Participants from a Variety of Sectors Explore Desired Paths for Myanmar’s Development at Landmark Futures Workshop


1934According to participants at a strategic forecasting workshop held recently in Yangon, ethnic relations are likely to be one of the key drivers of change in Myanmar over the next seven years, along with the development of human capital, democratic gridlock, and the power triangle between China, India and the United States.

About 200 participants from business, government, NGOs, aid organizations, academia and monastic orders came together in Yangon April 26 and 27 to identify desired paths for Myanmar’s economic and social future at the Myanmar Futures Exchange workshop (MFE), the first such futures event to be held in the country also known as Burma. The event was hosted by the East-West Center, a regional institution based in Honolulu, Hawaii, with more than 50 years of experience developing collaborative programs in the Asia-Pacific region.

Since dramatic political and economic reforms began in 2011, Myanmar has been faced with difficult questions about the path to economic development and the models it would like to emulate. To address these questions, participants spent the weekend in small working groups to identify drivers of economic change, examine the interconnectivity of these drivers, and create a variety of scenarios for the country out to the year 2020.

Participants also heard several speakers including the Venerable Sitagu Sayadaw, an influential Buddhist teacher, author and charitable works organizer; National Economic and Social Advisory Council member Dr. Aung Tung Thet; and a series of young leaders.

Attendance at the MFE event was over capacity on both days, and approximately 75 percent of attendees were from Myanmar.  Simultaneous translation was provided so that both English and Burmese speakers could participate.

The MFE had three primary outcomes. The participants:

  • Learned strategic forecasting tools through the process of building scenarios and working with drivers of change.
  • Gained from the insight of many other leaders and community members working to build a strong and sustainable economic future for Myanmar.
  • Developed relationships outside of their sector for potential future collaboration.

The program was developed in conjunction with the Hawaii Research Center for Futures Studies.  Sponsor organizations included the U.S. Embassy, the British Council, and Pyoe Pin.  Myanmar-based partners included the Union of Myanmar Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development, Myanmar Business Coalition on AIDS, Myanmar Business Executives Association, Socio-lite Microfinance Foundation, Hamsa Hub, and Myanmar Egress.

Contact: Alisha Bhagat, Conference Chair: