Archive for the ‘Spain’ Category

EFP Brief No. 256: F212.org Online Platform. Imagining the Future through Social Media as a Tool for Social Innovation

Friday, December 6th, 2013

F212.org is a virtual think tank of university students interested in sharing ideas on how to face main future challenges. It describes the results of a comparative study about the images of the future found among young students from Haaga Helia University of Applied Science (Finland) Tamkang University (Taiwan); and University of Alicante (Spain).

The Study of Images of the Future

The studies focused on images of the future date back to the second half of the twentieth century and have their origins in the fields of sociology and psychology. After the growing interest in this area which arose during the early 1990s, the study about images of the future –and more specifically about images of the future among young people– has consolidated within the framework of social sciences in general and, particularly, in the context of Sociology during the late 1990s and the first years of the twenty-first century.

According to Polak’s definition, “an image of the future is made of associated memories and expectations. It is a set of long-range goals which stress the infinite possibilities open to a person. Thus, an image of the future can be defined as a mental construction dealing with possible states. It is composed of a mixture of conceptions, beliefs, and desires, as well as observations and knowledge about the present. This affects a person’s choice both consciously and unconsciously and is derived from both reality and from imagination. It ultimately steers one’s decision-making and actions”. Therefore, the reflection about the expected impact of these images on the determination of our present actions and our attitude towards the future allows us to see the need for a systematic approach to study such images.

Nevertheless, the research into such images carried out during last century tended to be relatively sporadic and never had a predominant role in the context of futures research. As far as Sociology in particular is concerned, many works which attempt to identify and explain the concerns most commonly found among this population segment basically seek to answer the following question: how do young people expect their future to be?

However, it is far from easy to find studies where the approach consists in trying to find an answer to the question: what do young people want for their future? Therefore, there is arguably a lack of new approaches which can integrate aspirational parameters and enable a greater involvement of youths in the process of defining alternatives for the future.

For this reason, public and private institutions are now apparently taking a greater interest in identifying and understanding citizens’ expectations and wishes, which has led them to promote actions in line with the new paradigms of Social Innovation and Open Innovation that provide a more active, direct and continuous citizenship in governance, close to the concept of participatory democracy. In fact, this is something which currently seems much more feasible than not so long ago thanks to aspects such as technology development, the spreading of internet access and the increasingly high popularity of social online networks.

Therefore it is perfectly feasible to complement the descriptive approach to a ‘diagnosis of the future’ with images of the future and creative proposals directly defined and developed by young people, giving voice and prominence to them thanks to:

  1. the proliferation of communication channels that allow for immediate and continuous feedback (2.0 platforms, social networks) with the user/citizen; and
  2. the development of ‘participatory’ foresight methodologies in both institutional and private sectors.

The conceptual basis behind this approach leads participants to consider themselves as key actors in the task of defining their own future –through an active participation in the construction of shared images of the future. It could consequently prove much more motivating for young people to interact within these processes if participants are given some space to share and create.

Tool Set for the Future

The project presented here is based on a previous study (Guillo, 2013) which involved a total of 56 university students from the Haaga Helia University of Applied Science (Helsinki, Finland) and the University of Alicante (Alicante, Spain).

Based on the overall results and on the feedback provided not only by participants but also by the students and teachers involved, it was possible to highlight the following 4 points with the aim of achieving an improvement in subsequent studies:

  • Hard-to-understand / answer questionnaires: the students found the process hard to complete (too many categories and questions) and sometimes even confusing.
  • Lack of interaction: the platform suffered from a lack of technological tools, which always make it easier for users to interact with one another.
  • Overlap between groups: the selected categories proved useful to organise the responses to some extent but participants found numerous overlaps between the topics discussed in every category.
  • Hard to analyse: the scenario format gave us (as researchers) very valuable material to analyse. Nevertheless, a more precise way to express expectations, fears and wishes about the future is badly needed to improve interaction.

Taking into account the 4 points mentioned above, a new study was designed which included three significant changes with respect to the previous one, all of them oriented to improve users’ experience within www.f212.org:

Removing the division into categories: the categories from the previous study (economy, culture, politics, ecosystem, security) were abandoned in order to build an easy-to-complete questionnaire. Since the information-collecting tool was going to be an online survey (embedded in the platform), it became essential to provide a short, clear and quick-to-answer questionnaire.

