Tags: Foresight, Futures, Futurescaper, Sustainable Development Planning

Foresight and Alternative Futures

Foresight and alternative futures are an emerging methods which helps people plan in ways that can handle volatility, complexity and uncertainty. These approaches are particularly relevant for sustainable development planning as they encourage a longer term planning horizon – often thinking 15-50 years into the future instead of annual or 5 year planning.

Why we need foresight alternative futures

These methods encourage planners and decision makers to explore likely development challenges and responses in the future. It involves imagining long- and medium-range scenarios, often based a wide range of views about the future; and sometimes uses art and/or data to help people feel like a certain future has already arrived. Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals will require public policy makers, business leaders to make decisions based on factors that extend beyond quarterly earnings and election cycles.

What we’ve done

So far, the UN has used strategic foresight approaches within country planning processes in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lao PDR, Montenegro

The UN in Montenegro brought 700 people together to imagine and discuss probable and preferred futures. Participants included young and old, experts and non-experts, public servants, academics, and citizens from all walks of life. They used a game to discuss possible futures, considering challenges, opportunities, partners, actions, values and critical uncertainties. Input from the strategic foresight games was included in the UNDAF planning process.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the UN used a foresight game as part of its consultation process understand people’s priorities within the SDGs. It helped about 1000 people throughout the country understand the inter-connected nature of the goals, and that a holistic approach is needed to embrace this complexity.  The UN team in Bosnia and Herzegovina worked with 600 people to generate 80 “bright ideas” about the future. These were then presented at a high-level SDG Conference with policy-makers as accelerating solutions. Involving people in UN-convened foresight exercises has helped them to see possible futures as tangible tools that can provide new insights for planning.

‘A-ha’ moments

  • Foresight can help to overcome situations where participatory planning is difficult. By design no single voice can dominate within foresight processes, as no-one really knows which potential future will materialize. Foresight can therefore be an inclusive tool – and an appropriate approach for ensuring that we leave no one behind in our consultations and planning processes.
  • Sometime it is hard to merge foresight into planning and budgeting processes which are based on results based management.     While setting targets is good for accountability, administrative, budget-focused approach often takes insufficient consideration of changing external contexts.
  • It can be helpful to use “new start” moments to try out innovative tools such as foresight or alternative futures. New multi-year plans, new government partners and a relatively new set of Global Goals are all good potential moments to try out new ways of planning.

What’s next?

In the face of threats like climate change and unequal economic growth, traditional policymaking and government structures often fall short. In order to plan strategically for potential futures, the public sector will need to be able to react and adapt to changing environments, and foresight will be critical to this.  Different teams will take different routes – some will integrate foresight into government planning and budgeting, while others will keep it as a reflective space outside budgets and results frameworks.  Gamification, integration of artistic representation and other creative means will be used to help people grasp potential futures and then plan better for a sustainable one.

