Future-proofing the economy

Future-proof boils down to a better way of doing business 

When the Prime Minister first announced the structural changes within the PL as a result of which my colleague Minister K. Mizzi is expected to be elected deputy leader for party affairs, if  there is one word that struck a chord amongst most of those following the PM’s recent statements on the need to have the party machine re-engineered was his emphasis on the words future proof.

For some it was energising, for others completely new and as a word, unheard of.

But what is more important than how people welcomed the word and interpreted it, is what the concept of future proof means, particularly if we were to also look beyond the confines of the party’s internal restructuring.

Rather than a project future proof is a process. It is as the PM smartly explained: a process of anticipating the future and developing methods of minimising the effects of shocks and stresses of future events.

Initially future proofing might have started by being used in industries, particularly those with an electronic and medical industry linkage as well as in data storage and communications systems, but nowadays, it is even linked to such areas as climate change designs. 

The basic tenet of future proofing is that it prevents items, institutions or organisations from becoming obsolete, by referring to the ability of something to continue to be of value into the distant future.

Like all other processes future proofing has its basic principles too. Some of them have even been codified.

From preventing deterioration and harm, to stimulating flexibility and adaptability, increasing durability, reducing the likelihood of obsolescence and considering long term life cycle benefits.

Future proofing has been on the agenda since the turn of the last century. Since then it has been looked upon as a characteristic that any investment in human and material terms would need to have.

Unless you have mechanisms of interoperability and the ability to be adapted to future technologies one should not be surprised that one will end up missing the signs of the times.

There have even been particular regions elsewhere where future proofing was carried out to study how the regional economy could see the existing and potential demand in such areas as water understood better as well as to determine how this potential demand might change with climate change and more intense land use.

If I had to summarise future proofing in one sentence I would limit myself to forward planning for future development and increased demands on resources.

More recently it has also been used regarding global warming within the context of energy conservation and rising energy costs.

One area where future proofing is often used is in the sustainable environmental sector too. By trying to reduce dependency on fossil fuels as well as by ensuring that society, the economy and the infrastructure are all adapted to the residual impacts of climate change.

In some instances it is often linked to practical, cost effective design related strategies too.

It has also been moving up the agenda of such untypical areas like architecture, engineering and construction itself.

Years ago I used to avidly read and follow books about Megatrends.

Basically that is what future proof is all about, nicely rebooted under a fancier name but more effectively too, in a manner that it manages to catch the public attention and imagination faster and quicker. 

If one had to find a single word for it I would easily settle for resilience.

When we talk of future proof sustainable cities this means that things must be planned well, in a structured manner, as well as through a multi disciplinary combination of mitigation and adaptation techniques.

In being always prepared for external systemic shocks, we need to constantly keep many options open. Even when it extends from the urban environment to individuals. 

In the commercial sector future proof all boils down to a better way of doing business. Particularly since better business decisions are now defining the way we work, live and interact with the people around us.

This has become imperative because nowadays the decisions that we make affect not only our own lives, but also those of the people we work with, as well as the organisations that we do business with. Including the communities in which we operate from and with too.

The mix must always be well balanced economically, socially and environmentally to succeed.

Unless this will be the case it cannot maximise its potential as a game changer as it must indeed do if it ever succeeds in being of direct benefit to the people around us. 

In real terms it should translate itself into creating value for our organisations and making a positive impact not only on the places closest to one and all but also to the people themselves.

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