be enacted. We explore this via a process of 'trialogue'–three-way deep dialogue–through which the outlines of an approach to futures and foresight practice called Embodied Foresight emerges. The 'trialogue' process has evolved primarily from David Bohm's dialogue methodology (Bohm, 1996), and the Omega Institute exploratory discussions helmed by the late ethno-botanist Terence McKenna (Abraham, McKenna, & Sheldrake, 1998).

Embodied Foresight involves the enactment of integral principles in day-to-day living and aims to make our work as practitioners continuous with our being. It incor- porates a new approach to understanding ethical practice, based on heightened sensi- tivity to the specific, local context in which methodology is enacted. At the heart of Embodied Foresight is the development of capacity to sit with uncertainty and not- knowing, to develop tolerance and acceptance of the discomfort that comes with doubt. A healthy relationship with doubt is seen as central to good practice within a conceptual understanding of the future as non-predictable and in-determinant.

Anticipatory Action Research (AAR) provides a counter-balancing force to Integral Theory and Futures Studies. It situates the theory development phase in a Theory-Action-Review cycle (TAR). Action is necessary to test the epistemological and ontological dimensions of theories, and to foresee the real-world impacts. Wisdom traditions engage with Review via self-reflexive inquiry, contemplative prac- tices and communal/group verification.

Jose Ramos: I would like to make a distinction between Integral Theory as an abstract model, something drawn up, for example, on graph paper, neat and orderly, and on the other hand Integral Theory as transformed by its lived context, as appear- ing distinct depending on the situation and circumstance that arises. The abstract model is Integral Theory as an intellectual enterprise, and the contextual transforma- tion is Integral Theory as embodied. I have more faith in the latter, a contextual under- standing of integral approaches to any domain of knowledge and practice, which is transformed through its visceral and practical marriage with contexts.

circumstances. As context is our concrete marriage with the world, Integral Theory in this latter sense means a meaningful and healthy relating, from the personal to the organisational etc.

Contexts are myriad and numberless. Thus an Embodied Foresight practice is an on-going enterprise in the application of integral (and evolving) foresight principles, not an end point. To summarise I see an Embodied Foresight as plural and unfolding (expressing great doubt), I see it as something we strive for as an on-going enterprise, not something we already have (expressed through great determination), and I see it as a profoundly open anticipatory conscious- ness that expresses the future as a principle of present action (expressing great faith), as opposed to a single teleological vision or a version of the future as 'out there' dis- connected from the present (which expresses a shallow faith).

Josh Floyd: Jose has picked up here on the three pillars of practice in Zen: great doubt, great faith, great perseverance (Daido Loori, 2002, p. 269). This is very signifi- cant in relation to the concept of Embodied Foresight. Zen is strongly grounded in practise; there is a program of training that supports the development of the practition- er rather than development of the practitioner's power to manipulate her or his circum- stances. The Zen practitioner learns to see with new eyes, and I think this is something that we strive for as futures practitioners also, to learn the uncovering of new potential futures through making our very way of seeing things transparent to ourselves. I find these three pillars a very powerful point of reference against which to test the perspec- tive that I am taking in any situation: am I able to remain in that open-but-critical space from which good futures might be assisted to emerge?

It is through the intellectual approach that we can climb out of our present, embodied con- text in such a way that we can see its limitations. The intellectual stance seems very important for the maintenance of critical reflection, and so I think we should be care- ful not to swing too far towards the embodied stance such that we become just a body. There seems to be a certain tension between the male and the female approach, as you put it, that is at the heart of Integral Futures: trying to hold just the right tension seems to be important.

There is also an important principle to consider here relating to the enactive view of cognition (Varela, Thompson, & Rosch, 1991). This enactive cognition can be summed up as “all knowing is doing and all doing is knowing” (Maturana & Varela, 1988, p. 27), and obviously this brings us back strongly to the central role of AAR in an Embodied Foresight perspective. But why I think this is important here is that by giving someone an abstract model or set of tools based on such a model, as is pro- posed with Integral Futures methodologies, we are introducing a new way of doing that can lead to a new way of knowing. This intellectualisation can be a very impor- tant stepping stone towards the embodiment of Integral Futures principles. This always reminds me of the famous quote attributed to Buckminster Fuller: “If you want to teach people a new way of thinking, don't bother teaching them. Instead, give them a tool, the use of which will lead to new ways of thinking”

Self-reflective practices are a counterbalance against sterile over-intellectualisation and 'book-learning' without experience: two dangers noted in many spiritual paths and traditions. The practitioner inevitably undergoes an 'unmasking psychology' phase where real motivations are surfaced and confronted, similar to the nigredo stage in psychological alchemy

As a meta-methodology, Embodied Foresight also surfaces issues about FS-as- pedagogy and enactive cognition. FS practitioners have followed the Medieval Guild model of novice, journeyman and master–closer to artistic vision and practitioner craft in fields such as management and software engineering than to empirical science (McConnell, 2003; Mintzberg, 2004).

