BY Simone Karlstetter
When I last blogged in this space in November 2018, I wrote about our plans to use foresight dialogues as a vehicle to create images and narratives of alternative futures for Egypt in the year 2050. One of the purposes of these “Alexandria Dialogues” is to use foresight to help us build integrated and innovative policy responses that are in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. We believe that foresight, which takes uncertainty, unpredictability, and interdependency as a given to explore alternative futures, is the best approach to identify emerging development opportunities and risks in the different scenarios that Egypt is facing. Let’s take the rapid population growth in Egypt, for example. Population growth is still perceived as the most pressing development priority. It will determine the effectiveness of other priorities, e.g. poverty reduction. From what we perceived, many Egyptians have a certain "doom perspective" when it comes to population growth. If we flip the coin, we could turn this issue into an unexpected advantage in the new emerging development realities in Egypt. How? Through foresight. Foresight enables decision-makers and the population as a whole to take better informed decisions which help them navigate the future from tomorrow onwards and respond to the aspirations set forth by Member States in the 2030 Agenda. The Alexandria Dialogues on foresight We kicked off the Alexandria Dialogues, a series of foresight dialogues that aim to identify the outlines of new sustainable development opportunities to realize Egypt’s significant potential, with the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, the major center of learning and understanding in Egypt. For each dialogue, we invite between 20 to 30 distinguished thematic experts. Over the course of the dialogues, Egyptian thought leaders from the economic; scientific; technological; environmental; agricultural; academic and government sector come together. Each dialogue consists of two full working days, with an introduction to foresight, plenary discussions, and the core: foresight exercises in groups to imagine and build possible future scenarios and narratives. So far, we’ve carried out three out of six foresight dialogues. The topics include: An inclusive society in Egypt in 2050. This dialogue included access to the 21st century social and economic order; new concepts of social justice, welfare, equality, inclusiveness; job and the labour market; technological innovation; spatial development, in urban as well as rural areas; old cities, new cities; gaps/divisions between regions/governorates/Upper & Lower Egypt; mental dispositions and health; the nature of resilience; the changed relationship between local, national, regional and global; intergenerational justice and dialogue.In the scenarios we built, governance played a key role in the direction of change. Laws, regulations and policies would determine, to a high degree, whether demographic, technological, economic and environmental change will have a positive or negative impact on society in 2050 and whether that society will be inclusive or not. An educated person in Egypt in 2050. This dialogue covered the nature, nuts and bolts of education; future educational infrastructure; social, economic and political participation; the citizen of the 21st century; technological innovation; state-citizen relationship; type of social contract; international labour market; and economic growth sectors. The transformative change for these scenarios would take place in the pedagogy, emphasizing learner-based and collective learning, bringing it more in line with the creative, innovative and problem-solving needs of the 21st century. Sustainable life in Egypt in 2050. This dialogue covered the direct and indirect impact of climate change; the importance of water in all its dimensions; energy sources; resilience; consumption patterns; technological innovation; spatial development and urbanization; rural development; emerging population and health risks and opportunities; food production and security; etc. Halftime lessons Having applied foresight to three dialogues, and with three more to go, it is time to draw some “halftime” lessons from our observations thus far: Youth participation is crucial – but how? As we move forward with the dialogues, we realize that it’s imperative to include an equal share of youth voices. They are the owners of our future after all. Some of the questions that came up during the dialogues are: what is the best way to ensure that youth voices are heard? Could culture traditions hinder young participants from expressing their opinions when senior figures are in the same room? We explored including voices of youth through video statements but these did not actively feed into the scenario building and narratives. To ensure that we hear what youth have to say, we have decided to hold one of the remaining three dialogues exclusively with young students, entrepreneurs, and professionals to capture what they consider sustainable development in 2050 will look like. National capacity building Foresight is an important tool to build future scenarios. To make sure that we continue to inject foresight into the work that we do, we’ve built a new cadre of foresight experts. We trained co-facilitators from the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in-person on how to conduct each foresight exercise, and how to watch out for the usual trial and errors of each exercise. They then applied their new skills during two of the dialogues so far. Continuing the Dialogues... Since this is the first foresight exercise in Egypt in about 20 years, we’ve received very positive feedback as different Government entities expressed an interest in our work and in foresight beyond our dialogues. We will continue to organize the remaining three dialogues in addition to a one-day conference that brings together all participants from the six events in June 2019. Have you had any experiences with foresight and how it makes a difference on the ground? We would love to hear from you in the comments section. Photo: Evan Kirby/Unsplash
BY Maurice Shawndefar, Priska Marianne
