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MEET YOUR APF LEADERS - Q&A with Abril Chimal



In each issue of Compass, we offer a profile of one of the APF’s board of directors. In this issue, we profile Abril Chimal.


Q. Where do you live?

I live on the outskirts of Mexico City, as a nerd fact, this area was supposed to be the city of the future back in the 1960s.


Q. How long have you been a member of the APF?

I have informally participated in various APF events for 1.5 years and have been officially involved for a year and a half.


Q. When did you join the APF board of directors?

I'm a newbie, having been part of the board since January of this year.


Q. How did you learn about the APF?

I was introduced to and became involved in APF events through colleagues and social media.


Q. What do you do as a professional futurist?

I am an independent foresight designer and researcher and have served as a speaker, facilitator, collaborator, and mentor for various organizations and institutions, including the United Nations, UNESCO, the Ministry of Science, Innovation, Technology, and Knowledge in Chile, the International Labour Organization, and the International Development Bank, among others. 


Along with José Ramos, I co-lead “'Perspectives,” ' a section of the Journal of Futures Studies that aims to break down barriers to public engagement in futures studies. I am also a professor of Design Fiction for undergraduates at CENTRO in Mexico City. More recently, we were awarded with an UNESCO Chair at CENTRO for “'Design Methods for Democratic Access to Futures Imagination”’ team lead by Dr. Karla Paniagua.


In addition, I currently serve on the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors at the APF and as the chief pollinator of the Participatory Futures Global Swarm. I also like to draw on my experience in design and creativity, so I have an experiential futures project called “'Without Words,”' in which Lena Tünkers and I explore how language dominates our senses and impacts our capacity to see and perceive alternate futures. Another project that I’m very proud of is “Women Who Future(s),” founded by me and Thays Prado. This project is committed to showcasing the diverse approaches women are taking in their work in the field, reflecting on how women's identities inform their practice, and finding new ways of articulating feminist principles and gender issues in futures and foresight.


Q. Why do you love what you do?

I love working in futures because it’s a profession that encourages collaboration across interdisciplinary groups and has the potential to significantly impact our ability to co-create better futures for everyone. In my personal opinion, it is unique in that while being a serious field, with high impact, it also offers space for exploration, creativity and weirdness. As Arthur C. Clarke’s second law states: “'The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.”'"


Q. Why did you become a professional futurist?

I got into futures out of curiosity. In 2018, I enrolled at CENTRO in Mexico City, where I had the privilege of having amazing mentors (Jose Ramos and John A. Sweeney) during my time in the Design of Tomorrow program, whose work has greatly impacted my personal and professional life. Their work inspired me to follow in their footsteps and contribute to the creation of more inclusive, diverse futures. I am also lucky enough to say that I still have the honor of working and collaborating with them today. Their influence inspired me to follow in their footsteps to contribute to creating the creation of more inclusive, diverse futures and also lucky enough to say that until today I have the honor to work and collaborate with them.


Q. What do you want your impact to be as a professional futurist?

With my work, I aim to contribute to empowering others to envision and shape preferable futures, particularly in contexts where strategic foresight is not commonly valued. I strive to include an intersectional and pluriversal perspective within the field to ensure spaces where many voices are heard and included.


Q. How does growing up and living in Mexico inform your perspective as a professional futurist?

Growing up in Mexico, surrounded by its rich history and diverse cultural heritage, has given me a deep appreciation for different narratives and complex social dynamics. This background helps me bring a variety of perspectives into my foresight work. For example, the way we perceive time isn't just one-dimensional — there's a wide range of options to consider and embody when envisioning the futures and the importance of hyper-contextualizing the work can have a greater impact in change than just a global perspective.  


Q. What do you value the most as a member of the APF?

The diverse network of thinkers and practitioners provides multiple opportunities for cross-pollinating knowledge. It is an organization that actively seeks to engage people with diverse backgrounds, contexts, and knowledge.


Q. What career advice would you give someone just entering the field of foresight

Stay curious and open-minded. The field of foresight is constantly evolving. Embrace continuous learning. Attend as many events as possible and reach out to those whose work inspires you.

 

Q. Biggest accomplishment as a professional futurist, so far?

Being awarded with the Second Futures Research Grant by the Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd Center for Futuristic Studies (PMFCFS) and the World Futures Studies Federation (WFSF) for the project “'Futures of Circular Economy in Mexico City.”' It was my first futures research project so it is very close to my heart. I hope to finish the paper soon and have it published.


Q. What’s your latest futurist project?

Women Who Future(s) is a project that began as a small experiment but has grown into a large event. We gathered 39 Women Who Future(s), hosted 27 sessions, and welcomed around 500 participants from diverse backgrounds from all around the world. They all came together to share, learn, and imagine better futures for all.


Q. If you were to recommend just one book to the readers of Compass, what would you recommend?

I know it says just one book, but I'll add one in Spanish and another in English: "Un nosotrxs sin estado" by Yásnaya Elena Aguilar Gil, and "Fresh Banana Leaves: Healing Indigenous Landscapes Through Indigenous Science" by Jessica Hernandez.


I highly recommend these two books if you are looking to incorporate diverse ways of knowing into your futures practices.


Q. Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your 18-year-old self about a career as a professional futurist?

I’d tell my younger self to be more adventurous in seeking out interdisciplinary experiences and to not be afraid of unconventional career paths — they can lead to the most fulfilling outcomes. Stay weird and curious.


Q. What do you do to inspire yourself as a professional futurist?

I often turn to art, science fiction, history, pop culture, and counter cultures. I enjoy watching movies, TV series, listening to various genres of music, and chatting with people from all walks of life. Hearing about their experiences and perspectives is always fascinating to me.


Q. What do you love to do for fun or to relax?

I really enjoy hiking with my dogs, being out in nature, and hanging out with other dog lovers.


Q. What is your favorite food?

I would say tacos de mixote. I, it’s a seasoned meat (often lamb, pork, or chicken) cooked with different spices. The mixture is wrapped in maguey leaves or banana leaves and then steamed or baked underground in a pit.


Q. Where do you like to travel to expand your perspectives to make you a better futurist?

I would love to continue traveling around Mexico. It's so vast and rich in culture that it feels like even a lifetime wouldn't be enough to experience it all. There's always something new or different to see. It always mesmerizes me.


Q. What is your favorite thing about your homeland?

The warmth and resilience of its people. Despite facing numerous challenges, there’s a spirited determination and joy that permeates Mexican culture.


Q. What is your greatest hope for the APF?

My greatest hope is that the APF continues to grow, advancing not only the practice of foresight but also making it accessible and actionable across different regions. I hope it fosters futures where everyone has the tools to thrive.


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