Changing narrative scenarios by keywords: In this case, the change also had to do with the difficulty found by participants when completing the process. Therefore, a decision was made to replace the initial idea of describing a future scenario (150 words) with the choice of keywords to describe their future scenario (10 words). This would additionally allow us not only to process participants’ responses much faster –almost in real time– but also to update the tag clouds inserted in the platform, which could largely improve the level of interaction within the platform too.

Using a clearer language: the feedback received from the previous study led us to modify the instructions given for the completion of the different questionnaires –using a more straightforward language. Various levels of information were offered, including more detailed information (tutorials and FAQs) in case users needed a higher degree of detail.

Thus, the design of our new study started by restructuring the platform in the following sections:

  1. RATINGSFeelings about the future in 2030. Participants were asked the question “are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future?” in this section. This allowed them to position themselves in terms of pessimism/optimism, on a scale from 10 (totally optimistic) to 0 (totally pessimistic). Three different dimensions were taking into account: World (global level), Country (national level) and Myself (personal level).

 

  1. FORECASTS – Probable future in 10 words.Participants had to write a maximum of 10 words about the main features which, in their opinion, will characterise the world in 2030.

 

  1. SKILLS – Self-evaluate your references about the future in 2030.The ratings and forecasts given by participants were subjected to self-evaluation through these three questions (to be answered on a scale from 0,  the worst,  to 10, the best):
    • Are you concerned about the future?
    • To what extent are you prepared to face the future?
    • What is your level of knowledge about global change processes?

    Participants were additionally asked to complement their self-evaluations by naming some of the sources (books, webpages, magazines, journals, etc.) that they usually consult and on which their visions of the future are based.

  1. WISHES – Future you want in 10 words.In this section, participants had to write a maximum of 10 words about the main features that, in their opinion, should characterise the world in 2030.

 

  1. IDEAS – Open Discussions.This section was included as a meeting place to share creative ideas on how to face future challenges.A total of 378 university students (between 20 and 32 years old) took part in this study by accessing the open platform.

Images of the Future of Spanish, Taiwanese and Finnish Students

RATINGS – How do you feel about the future in 2030?

A remarkable difference exists in the images of the future found at a national level among the participants from Spain (median 4), Taiwan (6) and Finland (7). In the case of Spain, the differences become even more evident when comparing the three levels considered: global (7), national (4) and personal (7). However, such results should actually “come as no surprise” within the current context of social and economic crisis in Spain, which also shows a high degree of inconsistency as far as images of the future are concerned. Another interesting finding is the widespread high degree of optimism with regard to the personal level (7).

FORECASTS – The probable future in 10 words: Females show more optimism

Seeking to make the platform as interactive as possible, tag clouds were generated with the participants’ responses in this section. These tag clouds – including the 50 words with the highest repetition frequency among respondents- were available online, and a allowed us to draw some general conclusions:

− High consensus on the key factors that define the probable future by 2030. The words which show a higher repetition frequency were technology, globalisation, competitiveness, artificial, connected, energy, ecology and war. These words can be regarded as part of the main speech about the future, presented in the general, mass media as part of a globally shared image of the probable future.

− Females show more optimism than males. A marked difference could be perceived in the degree of optimism shown by females and males among participants from Spain and Taiwan (and also among those from Finland, though to a lesser extent). That is why participants from Spain and Taiwan show a higher repetition frequency in words such as opportunities, hope and ecology.

SKILLS – Self-evaluate your references about the future in 2030_ Homogeneous use of TV as information source

The results in this section show a high level of preparation and knowledge, along with a lack of diversity in the sources considered (mainly TV and general-information newspapers). On the whole, participants from Spain, Taiwan and Finland see themselves as ‘experts’ in the topics under discussion: the median is 5 or higher in every case. Nevertheless, when asked about the kind of sources that they usually resort to, only a few of them mention access to specialised journals, reports, databases, etc. Information availability also helps us understand the aforementioned conclusion about the globally shared image of the probable future.

One important finding when comparing across countries is that participants from Finland showed the worst self-evaluations, a point below self-evaluations of participants from Spain. These results contrast with the overall Education results observed in both countries during the last years.

WISHES – The future you want in 10 words: Different perceptions on ‘Love’ and ‘Community’

Significant differences regarding how they describe their probable futures. Words like technology, global and connected, which had a strong weight in Forecasts, are now losing repetition frequency. This can be interpreted as reflecting an attitude of rejection towards today’s ‘hyper-connected’ world (a shared vision for the probable future). On the contrary, words like opportunities or work have a stronger weight in these desired futures, which can be explained by young people’s professional aspirations.

A lack of specific, creative terms to describe the desired future. On the whole, no breaking ideas are found in the words given by the students. Thus, the most often repeated words within this section are equality, peace, respect, ecology or freedom, which, in our opinion, form part of what can be described as a utopian and very broad vision about the society of the future. This lack of specific and breaking ideas can also be related to the fact that young people find it hard to visualise all the possibilities ahead of them.

Few differences between males and females. The biggest visible difference between males and females refers to the word love (whereas no males mention this word as part of their desired future, it stands out as one of the words with the most weight among females).

Few differences between countries. The most interesting finding in this respect is the word communal, only present among Finnish respondents. In the cases of Spain and Taiwan, despite the appearance of words such as equality or peace –which clearly suggest an idea of cooperation with one another in their meaning– the complete absence of this specific word seems very meaningful to us, and could be interpreted as a weak signal regarding social life in the countries represented.

Online Participatory Foresight Processes

The comparison between the results obtained in this study and those from the previous experience (Guillo, 2013) leads us to highlight the findings below:

  • Simplicity encourages participation. A decision was made to remove the division into categories in our study this time, which made it easier and faster for respondents to complete the whole process. This resulted in a much higher participation: 378 respondents (as opposed to 56 in the previous study).
  • More interaction means enriching our own images of the future. Respondents consider the possibility of exchanging ideas about the future with young people who have different cultural backgrounds very interesting. Thus, the international connection with other students from different parts of the worlds was seen as an extremely positive factor. Moreover, the integration of the section Ideas makes it possible for them to directly interact with other correspondents, which was also highlighted as a very positive point (more than 300 replies were registered in the open discussions started in this section).
  • Motivation is a key point. Two different mechanisms were designed for the purpose of involving people in the platform. One of them was the development of future workshops, where students received explanations on the basics of futures thinking and were encouraged to participate in the process. The other mechanism was the creation of a brief presentation, available on the platform and easy to use for e-mail communications. In this sense, a higher degree of participation was found among the students who took part in futures workshops and were personally motivated to sign up for the platform.
  • A more straightforward language and better design elements help understand large amounts of data. Technologically speaking, tag clouds were the best way available for us to show the results from Forecasts and Wishes to respondents. These graphs allowed users to have a slight –but also very clear– idea about the image of the future generally shown by respondents. The same approach was applied to other aspects of the platform, such as the design of the slide presentation and the presentation dossier or the instructions contained in every section of the platform, among other things.

As a general conclusion, it could be stated that improving interaction tools, designing better communication elements and opening the platform to an international university-student context have all had a strong positive impact on this study. Thus, the results collected in www.f212.org helped us achieve a better understanding of the mechanisms behind social media involvement.

 

 

Authors: Mario Guillo (PhD Candidate)    mario.guillo@ua.es

Dr. Enric Bas                           bas@ua.es

Sponsors: FUTURLAB – University of Alicante

FECYT – Spanish Foundation for Science & Technology

Type: International think tank
Organizer: FUTURLAB – University of Alicante, Mario Guillo, mario.guillo@ua.es www.futurlab.es
Duration: 2011-2012
Budget: n.a.
Time Horizon: 2030
Date of Brief: October 2013

Download EFP Brief No. 256_F212.org Online Platform

Sources and References

  • Guillo, Futures, Communication and Social Innovation: Using Participatory Foresight and Social Media Platforms as tools for evaluating images of the future among young people, Eur J Futures Res (2013) 15:17. DOI 10.1007/s40309-013-0017-2
  • Reinhardt, (ed.) United Dreams of Europe, Primus Verlag, Darmsdat, 2011.
  • Bas, Future Visions of the Spanish Society, in: U. Reinhardt, G. Roos, (eds.) Future Expectations for Europe, Primus Verlag, Darmsdat, (2008) 214-231.
  • Ono, Learning from young people’s image of the future: a case study in Taiwan and the US, Futures, 35 (7) (2003) 737-758.
  • Rubin, The images of the future of young Finnish people, Sarja/Series, Turku, 1998.

