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  • Writer's pictureThe Gender Security Project

The Future of Feminist Foreign Policy: Notes from the FFP Futures Lab

This note is a report from the first FFP Futures Lab facilitated by Kushal Sohal with participants from the first cohort of learners for the Feminist Foreign Policy Course.


The first batch of graduates from the Feminist Foreign Policy course hosted by the Gender Security Project finished the course with an initial round of futures work to see where they found themselves in the Polak Game. On the y-axis, the scale read ‘I feel hopeful about the future of Feminist Foreign Policy’ at the top, and ‘I feel the future of Feminist Foreign Policy is doomed’ at the bottom. On the x-axis, on the left, it read ‘I cannot make an impact on the future of Feminist Foreign Policy’ and on the right, it read ‘I can make an impact on the future of Feminist Foreign Policy’. Most of them located their initials on the upper part of the y-axis, yet felt unsure about their impact on the future of Feminist Foreign Policy. Through the course, they talked about the many ways in which existing state practice does not quite add up to the vision of a truly feminist foreign policy, and learned from civil society engagements across the majority world.

As a participatory, action-learning process sparking collective intelligence and the reframing of paradigms, the Futures of FFP: Futures Literacy Lab 1 offered participants an opportunity to further their learning, apply the knowledge they had gained, transcend the present, and challenge their imaginative capabilities. They generated a pool of visions for different futures, reflected on questions these raised, and articulated paths towards achieving FFPs.


The FLL began with participants reflecting on their entry points to the topic, Feminist Foreign Policy. Reflecting on what they had learnt about the theme in the course, they shared reflections on intersectionality, the need for re-prioritisation and systemic change, and critiques of ‘add women and stir’ approaches. Noting what they want to explore further, participants highlighted leaders' perceptions of feminism, possibilities for UN strategy, trade policies and measuring equitability - through these conversations a foundational question emerged for the FLL to answer: ‘Is there a real possibility for the world to be feminist?’

Probable Futures

Participants began their journey into the future with an investigation of a likely future and the place of Feminist Foreign Policy in this world. Considering the weights of the past, they highlighted how family systems, patriarchy, colonialism and structural inequality have acted as obstacles and barriers to transformation. Engaging with the present-day factors and trends shaping future trajectories, they highlighted the climate emergency, an appropriation of indigenous lands, state security, right-wing populism vis-à-vis globalised interconnectedness, and the covid-19 pandemic. While they identified an increased criminalisation of and explicit violence towards queer lives, they noted that LGBTQI rights movements are having more success in shaping contemporary policy. Sharing a sense of headlines in a probable future, participants suggested there may be well-informed societies with participatory decision-making navigating a need for peace amid the proliferation of technologies, a climate crisis, and the capitalist breakdown of state structures.

Desirable Futures

The next task for participants was to envisage a desirable future and explore its implications. For one participant, a desirable world would be structured around symbiotic relationships and shared value - where every human knows their worth, all enterprises are collective, elections of leaders are based on performance not rhetoric, and there is the active preservation, reservation and replenishing of resources. For another, in a world where ‘feminism is the baseline’, there would be transformations in schooling, a politics of accountability, better conflict resolution and tech security, and reduced impetus on defence and policing. If there was ‘community over sovereignty’, the future would be home to transformative justice, plurinational and pluri-ethnic societies, substantive coexistence, respectful boundaries, intersectional policy making and the absence of extractivism, settler-colonialism, imperialism and war mongering. Additionally, participants envisaged community solutions to the climate crisis, eradication of poverty and emergence of wellbeing schemes, nuclear disarmament, more opportunities for full economic and political participation, and modalities that check on technological invasion of space and privacy. This activity saw participants question assumptions around the effectiveness of governance models, the need to redesign the UN security council by removing vetoes and replacing an interest-led system with a needs based one, and identify assumptions undergirding visions of the future, such as the belief that legal frameworks have a part to play.

Reframe Scenario

A reframe scenario plays with the assumptions rendered explicit in participants' images of the future. It is a preposterous world, neither likely nor desirable, but one that invites engagement with multiple levels of complexity and uncertainty, creating space for the emergence of novelty and collective intelligence. This was the reframe presented in FLL1:

Welcome to an alternative world. States are split into three self-proclaimed global coalitions: feminist, conservative, and the unbranded. Most of the conservative states are former colonial powers, half of them have nuclear weapons. A third of the unbranded states are former colonies but with strong ties to their colonisers. Two unbranded states have nuclear capacity. One feminist state was a former coloniser, two have nuclear weapons. But, mass public support is with anti-institutional, heterarchical people's movements. These are also splintered, some claim to be feminist, others conservative, and many are unbranded. Indigenous movements are strong in the unbranded states. There is a transnational mobilisation for human rights. There is also an active anarchist movement. The fascist movement is strong. Each type of movement exists within all states. Technology has been an enabler of connection for all movements. The climate is in total breakdown.

