Floyd, J., and Hayward, P., 2008, Community development for ecological sustainability: Working with interiority in the cultivation of social foresight, Community Development and Ecology: Engaging ecological sustainability, 26-28 March, Centre for Citizenship, Development and Human Rights, Deakin University, Melbourne.

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Abstract

The research, teaching and practice carried out by the Strategic Foresight Program at Swinburne University has as a foundational aim the creation of social foresight. This is an approach to community development based on fostering an emergent, socially distributed capacity for systematic, long term thinking oriented towards the maintenance and enhancement of collective wellbeing. Social foresight has the potential to enhance and support efforts to build social movements for ecological sustainability. This potential derives from the observation that the significant ecological challenges faced by communities today are of human origin. Moreover, the origin of these challenges is located within the socially enacted epistemologies with which we engage with our world. Social foresight development involves generating insight into these origins and bringing to the fore ways of knowing and acting that are better attuned to ecological principles. For those of us who work with the Strategic Foresight Program, a central tenet of our work with groups to cultivate social foresight is the importance of engaging with participants as autonomous subjects, each with their own irreducible capacity for meaning-making. We describe this characteristic as interiority, an essential complement to the exterior aspects of community development, such as network building and information distribution. As with the exterior aspects of community development, tools and technologies are available that can be harnessed to strengthen and accelerate the development of individuals’ and groups’ interiority. Scharmer’s Theory U is an emerging social technology that we consider offers particular opportunities in this regard. In this paper we introduce social foresight in the context of community development and discuss the importance of interiority in its cultivation. We then introduce Theory U and look at how it can be applied to the cultivation of social foresight, and consider the implications of this for cultivating social foresight for ecological sustainability.