EFP Brief No. 172: Future Scenarios for the Spanish Sustainable Development Model

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

This brief report describes a scenario design exercise undertaken to study the future evolution of the sustainable development paradigm and its possible implications for the Spanish development model. For this purpose, three scenarios were built for a time horizon extending to 2025, displaying possible alternative economic, energetic, technological and environmental contexts. Finally, scenario implications were determined for the social, economic, territorial and governance models in the Spanish context.

Is Spain Ready for a Sustainable Lifestyle?

Since the Brundtland Commission defined sustainable development (SD) as “the ability to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (WCED, 1987), this concept has gained universal acceptance among the general public. Moreover, a growing number of socio-economic and political agents are said to be conscious about the need of pursuing more sustainable urban development. However, the relative novelty of this concept and the fact that it has only recently gained widespread social acceptance have not yet permitted to assess with rigour the reciprocal relations that might develop between the sustainable development paradigm and general behaviour in society.

Although nowadays many public administrations and private companies are assessing the implications of sustainable development in their daily activities with more or less intensity, there is not much relevant research about future citizen behaviour toward the SD concept. The lack of studies on this issue may be explained by two major difficulties: unmanageable complexity and high uncertainty.

The first difficulty is due to the diverse and complex behaviour of social groups toward sustainable development in their daily or sporadic vital activities. This level of complexity is aggravated by the fact that the sustainability paradigm also influences and transforms patterns of social behaviour. In other words, we are faced with a circular relation where social attitudes affect sustainable development while the paradigm in turn induces certain types of social behaviour. We must therefore recognise the unquestionable difficulty of assessing the impact of the concept of sustainability on our development models.

The second difficulty refers to the existing high level of uncertainty whenever the future evolution of social behaviour is to be predicted with regard to the sustainable development issue in advanced and prosperous societies. Even if we know the principles and values that presently guide the vital functions of social groups in a certain territory, they can fairly easily change in a short period of time, breaking with historical patterns. Additionally, there is a tendency to ignore the future evolution of environmental factors such as climate change or the availability of energy resources, which surely will significantly influence social behaviour. Therefore, any attempt at anticipating a single and officially accepted scenario of the future of socio-cultural behaviour patterns, economic systems, governance models, and land use patterns in contemporary societies suffers from a lack of plausibility.

What Business Opportunities Can Sustainability Bring?

The study pursued three major objectives:

(1) to design global scenarios for the future evolution of social behaviour toward the sustainable development paradigm in a 15-20 year horizon;

(2) to determine the implications of the scenarios for Spain’s development; and

(3) to identify new business opportunities involved in providing goods and services related to the concept of sustainability.

Constructing Future Scenarios

From the existing foresight tools, scenario design was chosen to carry out this research project because it most adequately allowed taking the complexity and uncertainty of social behaviour toward sustainable development into consideration while it at the same time enabled unfolding alternative futures. A scenario may be defined as a tool for arranging perceptions of the future, thus helping to shape an outlook with a wide perspective in a world of great uncertainty. This foresight technique is eminently qualitative; it combines intuition and rational analysis, and it usually requires the collaboration of a group of experts.

The chosen method for this foresight exercise was organised sequentially in four stages (see Figure 1): (1) characterise the sustainable development concept; (2) identify and assess the most relevant change trends that may affect sustainable development; (3) design future scenarios for the evolution of sustainable development; (4) determine scenario implications for development models. This approach rested on an ongoing and systematic process of participation and evaluation by experts in areas related to sustainable development.

Engagement of Experts

In the course of the study, more than 30 experts from private companies and public organizations participated in assessing trends and determining the implications of scenarios for the sustainable development model. Expert involvement either took the form of personal interviews or participation in focus groups.