Waste generation is directly linked to urbanization. With a population of nearly 1 million, Bandar Lampung, which is located in the southern tip of the Sumatra island, the city generated 800 tons of solid waste daily in 2017. The city employs open dumping systems so waste management here is heavily dependent on the landfill’s capacity. With only one landfill in the city, the Bakung Landfill, employees there say that they are only able to collect 68 percent of the city’s waste. Without changes in the current waste management system, the landfill will continue to grow, posing environmental and health risks in the surrounding areas and beyond. A different approach to tackling waste management To address the complex nature of these challenges, we knew we needed an integrated approach to to help solve the waste management conditions from various angles. So we brought together a group of 30 participants from government agencies, non-government organizations, academia, and community volunteers to talk about the waste management challenges that were preventing a cleaner Bandar Lampung. We learned that in Indonesia, waste management is regulated by two laws regarding environmental protection and management. The first regulation encompasses raising public awareness as one of the government’s tasks, the obligation of households to reduce and handle waste management, and producers’ responsibility to label products and end-of-life product management. The laws also provide the incentives to implement the three R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle). The city government of Bandar Lampung tasked us, namely UNDP, UNICEF, and UN Volunteers, to focus on tackling waste management in the city. We conducted an eight-week field research study to select local partners, identified a project location for piloting of the prototypes, and determined the target groups. We focused in the Rajabasa District (Kecamatan Rajabasa in Indonesian), where we found that there are urban farmers—whose lifestyle is similar to those based in rural areas—that live in the same areas as city dwellers, including students, lecturers, factory workers, restaurant owners, etc. We saw this as an opportunity to help induce small changes and impact a wide range of urban dwellers. Getting our hands dirty To identify innovative solutions that could potentially increase public awareness, reduce waste generation per capita, and support the city’s recycling effort, we organized a three-day human-centered design workshop. We divided the participants that were already involved in waste-related initiatives into five groups and gave each team a specific project scope to tackle. Mirum Agency, a leading experience design agency who specializes in innovation and human-centered design facilitated the workshop, which was designed to develop prototypes that could become the drivers for change in Bandar Lampung. To improve the sustainability of waste banks, for example, one of the teams worked on a prototype to develop a point system to incentivize citizens to deposit their recyclable goods at waste banks by offering benefits. This was a creative alternative to government subsidies. The group conducted an initial testing on the integration of SMASH in reducing the cost of information, transactions, and introduced a point system. The group received feedback from users including: 1) design a better user interface that's accessible and considers elderly as users, 2) add features in the application to ensure relevance with the context on the ground (i.e. types of products/items displayed). Another team developed a prototype which focused on the promotion of responsible consumption and waste management at schools. The objective here was to educate and increase awareness around the benefits of 3R’s (reduce, reuse, and recycle) in changing minds and behaviours. The team simulated the prototype in two schools to assess student engagement and interest. The prototype, Annual Waste Hunt Day, consisted of school-wide daily activities and competitions on recycling with a focus on plastic bottles and food packaging. Students liked the the simulation and we could see them actively participating in promoting responsible waste practices through fun and engaging activities. A behavioral approach to waste management practices In collaboration with the University of Lampung, we teamed up with thirteen junior and senior students to be in the know of what’s happening in the Rajabasa District. With the help of local partners, we reached out to small and large businesses, households, university and elementary students to collect perception surveys and conduct in-depth interviews in Rajabasa. We collected nearly 700 perception surveys, conducted in-depth interviews, and mapped out the existing business model for waste banks in Bandar Lampung. From our research, we discovered that 59 percent of the people we spoke to know how to recycle but only 35 percent of the respondents actually recycle waste. We also learned that a large proportion of the population believes that they should be doing more to practice responsible consumption in order to increase the recycling rate across the city. We also collected quantitative and qualitative data from founders, managers, and users in different waste banks in the city to gain more insights on the existing waste bank initiatives in Bandar Lampung. We partnered with SMASH, a nation-wide web-based and mobile application for waste bank management to obtain real-time data on the number of registered waste banks, transactions, and collected recyclable materials. This database allowed us to see how waste banks in Bandar Lampung compare to waste banks across Indonesia. The waste bank transaction rate in the city is currently below one percent. Even though waste sorting is not a common practice in the country, the government is increasing efforts to reduce waste based on targets set under the National Mid-Term Development Plan for 2015-2019, by focusing on extended producer responsibility, the 3Rs, as well as increasing the number of recycling centers including waste banks to intensify waste separation at source. These in-depth interviews also helped us to identify and specify gaps and patterns in terms of social behaviour and habits that otherwise would have been overlooked. For example, the cleaning staff at University of Lampung told us that despite having separate recycling bins on campus, students and faculty do not use the proper bins to separate their waste. A waste bank operator that works in the city told us that people tend to stay away from bringing their recyclable goods to waste banks due to the social stigma attached to waste collection. People don’t want to be seen carrying around garbage bags for fear that others might think they are ‘trash pickers’. In Indonesia, most trash pickers are undocumented and from a low socioeconomic status. Early signals of scale-up Our approach is showing early signs of success. The University of Lampung allocated a budget specifically for the modification and scaling up of the awareness-raising campaign on waste separation for next year. With the university’s plan to establish a full-fledged green campus initiative and recycling center in the near future, the prototype has great potential to impact the waste reduction habits of staff and students. Our long-term plan is to mobilize resources to replicate and scale up the prototype in Bandar Lampung in different parts of the city to build community-based waste management systems from the ground. We also want to support other city governments in aligning their waste management practices with national priorities through the establishment of community-based waste management systems and sites. Are you an expert in human-centered design or behavioral insights? If so, we want to hear from you!
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