Notes by Gareth Parry

Notes by Gareth Parry


The rate and scale of change in our lives is increasing every day. We have seen huge paradigm shifts in recent decades that present great risks—and great opportunities. And yet, most discussions about the future are limited to the impact of a particular trend or technology, often painting dystopian projections based on Hobbesian assumptions about human nature.

Optimistic Futures explored where New Zealand might go and how we might evolve our government, public institutions and society to be resilient and prosperous into the future.

Ten diverse speakers explored potential future states in 2070 for how we could live as individuals, organisations and community. 

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Jory Akuhata, who walked the length of Aotearoa on the Te Araroa trail, explored the role of conservation efforts—and what we might have to think about now, to preserve some of this whenua's beauty and wonder.

He was followed by Victoria University's head of the School of Government Girol Karacaoglu who talked about the five pillars that need to work together to produce intergenerational wellbeing: sustainability, social cohesion, equity, resilience and potential economic growth. Along equally holistic lines, farmer Sam Lang spoke of the need to an agriculturally literate society that understands a systems-approach to food and farming. 

Jory, Girol and Sam's talks were focused on natural and social systems, and on individual and societal levels and how it interacts with the systems around us. These were juxtaposed by Darian Eckersley and Jon Harries' talk. They spoke of the health experience of the future and how, even with the potential to live forever, we will still require human touch.  

Kat Lintott and Malcolm Mulholland spoke to the potential for Māori to connect to their marae and whānau using virtual and augmented reality. They also dreamed up a future in which Aotearoa New Zealand has a written constitution with Te Tiriti o Waitangi as its founding document.

Continuing the shift of some of the principles of a futures government's set up was Eric Crampton of The New Zealand Institute. He imagined a future in which the public's reliance on central government shifts to a regional one. He also pushed the idea that in the future, we no longer need to ask which policies work—because we have enough information to know which public investments produce a return.

Knowing what works or is required also took place in the future of Don Christie, of open-source tech consultancy Catalyst. He explored the role of education, and how it can be so deeply personalised that society can foster individuals with the kinds of experience and knowledge required for the needs of the future. 

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Paralympic swimming gold medallist Mary Fisher dreamed up a society that put care, community and creativity at its core—and how it would encourage folks to see diversity as a strength. How might we be able to turn our current perception of able bodies around, and make a variety of abilities the new normal? 

Continuing the social justice thread, ActionStation's former co-director Marianne Elliott imagined her life as a 98-year-old. She looked back at 2018 as the watershed year in which a royal commission into the systemic abuse of people in state care resulted in justice to those who suffered, and a more just and equitable society in general.

Finishing the kōrero for the day was Kerry Dalton, who spoke about the importance of a healthy democracy and the importance of social and economic human rights. 

Overall, some of the day's kōrero was probably unsettling to everyone in the audience. Whether it was the thought of crowdsourcing public policy or leaving digital platform's unchallenged, it definitely resulted in fruitful conversation after the talks and during the afternoon workshop. If you're interested in what the workshop participants took forward into their own lives following, check out the Looking Ahead section. You can find all the talks here.

Thanks to all those who came and shared, speakers and workshop participants alike, and to our hosts InternetNZ and Victoria University of Wellington. Thanks to our photographer Pat Shepherd, and Kelly and Hannah from the League of Live Illustrators

Hosted by InternetNZ, in partnership with the Department for Internal Affairs Service Innovation Lab and Victoria University of Wellington, Victoria Business School

Facilitated by Silvia Zuur & Gina Rembe from EXP