EXAMPLES OF THE USE OF STRATEGIC FORESIGHT BY UN COUNTRY TEAMS

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Silo Fighters Blog

Powering up data collection systems in Palestine

BY Subhra Bhattacharjee | July 11, 2018

In 2016 we prepared a Common Country Analysis (CCA) for Palestine. A CCA is UN speak for a detailed analysis of a country in preparation for a multi-year action plan of the UN. It identifies key development challenges and where the UN needs to focus its development investments. For our analysis this time, we decided to look at people. In hindsight it appears to be the obvious thing to do, but we were not the first to think of this. The Nepal UN Country Team did it before us. For our CCA we asked ourselves two questions: Who are the most vulnerable groups in Palestine? What are the structural drivers of their vulnerability? We thought if we could identify the most vulnerable groups and analyze the structural drivers of their chronic vulnerability, we will have a good sense of what it will take to ensure that our sustainable development investments leave no one behind. The first call for ideas brought out 61 proposed groups, each backed by passionate arguments as to why they are the most vulnerable. We merged some groups, reduced duplications, clarified categories, tinkered with definitions, and after extensive discussions, honed our focus to 20 vulnerable groups. This gave us a window to the factors that keep some groups in Palestine systematically at a disadvantage. Next, we did a deep-dive to understand why development was leaving some groups behind. For some groups, including out-of-school children and children in the labour market, the lack of adequate data makes it difficult for government to formulate specific policies and programmes for these groups. Alternative data collection methods for groups that are small compared to the population After a comprehensive exercise to account for the data, especially looking at Sustainable Development Goals indicators, we noted that relevant data on smaller groups couldn’t be collected only through existing surveys. The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) uses representative samples for each geographical area of the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), and even though it produces high quality data consistent with international standards, there is a lack of up-to-date and periodic disaggregated data on several smaller groups. Take for example, the fishermen of Gaza. There are some 4,000 registered fishermen in Gaza, accounting for 0.2 percent of Gaza’s population of two million. If PCBS samples 1,000 people from Gaza for one of its quarterly labour force surveys, it will have at most two fishermen in its sample. We cannot draw any reliable conclusions about the socio-economic conditions of fishermen in Gaza from a sample of two people. And if PCBS included more fishermen in their sample, the percentage of fishermen in the sample will be larger than the percentage of fishermen in Gaza’s population. To create a large enough sub-sample for fisherfolk, PCBS will need to do a new level of sub-sampling by profession or sector on top of the two layers it is already subsampling. This would significantly increase its cost of surveys. Are you still tracking with us? Keep reading.   Flash surveys to the rescue So, for the smaller groups, we at the UN looked for an approach to gather data that would not cost too much, would not create too much additional work and most importantly, that is able to produce good quality data. The first thing we tried is a series of flash surveys – with small samples, and short questionnaires. These flash surveys had several benefits over the more traditional surveys with bigger samples and longer questionnaires: They allowed us to test our systems for collecting primary data and iterate quickly and cheaply if necessary to work out the flaws in the system. They enabled our enumerators to get hands-on training at a relatively low cost to us. They are also particularly suitable for understanding the smaller groups that don’t get adequately represented in the bigger surveys. We chose four vulnerable groups: adolescent girls, children in labour, the elderly and persons with disabilities as pilot cases. UNFPA took the lead in this. They engaged the Sharek Youth Forum, a non-profit, and one of UNFPA’s implementing partners to conduct the surveys. OHCHR, FAO, UNRWA, helped with the quality control. 37 university students (28 from the West Bank and 9 from Gaza) were recruited from Sharek’s network and trained as enumerators by an expert. The survey questionnaires in Arabic were uploaded on KoBoToolbox, a free and open source suite of tools for collecting data. Many of the young enumerators owned smartphones so they downloaded the app on their phones and entered the data for each person they surveyed into their smartphones. Sharek provided the others with tablets. A village, a town and a refugee camp were selected in each governorate. Sharek’s enumerators visited schools to survey adolescent girls, reached out to the elderly in their local communities, and found persons with disabilities through support groups. ILO provided information on the areas with high concentration of child labour. The enumerators collected the data over a period of two weeks, and, in some cases, they used paper forms to collect the data and documented problems as they arose. The enumerators collected data on a small number of key demographic variables for each group. For the data on the four groups produced by Viz for Social Good, click here, here, here, and here. Before even looking at the data, we noted a few things. First, we now have 37 trained enumerators who can be deployed again at short notice to conduct other flash surveys. The investment in training and the hands-on experience they got has started the process of creating systems to collect data on vulnerable groups. Second, we need to finesse our sample selection if we want to use the surveys to provide baseline indicators and monitor progress. Third, we need to think through how to combine the data from smartphones and paper surveys. Fourth, we need to figure out how to identify our target groups based on more rigorous definitions. For instance, not all work done by children should be classified as child labour. According to ILO, child labour refers to work that “deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development”. Fifth, flash surveys need more quality control if they are to serve the same purpose as traditional surveys. This is because with smaller samples of flash surveys, the choice of location will need extra attention to ensure that the sample is indeed representative. This year, we will work through these wrinkles. Engaging people in their own data analysis In data circles, we often hear the idea of engaging communities to collect and use their own data. But the instances of it being done in a meaningful, low cost, sustainable way to generate usable data are few and far between. Could we pull it off? We decided to experiment with combining data collection and empowerment for one of the most vulnerable groups in the oPt, namely, Area C communities. Area C accounts for 60 percent of the West Bank. It has some of the most fertile agricultural land and almost the entirety of Palestine’s natural resources. An estimated 300,000 Palestinians live in Area C and a greater number depend on its resources for their livelihoods. Area C is controlled by the Israeli military,  which has exclusive control over land, planning and construction. Significant portions of Area C land are allocated for Israeli settlements and declared as Israeli state land. Only about 30 percent of Area C is available for Palestinian construction, but so far Palestinians have been issued permits to build on less than one percent of the land. Since construction permits in Area C are closely tied to Israeli spatial plans, spatial plans driven by Palestinian communities have been used in recent times to empower communities, and to rally the Israeli Civil Administration to issue permits to Palestinians for construction. In addition to Israeli military orders, land ownership in Area C is governed by a complex legal framework resulting in insecurity of land tenure and confusion about ownership and user rights of private land. Consequently, land registration has been a long-time priority of local and international development actors in the oPt. As the next activity of our project, we integrated a community-driven process to map land ownership and user rights. UN-Habitat took the lead in developing a system called the Social Tenure Domain Model. This participatory tool is a pro-poor, gender responsive system based on free and open source software, which means that all the data collected and stored is available to the communities and owned by the users. The system is based on information and evidence shared by local communities making them a part of the decision-making process. The system records and analyzes the social tenure relationship of people and land, and the social services/amenities that available to the inhabitants of a location. It fits the oPt’s highly complex tenure system, because it supports a continuum of land rights ranging from formal to informal. An Arabic interface was created for the system so it can easily be deployed in other Arabic-speaking countries. UN-Habitat also provided training for the Palestinian Land and Water Settlement Commission staff. This system for community mapping of land rights with a special focus on women and youth will help us empower the community, build social cohesion, and generate data on land rights. The resulting database will serve as a shadow land register, support land valuation, raise awareness about land governance in Area C, and inform advocacy efforts to defend land rights of Palestinian communities. These efforts are supported by the ‘Road Map for Reforming Palestinian Land Sector’ of 2017. Right now, the background work is still ongoing. The model will be piloted in 2019. Will this actually work? We don’t know. For now, we know that we now have the systems in place to replicate or update the data collection of smaller groups through flash surveys, we can engage communities participate in collecting and analysing their own data and integrate a community-driven process to identify land ownership and user rights, at a lower cost than in the first run. And we will use whatever we learn from these initiatives to finesse our methods in our next set of data collection initiatives in 2018.

