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Accepted Paper:

Reimagining futures and policy strategy in Singapore  
Suzannah Kewley

Paper short abstract:

The island nation of Singapore has soared to become one of the world's strongest and most resilient economies, while achieving massive social gains. We look at the innovative methods used to create social policy, which engage anthropologists to analyse and prepare for multiple possible futures.

Paper long abstract:

A futuristic city founded on anthropology:

Thrust into independence half a century ago, a country smaller than New York City with few natural resources had an uncertain chance of survival. Since then, the city state of Singapore has transformed into an economic powerhouse, winning international acclaim. This success has been accomplished alongside impressive social development, ranking first among 189 economies in the World Bank's 2020 Human Capital Index.

Part of this maturation has been Singapore's strategic futures planning. The state has never had the luxury of not planning for the future, with little capacity to absorb the consequences of large policy errors and external shocks.

This paper looks at two pioneering agencies in Singapore, which use ground breaking anthropological methods to provide insight and guidance to policy makers: The Centre for Strategic Futures, part of the Prime Minister's Office, and independent think tank: The Institute of Public Policy.

The methods used by the agencies to gain a deeper understanding into futures are sometimes unorthodox, with social scientists innovating to suspend reality in order to produce informed strategy and policy recommendations. We explore the lengths to which these integrated disciplines go to anticipate and prepare for the 'unknown unknowns'. Beyond predicting 'black swan' events, to the 'black elephant' in the room - exceptional events we know are on the horizon but are reluctant to address.

Through this panel we hope you will be inspired to challenge conformist thinking, articulate ways trends could evolve, and develop innovative tools for futures strategy.

Panel P54
What can socio-cultural anthropology contribute toward a serious ex ante evaluation of policy and strategy, programme and project, promising and planning for a better future to come?
  Session 1 Thursday 9 June, 2022, -