Marianna Birmoser Ferreira-Aulu presentig at the seminar

Futures Studies in Brazil: Launching event for the programme “Futures, Digital Transformation and Innovation”

Marianna Birmoser Ferreira-Aulu:

Brazilian university UniCEUB, in cooperation with Finland Futures Research Centre (FFRC) and Finland University (FinUni), is launching a post-graduation lato sensu programme on Futures, Digital Transformation and Innovation called “Pós-graduação lato sensu em Futuro, Transformação Digital e Inovação to begin in September 2019 at UniCEUB, in Brasilia.

In the Brazilian higher education context, the lato sensu is a specialization programme for students with a bachelor’s degree. At the end of the programme, the student obtains a certificate, not a diploma. The lato sensu (from Latin “in a broad sense”) is different from a Master’s degree programme (Stricto Sensu – “in strict sense”): The majority of students work while studying and teaching is focused on practical skills, rather than scientific knowledge.

The course “Futures, Digital Transformation and Innovation” is a unique collaborative programme and a result of true international cooperation: FFRC is responsible for some of the modules, and will offer blended teaching (contact, face-to-face and on-line teaching). Local Brazilian teachers and researchers will lecture in other modules. At the end of the day, students will have access to a broad view of the topic at hand, and they will be able to acquire an international understanding of the topic beyond what any individual teacher can offer.

The launching event of the course was held at UniCEUB on 16 April 2019 with a seminar called “I Seminário Internacional Brasil Finlândia: Futuro, Transformação digital e inovação”. This was a joint effort between UniCEUB, Finland University and Finland Futures Research Centre. Finland University coordinates and acts as the commercial arm for transnational education services of University of Turku, Åbo Akademi, Tampere University, and University of Eastern Finland.

The audience in UniCEUB consisted of students and teaching staff of the university, as well as important decision-makers: members of government, staff members of ministries and the presidential office, as well as companies CEOs. (Photo by Caio Santana, UniCEUB)

FFRC project researcher Marianna Birmoser Ferreira-Aulu was a keynote speaker in the opening and closing of the event, and coordinator Sari Söderlund gave a talk in one of the parallel panel sessions. The audience present in the event in the capital city of Brasilia included important decision-makers. In addition to students and teaching staff of the university, staff members of the presidential office, ministry officials and CEOs of private companies were also present. More than 1,000 people had signed up to the event, which was broadcast live on UniCEUB’s pages.

In addition to Ferreira-Aulu’s keynote speech, three other keynote speakers opened the seminar: Former Supreme Court Justice and Minister Carlos Ayres Britto discussed the challenges that Brazil faces upon the digital transformations of the 21st century. Finnish Ambassador Jouko Leinonen presented his thoughts of education as a driver of social change. In Brazil, education is clearly seen as one of Finland’s main areas of interest. Professor Antônio Isidro Filho, from the federal University of Brasilia, spoke about digital transformation and innovation trends, and how to develop competencies for tomorrow.

I international Seminar Brazil-Finland: Future, Digital Transformation and Innovation” was held ad UniCEUB University in Brasilia, capital city of Brazil. (Photo by Caio Santana, UniCEUB)

Foresight Practices in Organizations

Coordinator Sari Söderlund’s panel talk introduced foresight in organizations. Participants got to learn about various foresight approaches, tools and methods. Söderlund discussed what foresight is, what is can offer to organizations, and how to introduce foresight to an integral part of strategic planning.

Brief introduction of Futures Studies as a scientific field

Project researcher Marianna Birmoser Ferreira-Aulu provided the audience with an overview of what Futures Studies is, and why it is an important emerging academic field. She explored how digital transformations are just one aspect of complex futures, and that not only individuals, but also societies should be futures literate in order to make better decisions on business, academia, government and personal lives. Some basic concepts of Futures Studies were presented: megatrends, trends, emerging issues, black swans and extreme events.

Project Researcher Marianna B. Ferreira-Aulu, from the University of Turku gave a talk on Futures Studies: Learning how to look at futures in a scientific way. (Photo by Niina Nyyssölä, FinUni)

The concept of emerging issues was introduced with the seed metaphor: when sewed in the right environment, with a fertile soil and suitable conditions, seeds can grow into large and heathy plants. Basic infrastructure could be comprehended as the water and the weather conditions the plant needs grow. Socio-political barriers and corruption could be seen as harmful chemicals; and highly educated, well-trained creative humans could be seen as the nutrients these seeds need not only to survive, but also to produce successful offspring.

