Tessa Finlev – Catalyst of Change

I met Tessa Finlev in my capacity as consulting editor of JFS. She wrote an amazing article called “Future Peace: Breaking Cycles of Violence through Futures Thinking”, in which she argued that violence induced trauma in post-conflict situations can seriously impede suffers’ ability to imagine peaceful futures and enact new pathways. In what I would consider ‘integrative’ research in foresight, she brings together new knowledge from neuro-physiology, with cased based research / experiences with post-conflict communities, and links this with futures / foresight methodologies and “the role futures thinking might play in helping people break out of cycles of violence.” She writes:

Why is it so hard to break out of cycles of violence? This paper focuses on the challenges associated with breaking out of cycles of violence and why futures thinking may provide a potential solution. Research suggests that people living in violence lack the ability to think about a peaceful future, or any future for that matter. Addressing this inability may hold a critical key to breaking out of cycles of violence. While there is mounting theory to support this idea, evidence based research is still lacking.

I was able to catch up with her last year (2012) on a visit to San Francisco. I stopped by the Institute for the Future (IFTF) and met with colleague Jake Dunagan, and later got to meet up with Tessa in the city.

She is a research manager for the Ten-Year Forecast program at IFTF. She has degrees in anthropology and international political economy / development, and experience as a Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya. I learned that she was ‘game master’ for IFTF’s foresight engine “Catalysts for Change: Paths out of Poverty”, a Rockefeller Foundation sponsored project that brought thousands of gamers together to explore new ideas and strategies to tackle poverty globally. As game master, she coordinated a team of game facilitators from around the world that served as games nodes developers. Thematically and logistically the whole thing is fascinating, and an example I believe of things to come. Coincidentally I got to meet some of the coordinators she worked with while teaching at NUS, Taufik RamadhanIndrakesuma and Johannes Loh who run the Asian Trends Monitoring research program there. So a small world indeed of foresight for development!

In addition to her work at IFTF, she has a strong Africa focus, and supports foresight activity and networks there. A very inspired and inspiring person, I feel fortunate to have me her and had a chance to ask a few questions.

It was hard to find a suitable place to conduct the interview, as we wandered through trendy and noisy San Francisco streets. We finally settled on a corner café that was ½ hour off closing. With lots of cafe ambient noise, we talked a bit about her background, how she came to foresight / futures work, her experience as game master for the Catalysts of Change project, and her work exploring how futures practices can help break people from cycles of violence, among many other interesting topics.

I hope it is audible enough! Enjoy.