Participants were encouraged to reflect on these parameters for a reframed 2050, sensemaking together by answering the following questions: What does a feminist foreign policy look like in this world? What does accountability / justice mean in this world? What does gender / sexuality look like in this world? What does security look like in this world?

To support their development of visions for this imagined world, participants explored headlines, the roles of individuals and communities, the different systems at play and the myths and metaphors that might be stitching such a scenario together.

Participants wondered about an authoritarian mode of capitalism that threatens democratic institutions, controls movements in global power and undermines efforts for accountability and justice. In such a world, unbranded coalitions would emerge as climate leaders whilst former colonisers would struggle to fully embrace feminist principles. The key actors in this alternative world would be indigenous feminist movements and progressive creatives, hardliners in each coalition, the cross-sectional development of nuclear alliances, migrants and defectors moving between types of states, and conservative backlash from Men's Rights Activists. Such a society would lead us towards a politics of food sovereignty, peace education and peace journalism, and a valuing of community and collective well being captured in indigenous practices such as Sumak Kawsay and Buen Vivir. This world would see antagonism and tension between movements and states captured in phrases like: ‘feminism is extreme’, ‘conservatives cannot be feminists’ and ‘nuclear isn’t feminist.’

New Questions and Goals

Returning to the present, participants were encouraged to compare and contrast their different images of the future across the three phases - probable, desirable and reframed - and identify new questions these insights pose for Feminist Foreign Policy. Participants were encouraged to reflect on their questions and translate them into goals for 2050.


  • Can the role of ideology be bridged to build more inclusion and stronger rights-based approaches?


  • Civil-rights movement inspired bridging of ideological and intergenerational divides


  • How do we find a common ground for respectful communication and discussion?

  • How can we unite all people behind the idea of FFP?


  • Bridging the differences


  • What is “feminist” in existing FFPs?

  • Could a feminist foreign policy ever align with the concept of state?

  • Can states reinforce a feminist consciousness in international politics?

  • Could an independent FFP gain as much validation and legitimacy without being associated with the state?


  • Indigenous value systems and community visions

  • Caring Masculinities


  • Can the state be feminist?

  • How can we transform existing structures and systems?

  • What needs to change in the current world order to build FFPs?


  • Transformation of systems and structures to build feminist futures


To consider a pathway that may lead to the realisation of these goals, participants engaged in a backcasting exercise - noting milestones, obstacles and wildcards on the journey.


  • Ukraine war helps slow down shift to renewables

  • Privileged capitalists in power not shutting up

  • Possession of nuclear weapons

  • The longer the wait for deeply rooted change, the more extreme the outcomes


  • Privileged capitalists in power shutting up

  • States fair share towards climate targets

  • Reformation of UN Security Council

  • Inter-coalition cooperation council

  • Establishment of transitional justice mechanisms to address harms by systemic violence

  • Reparations for harm caused

  • Community-based solutions mapping to address pressing issues

  • Carbon neutrality achieved


  • Climate crisis leads to extreme unliveability

  • Taiwan strait boilover leads to war, delaying green energy shift

  • Destruction of the caste and race systems

  • The media stops reproducing populism

  • Educational systems change

  • Capitalists do an FFP lab

Polak Game

The Futures Literacy Lab focused on Feminist Foreign Policy concluded with a Polak, returning to a game participants had played at the end of the course designed to assess levels of hope and agency. On the y-axis, the scale read ‘I feel hopeful about the future of Feminist Foreign Policy’ at the top, and ‘I feel the future of Feminist Foreign Policy is doomed’ at the bottom. On the x-axis, on the left, it read ‘I cannot make an impact on the future of Feminist Foreign Policy’ and on the right, it read ‘I can make an impact on the future of Feminist Foreign Policy’. All participants placed themselves in the top-right quadrant of the graph, evidence of the collective hope and agency that futures activities can develop. This is the first of three Futures Literacy Laboratories on Feminist Foreign Policy, we are on a collective journey to ‘use-the-future’ to creatively transform our shared present.

Looking to the Future

Calling for systems change is only one part of the process. Several movements that have aimed at producing change have tended to stop with envisioning the pressing need to dismantle what exists. Envisioning what should follow is equally important, as change does not come with merely taking out what isn't working. This lab opened up a path for our participants to imagine, but also invest in the action it takes to bring those imaginations into reality. Envisioning the next step is an ongoing, active, and mindful process and we hope we've sowed the seeds for these ideas to come to fruition. As Bayo Akomolafe said, "The times are urgent; let us slow down."

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