Ferreira-Aulu’s seed metaphor was a soft approach to tackle tough issues on the current Brazilian socio-political setup without explicitly addressing the current administration. Are the Brazilian soils fertile enough for these new seeds to germinate? What is the role of the individual, the executive, and the government to enrich the soil, avoid harmful chemicals and make sure seedlings have proper irrigation? Not long after the seminar, the Brazilian government has announce large cuts to culture, education, science and innovation. These cuts are deeply concerning and ought to affect the Brazilian society in unprecedented ways. The scientific community is thirsty for knowledge and hungry for resources to be able to continue their work.

The seed metaphor has been used before in Ferreira-Aulu’s work, in other contexts: for example it can be seen amongst the material for FFRC’s Funzi course, prepared for the UNESCO Chair project, as well as is some material for the Manufacturing 4.0 research project. The metaphor is a good way to explain the Manufacturing 4.0  research project’s aims: to understand not only what is coming, but also how emerging technologies will affect businesses, the labour market, social policies, education, and the society as a whole.

The audience in the seminar was especially interested in learning more about capacity building for futures thinking. The concept of Futures Literacy was introduced based on the works by Laura Pouru and Markku Wilenius the Unesco Chair for Learning Society and Futures of Education.

After one month from the seminar, Ferreira-Aulu is still receiving several e-mails every week from members of the audience asking for more information and reading material so they can work of these skills and deepen their knowledge on the subject.

Education as a driver of social change

Finnish Ambassador in Brazil Jouko Leinonen said on his speech that in Brazil, he is often asked what the secret of the Finnish education system is. His answer is that there is no secret; Finland has made rational choices that worked. There was not any education revolution in Finland, but a slow evolution, as the country consistently and persistently works on the development of learning. Finland recognizes the importance of the teachers in the educational process, and invests in teachers training and labour conditions. Intentionally or not, Leinonen offered criticism to the current Brazilian administration without explicitly addressing it. In his speech, he mentioned that Finland has made a mutual decision between all political parties that education must be a priority of the state, and that the most qualified persons to make decisions on how the budget for education will be spent are the professionals of that specific area, not politicians. The grin on Leinonen’s face after stating this inevitably sent a message to the audience who is part of the current administration.

Finnish Ambassador Jouko Leinonen discusses how education became a driver of social change in the Finnish society. (Photo by Caio Santana, UniCEUB)

Nurturing the uniqueness of the individual for the progress of humanity

Minister Carlos Ayres Britto based his entire speech on the Brazilian constitution, basis of the nation’s society. First, he honoured the fellow speaker Finnish Ambassador Jouko Leinonen by citing one of the articles in the constitution that promotes cooperation between nations to the progress of humanity. Second, he argued that every individual is unique, as does the constitution (there is not volume one, volume two, volume three), and therefore, society needs to learn how to respect and honour individuality. In order to honour this individuality, the State has the responsibility of providing dignified life and existence for all its citizens. Ayres Britto argues that basic material welfare is intrinsic for the development of society, and quotes José Saramago, a Portuguese writer: “pornography is not obscene, hunger is obscene”.

Competencies for the 21th century

Professor Antônio Isidro Filho presented the competencies for the 21th century as an ecosystem that includes three main dimensions: The mind-set, the tool-set, and the skill-set. According to Isidro Filho, in order to be successful in the future, we need to develop our education to meet these needs. The mind-set of a highly qualified person in the 21st century is, according to him, someone who is futures oriented, who has good knowledge of sustainability issues, as well as empathy, trust and citizenship. The skill-set, or abilities needed for the 21st century are critical thinking, ability to communicate and collaborate with various parties, ability to be creative and innovative, as well as decision-making, solving wicked problems and life-long-learning. Finally, the tool-sets necessary to be able to use in the 21st century are data and information, digital communication, digital security, content creation and digital technologies. The main lesson learned from Isidro Filho’s talk that is in the 21st century, the value of the individual is its uniqueness, creativity and potentiality. From this presentation, it is clear that Isidro Filho’s work is in good synergy with the work being conducted at Finland Futures Research Centre, especially in regards to Manufacturing 4.0 project and with the Unesco Chair.

Videos of the event

All talks were held in Portuguese language, and were simultaneously interpreted to Brazilian Sign Language (BSL). The sessions were recorded, and videos are available on YouTube:

Opening session: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ULO-ILbAoaE

Project Researcher Marianna B. Ferreira-Aulu’s talk starts at minute 1:10:00. Before her, there was an opening speech by the rector of UniCEUB, then a talk by a military general, then Finnish Ambassador Joukko Leinonen, and a talk by Minister Ayres Britto, former Justice of the Supreme Federal Court of Brazil.

Closing session: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZVWBbhglGNo&t=3027s

Ferreira-Aulu’s talk starts at minute 48:21. Before that, there was a ceremony of agreement of cooperation.

Marianna Birmoser Ferreira-Aulu
Project Researcher
Finland Futures Research Centre, University of Turku

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