Integral FS and self-reflective practices are usually introduced at the transition fromnovicetojourneyman,onceFSfoundationsaregrasped. AsHaywardandothers have noted, the decision to study FS usually occurs after or during a confrontation with Hazard that triggers existential life changes (Bennett, 1991). In the aftershock, integrative models of human evolution are invaluable to reorient the practitioner's con- sciousness and to correctly interpret the insights from the altered states of conscious- ness that the existential life change has triggered (Csikzentmihalyi, 1993 & 1996; Murphy, 1992; Ouspensky, 1964; Tart, 1986; Wilber, 2000a). Intriguingly, one of the major trends in self-reflections by FS practitioners has been a shift from the Medieval Guild and classical European models (Coates & Jarratt, 1989) to cross-cultural and enactive cognition models (Slaughter, Inayatullah, & Ramos, 2005).

an action researcher's obligation is to combine their action research frameworks with the local stakeholder's understanding of local context into a third 'local theory' that emerges from the co-research. Out of this process local stakeholders learn how to conduct action research on their own, furthering their own empowerment and a democratisation of the research/action praxis. Transcending this 'model monopoly' would seem to be a challenge in futures stud- ies, a field heavily reliant on models and frameworks for explaining the world.“

Future studies give us in the Southern world a chance to break out of this shell of progressivism. Or, if you prefer, developmentalism or modernism. It gives us a chance to think about the future in our own terms, and without the constraints imposed by nineteenth centu- ry social theories and the categories popularised by social science disciplines, particularly developmental economics and history.”

as Nandy said: “Unfortunately our basic assumption is that knowledge is one. Others may occa- sionally have a few things to contribute to that universal knowledge system organ- ised around worldview of modern science and the European Enlightenment's vision of the ends of life. We forget that an entirely different range of experiences lie behind the marginalised systems of knowledge. Experiential knowledge is a crucial component and unless we are open to different and contradictory systems of knowledge, different ways to look at the world, different methods, our under- 76 standing of the world remains narrow and misleading.”

I perceive the challenge to be in articulating an Embodied Foresight, inclusive of integral theories, but allowing them to inform (not over-code) local challenges and circumstances, and be transformed by locality and the needs at hand. This is what I meant by “a contextual understanding of integral theory, which is transformed through its visceral and practical marriage with contexts.”

it is foresight-in-context, in so far as 1) it is will- ing to accept the transformation of foresight principles and process based on local / particular conditions, and likewise 2) should acknowledge that all foresight is contex- tually bound by the practitioner's consciousness (UL), by social norms, ideology, worldviews and assumptions (LL), by practices and structures (R), and by historical circumstances. The former accepts the need to transform futures work based on the needs of local conditions and peoples. The latter is more a statement about the nature of knowledge(s), and the need to heavily qualify our assertions into assumptions.

Meditative, reflective and 'vision quest' traditions grapple with identi- fication, in ways that facilitate purposeful evolution beyond the extremes of the colonisation of the self (by commerce or soft colonialism), and on the other hand a total denial of our present and past ontogenies (pathological dis-identification).

Jose's use of the term foresight-in-context is very powerful as a point- er towards the practitioner stance that we are suggesting is needed for Integral Futures methodology to reach its full potential without creating its own problems. The term seems to reflect the integral intent. In the first instance, it represents the general domain of foresight practise as the seeking or enactment of future knowledge. We might characterise this drive for seeking or enacting future knowledge as a masculine quality. And in an integral endeavour, we would want to be mindful of balancing this masculine drive with a commensurate feminine drive: this is seen, in the second instance, as the attention to local context, to that which is particular in our shared situ- ation as we implement Integral Futures methodology with the intent of helping better futures to emerge.

Looking at Embodied Foresight in this way, as foresight-in-context, helps with identifying the potential danger that I mentioned earlier of moving too far towards embodiment and becoming just body, with no capacity for discerning good pathways into the future.

We are suggesting that Embodied Foresight can be under- stood as balancing the masculine drive for future knowledge with the feminine drive for seeking and applying that knowledge compassionately, in ways that are sensitive to the local context in which our work is carried out. So Embodied Foresight as a methodology for carrying out Integral Futures work requires that the practitioner actively seeks to balance these commensurate drives of Eros and Agape.

