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Dr Bob Day

Futurist Profile

 

Dr. Bob Day

Founder and Co-Director: Non-Zero-Sum Development

Dr. Robert (Bob) Stephen Day holds a BSc and PhD in Physics from Imperial College, London

Bob answered a few questions about his perspective and on being a futures thinker.

ABOUT YOU AS A FUTURES THINKER / PRACTITIONER

You identify yourself as an African futures thinker or practitioner. How would you describe to the woman or man on the street what it is that you do in this regard?

I apply Futures thinking (and related techniques) on a regular basis in my own life (work and personal). Rather than applying foresight tools on behalf of others, I prefer to help others learn to use appropriate tools for themselves.

How many years have you worked as an African futures thinker / practitioner?

I have used foresight techniques as a subcomponent of my research/work for over 18 years. During that time, I have worked fulltime on Foresight initiatives for 4 years.

In which countries or places have you had working experience as an African futures thinker / practitioner?

South Africa, Finland, Kenya, Tanzania, Solomon Islands, Mozambique, Ethiopia and USA

In what languages have you undertaken futures / foresight related work or research?

English (sadly, that’s all)

What is it that motivates you to work or participate in the foresight / future studies / related field?

I’m motivated not only by my own, ongoing positive experiences using futures thinking, but also by the overwhelmingly positive response I continue to receive from the majority of people I have been able to introduce to Foresight. Comments such as “It has added a new dimension to the way I think” are not uncommon.

What goal/s would you most like to reach with your work as an African futures thinker / practitioner?

Creating enough enthusiastic foresight practitioners (particularly among the young, whether affluent or poor) so that it starts to spread naturally throughout the population based on word-of-mouth from those who have experienced its benefits. This, I believe, is the way to a “culture of foresight”.

Who or what most influenced your thinking as a futures thinker / practitioner, and how?

Two many authors (Science Fiction, Social Commentary, Academic) to list, such as Isaac Asimov, Alvin Toffler, Pekka Himmanen, and Ben Martin.

A major influence was working in a team on the National Foresight project back in the ‘90s with Phil Mjwara.

It is such a fertile field that for every individual or group I work with, I suspect I learn at least as much as they do – a classic win-win situation.

 

YOUR PERSPECTIVE

What is one of your favourite quotes about the future?

There are so many – allow me three, please:

  • “For tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today” – African proverb
  • “Foresight makes you think completely differently – it has literally opened up my mind” – David Lefutso
  • “Imagine all the people living life in peace” – John Lennon

How would you describe the state of African futures thinking right now?

Widely misunderstood and undervalued. Poorly developed. Mostly under- and/or inappropriately utilised.

What is, in your opinion, the main barrier to uptake of futures knowledge by African institutions and organisations?

The dominance in all types of leadership positions by old men, whose “vision” is to mimic what has been achieved by first world elites. We must allow Africa’s young the freedom to imagine and create their own futures. But first, they must regain their self-esteem.

If you were to give advice to someone who wants a career in African foresight / future studies, what would you say to him or her?

You must be a trail-blazer. There is little existing African foresight market to come to you. You need to create and then serve that market. There is little reward today. The rewards will be in the future, and will be that our grandchildren HAVE a future.

What are your recommended readings for every African futures thinker / practitioner?

The booklet “Foresight: South Africans Thinking about Tomorrow Today”, which takes the experiences of the COFISA initiative to introduce people in Africa to the practice and benefits of Foresight.

What are your recommendations for other favourite futures resources: websites, newsfeeds, mailing lists, associations, etc.?

 

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