Three Scenarios for Spain

In an initial step toward scenario design, various critical uncertainties were grouped around two axes:

  • The vertical axis represents possible alternative responses of society to the concept of sustainable development in the future. This axis encompasses all future uncertainties related to social behaviour, economic models and public policies toward SD.
  • The horizontal axis shows the availability of resources to achieve the goals of sustainable development in the future. This axis includes all critical uncertainties regarding the abundance or scarcity of technological, economic, human, institutional and natural resources.

In the space defined by those axes, we can identify three distinct scenarios, which pose a number of challenges to the Spanish development model (see Figure 2).

Scenario A: Green Paradigm (circa 2025). This scenario can be expected when, on the one hand, there is a proactive and favourable response from public and private agents toward SD and, on the other, there are abundant resources of all types to achieve sustainable development. “Green Paradigm” assumes an environmentally conscious society in which most citizens participate in public decision-making.

Spanish society would have to meet a number of challenges in order to prosper in this scenario. First, an education system capable of promoting sustainability, innovation and solidarity values is required. Second, a diversity of new social demands of a very heterogeneous population have to be satisfied but without risking sustainability principles. Third, an economic model based on respect for the environment and supported by responsible consumption must be developed. Fourth, measures promoting cooperation between business and government must be implemented in order to make an easier transition toward less polluting and more eco-efficient technologies. Fifth, mobility patterns have to be transformed by applying technological innovations to transport systems. Sixth, an advanced and transparent governance model is required favouring citizen participation, co-ordination among different administrative levels and public-private co-operation. Seventh, planning and implementing advanced territorial policies are needed that support Spanish society in developing toward more sustainable arrangements. Eighth, management of companies and public bodies must be improved so that they internalise environmental costs by applying sophisticated environmental evaluation tools.

Scenario B: Predator Development (circa 2025). This scenario unfolds in a context in which resources of all types are abundant, but at the same time public and private agents are either slow or passive in reacting to sustainability challenges. “Predator Development” represents a society that disregards environmental issues as not critical compared to its economic and consumption needs. The successive emergence of technological innovations seems to conjure away environmental threats and tends to relax a society indulging in exuberant consumerism.

Scenario B challenges underline the need to correct the strong environmental and social impacts generated by an economic model based on a philosophy of growth. First, formulas need to be established for satisfying social needs in an environment where individualism and intolerance prevail. Second, an ample array of products and services must be provided to facilitate day-to-day tasks in a society geared toward a culture of rapid change and instant satisfaction. Third, Spanish companies must be competitive enough to successfully operate in global markets. Fourth, the Spanish economy’s dynamism has to be fed by providing abundant and inexpensive energy sources. Fifth, effective technological innovations have to be developed to take full advantage of nuclear energy and to exploit coal reserves. Sixth, strong demand for passenger and goods mobility must be accommodated by construction of new transport infrastructures with low environmental impact. Seventh, public administrations need to make widespread use of new technologies to guarantee transparent decision-making, streamline administrative procedures and facilitate citizens’ access to public services. Eighth, effective legislation in the field of urban development is required in order to counterbalance real estate excesses.

Scenario C: Back to Basics (circa 2025). According to this scenario, there is a significant shortage of all types of resources due to a prolonged recession, but, at the same time, Spanish society as a whole is inclined to support sustainable development models. “Back to Basics” elaborates a scenario of failure of the current development model that leads to social tension and frustration.

Scenario C confronts Spanish society with a number of challenges that call for a radical transformation of the old development model. First, new initiatives must be launched to restrain immigration flows by promoting development in third world countries. Second, family structures and other social networks have to be reinforced to counterbalance the negative effects of the economic crisis. Third, a new education system must be set up to foster new social and environmental values. Fourth, commercial marketing has to be aligned with new social and environmental values. Fifth, strong structural measures have to be adopted to get the economic system on track toward a more sustainable paradigm. Sixth, energy consumption per capita needs to be reduced by changing patterns of demand. Seventh, a clear and strict normative framework needs to be established forcing companies and public bodies to internalise environmental costs. Eighth, a strong government with broad public backing must be formed to implement effective policies against the economic and environmental crisis. Ninth, citizen participation and co-ordination among public administrations must be required by law and be additionally supported by public pressure. Tenth, joint action by public administrations, the third sector and the private sector are needed to cover growing social needs provoked by a systemic crisis.