The absence of Agape produces Phobos, or fear, characterised by flight into “otherworldliness” (Wilber, 2000d, pp. 349-351). And I would suggest that we can identify this in some of the techno-escapist visions associated with the Transhumanist branch of futures thinking and practise. These seem to be associated with an extreme creative urge charging towards a universal view for humanity that doesn't actually account for how those of us who will actually have to inhabit such a future (or worse, who will be written out of such a future altogether) might actually want to live. On the other hand, the absence of Eros produces Thanatos, or fixation, charac- terised by regression to a state in which all pathways into the future are seen as merely relative. In this state, we lose the capacity to discern between visions or to choose ones that might lead to better futures. This is seen in extreme postmodernism and cul- tural relativism: with rejection of all universals, we can no longer decide what is good. This path leads to nihilism and stagnation.

I think a real problem here could be the use of Integral Futures methodologies without corresponding integral intent on the part of the practitioner. So the deeper pur- pose of Embodied Foresight as Integral Futures methodology is to develop that intent, to foster in the practitioner a genuine desire to facilitate the health of the whole.

it is not only the practitioner's moral development that is of greatest impor- tance as his or her cognitive development: the practitioner needs to develop the capac- ity to make sound judgements about relative merits of various methodologies, meth- ods and tools. This requires that the practitioner can see his or her own blind spots: reflexive self-awareness, and truthfulness with oneself, is required.

If I could just recap for a moment: I think that we are united in the view that, for the three of us, futures and foresight work is about helping better futures to emerge, and that when we think of better futures, we have in mind better futures for all life. I think we are also guided by the view that what constitutes “better futures” is best determined by as many as possible of those affected by the futures that we are helping to emerge. I used the phrase “the health of the whole” a little earlier to try to capture this shared interest, and the idea of health ties to our discussion of pathology: health relates not only to the capacity to fix problems (pathologies) when they arise, it also relates to ways of being in which the problems do not arise in the first place. This is related to the concept of apithology (Varey, 2004). So what we are saying is that in order to best prevent problems arising in the first place, we need to understand the potential of our own roles as practitioners in the creation of problems. Embodied Foresight is the pathway that we are suggesting for minimising practitioner-created problems, and beyond this, to maximise the benefits of intervention by the futures practitioner.

I think there are very important universals that we need in order for the futures and foresight enterprise to get off the ground in the first place. For instance: the uni- versal capacity for language–that allows us to share our knowledge from local context to local context. Lakoff and Johnson (2003) have shown how metaphors based on the way that we are embodied in the world structure the ways that we think in universal ways, that is, in ways that are common to all those who share a particular form of embodiment. This doesn't mean that there are no local variations, or that these varia- tions are not important, but it does give us part of a basis for shared understanding. We all have bodies and minds, we all interact with physical environments that share com- mon characteristics, we all interact in social environments with other people.

Embodied Foresight's syncretic body of knowledge includes anticipatory action learning, self-reflexive research meth- ods from the arts and health sciences, holonomic models of human psychology, and experience with various initiatory and wisdom traditions.

As one generative space, the Futures Studies community has benefited from Ken Wilber's Integral framework, which provides a broad and deep scanning frame that honours self-inquiry and wisdom traditions.

Embodied Foresight has anticipatory, enactive and self-reflective knowledge interests, and a cyclical/spiral timeframe that honours the dyad between the practitioner's subjective universe (aion) and how it manifests via enactive cognition in the objective environ- ment (aeon) (Jung, 1966).

Futures Studies methods equip practitioners with the power to have real-world impacts with unforeseeable second- and third-order systemic effects. Integral Futures frameworks and models have the potential to 'amplify this tenfold', and add transfor- mative dimensions that can be potentially dangerous to the practitioner's psyche if misapplied. (Fowles, 1977; Hoffer, 1951; Morris, 2003; Wilcox, 1956). Truly 'inte- gral' communities create awareness amongst their practitioners of this perilous terrain as a necessary and never-ending guardianship function (Gurdjieff, 1963; Jung & von Franz, 1998). Embodied Foresight frameworks therefore encompass the ethical and normative injunctive which practitioners must heed when creating and renewing Futures Studies methodologies. For the FS scholar and Foresight practitioner these frameworks provide the self-reflexivity and presence demanded for the effective and ethical application of Applied Foresight.

From A Challenging Conversation on Integral Futures: Embodied Foresight and Trialogues by Josh Floyd, Alex Burns and Jose Ramos

Reading list:

Integral Scenario Development:

future_fabulators/integral_futures.txt · Last modified: 2014/03/04 09:03 by maja