Bringing Change to Social and Cultural Behaviour

This foresight exercise on the future evolution of the Spanish sustainable development model has produced some interesting findings from the point of view of development policies.

Irrespective of whatever scenario materialises in the near future, whether the sustainability paradigm in Spain will be achieved to lesser or greater degree depends on the fulfilment of a number of prerequisites:

  • Climate scenarios must be designed to anticipate and discuss the possible impacts of climatic change on the country’s key economic activities, such as tourism, construction or the automotive industry.
  • Technology’s capabilities of solving future environmental and energy problems must be assessed with rigour and realism.
  • Strategically comprehensive and multi-sectoral territorial plans must be elaborated for achieving sustainability with a wide scope.
  • All public administrations – European, national, regional or local – must assume responsibility and make a profound commitment to implementing sustainable development at their level of authority.
  • Social consciousness and collective intelligence toward sustainability must significantly increase if social-cultural and consumption behaviour is to be changed in the desired direction.

In brief, Spain faces a big challenge to change social and cultural behaviour toward sustainable development, which involves improving citizen education and providing more information on the issue. Meeting this challenge implies significant changes in our day-to-day habits as in our governance and business models. Nevertheless, these changes will create new economic, social and environmental opportunities for Spanish society as a whole.

Author: José Miguel Fernández-Güell        josemiguel.fernandez@upm.es
            Sponsors: VALORA Consultores
Type: Scenario design on socio-environmental issues
Organizer: Fundación OPTI, Ana Morato, anamorato@opti.org
Duration: 06–12/2006 Budget: 57,000 Euros Time Horizon: 2025 Date of Brief: May 2010

 

Download EFP Brief No. 172: Sustainable Development Scenarios Spain

Sources and References

Fernández Güell, José Miguel (2006). Planificación estratégica de ciudades: Nuevos instrumentos y procesos. Barcelona: Editorial Reverté.

Fernández Güell, José Miguel (2004). El diseño de escenarios en el ámbito empresarial. Madrid: Editorial Pirámide.

Fundación OPTI y Valora Consultores (2007). Estudio de prospectiva sobre el comportamiento social ante el desarrollo sostenible. Madrid: Ministerio de Industria, Turismo y Comercio.

EFP Brief No. 163: EFONET: Assessment of Energy Foresight in the EU

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

Within the EFONET Coordination Action, an analysis of the state of the art of energy foresight activities in the EU countries has been carried out in order to assess the transferability of the “good practices” learnt from the national foresight experiences towards energy foresight on the European level.

EFP Brief No. 163_EFONET Assessment of Energy Foresight

EFP Brief No. 153: Extremadura Regional Foresight Exercise

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

The Extremadura region has carried out the first regional foresight exercise to help devise a global strategy for the socio-economic
development of the region so as to enhance economic growth. The main agents involved in regional development set out to plan a desirable
future for the region and clearly define investment priorities. The Extremaduran foresight exercise aimed at projecting the position
of key sectors and technologies in the context of future international trends.

EFMN Brief No. 153_Extremadura_Foresight

EFP Brief No. 151: Furniture Foresight Centre – CEFFOR®

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

CEFFOR was created to promote the sustainable development (in terms of all three pillars: economic, social and environmental) of the
furniture industry in countries with high costs of production. CEFFOR is to accomplish this task by means of contributing strategic
information to the social agents and companies who participate in determining enterprise strategies and industry policies.

EFMN Brief No. 151_Furniture Foresight Centre

EFP Brief No. 64: Communication Media Spain 2018

Friday, May 20th, 2011

The study aims to determine the evolution of social communication media in Spain within the next 15 years with special attention to the impact of new technologies in this area. The specific objective pursued by this forecast is to provide information that helps Public Administrations in their decision-making and companies in facing challenges of the future.

EFMN Brief No. 64 – Communication Media Spain 2018

EFP Brief No. 54: Spanish Nuclear Energy Futures 2030

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

The purpose of this exercise was to identify the main technologies that would influence the development of nuclear energy in Spain up until 2030. The picked up information is supposed to help to change the public opinion in Spain from a sceptic view towards a broader acceptance of the application of nuclear energy.

EFMN Brief No. 53 – European Manufacturing Visions ManVis 2020