Silo Fighters Blog

Making money move: New financing to achieve the SDGs

BY Richard Bailey | July 3, 2018

“Money doesn’t grow on trees.” Regardless of where you grew up, we all learn about the importance of securing every penny, rand, real, euro, yen, ruble, or rupee. And the saying is particularly relevant today since development organizations like the United Nations (UN) must mobilize more than US$3.0 trillion every year if we hope to achieve the ambitious goals laid out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Official development assistance (ODA) is still an important finance mechanism but only $140 billion are secured each year. If we, the UN, intend to accelerate progress so no one is left behind, ODA needs to be used more strategically, and other sources of finance must be secured. There also needs to be an organizational shift from strictly funding programmes and initiatives to an approach that involves “funding and financing” to tap into international, national, private and public financial flows. Perspective shift: from funding to financing A growing number of blended finance sources have helped advance development aims in recent years.[1] Private sector guarantees, syndicated loans, and shares in collective investment vehicles mobilized $36.4 billion,[2] while socially responsible investing exceeded $6 trillion between 2012 and 2014. Impact investors and development finance institutions created a new investing asset class that is projected to grow to $400 billion by 2025. When it comes to financing, the rules are changing, and the UN is looking at new ways of aligning financial flows and attracting new investors. UN Country Teams (UNCTs) in Kenya, Indonesia and Armenia explored ways of helping national governments and local partners secure broad, non-traditional funds for development purposes. They mapped out challenges, unlocked new types of financing and used resources in a timely and innovative manner. The three most successful tools adopted were impact investing, Islamic financing, and sector-specific fund modalities. Impact investing in Armenia In the last few years, Armenia has turned into a thriving tech start-up hub and financing initiatives have followed two major trends: venture philanthropy and impact investing. To capitalize on these new forms of funding, the UNCT set up a country platform for SDG implementation that is aligned with national reform and SDG efforts. The collaborative space allows the UN, development partners and civil society to strengthen relationships and develop new ones with international financial institutions, donors and philanthropists. Other innovations: SDG Innovation Lab, the Kolba Social Innovation Lab, ImpactAim Venture Accelerator. Islamic financing in Indonesia Home to the world’s largest Muslim population and the tenth largest economy, the Government of Indonesia recently turned to inclusive and ‘green’ financing to accelerate the SDGs. The UNCT saw the potential and embraced new forms of finance to support sustainable development initiatives. Good practices include employing blended finance instruments and Islamic financing (Baznas).[3] In 2017, UNDP channelled zakat (charitable funds) for a micro-hydro energy project to improve access to water, renewable energy and livelihoods in some of the most remote parts of Indonesia. Other innovations: Financing Lab, “Bring Water for Life” and #TimeforTigers crowdfunding campaigns. Primary health care financing in Kenya One million people in Kenya fall into poverty every year because of a fractured health care system,[4] which is why the national government prioritized rolling out Universal Health Care in the “Big 4 Action Plan.” The UNCT supports the government by working with private sector partners on the Private Sector Health Partnership Kenya initiative and SDG Philanthropy Platform. Bringing together the private and public sectors together has opened doors to new cross-sectoral opportunities in the health, tech, early childhood development, nutrition, and technical and vocational training sectors. Make it rain: harnessing the potential of innovative financing The cost of solving the world’s most critical problems currently runs into the trillions, forcing development financing into a new era. There are no other options if traditional development aid no longer makes the grade. The UN has to pivot and embrace the changes taking place or risk becoming redundant and irrelevant. Luckily there are many opportunities to seize, and the UN has plenty of comparative advantages to bring to the table. The organization has a long, successful history of bringing together partners, training and recruiting experts, scaling up projects, and imparting technical knowledge. UN staff are skilled in advising, brokering knowledge, innovating, analysing data, and measuring impact. As we have seen in Kenya, Armenia and Indonesia, capital can be mobilized through impact investing, attracting early investors, or securing funds for larger investments in sectors identified by the central government. Embracing the latest tech innovations (e.g. e-health or mobile diagnostics) can turn unattractive investment areas into “bankable propositions.” Perhaps the most important takeaway is to not “let perfection be the enemy of the good.” Change may take time but UNCTs can’t wait for everything to be in place before embarking on new initiatives or adopting innovative types of financing. Steps to secure the right kind of capital have to be taken because time is running and “business as usual” no longer works—the numbers tell the whole story. Societal progress involves taking calculated risks, and achieving the SDGs is no exception. Unlocking new sources of funding is one way the UN can make sustainable gains and help governments make returns on the 2030 Agenda. ---- [1] Discussed in detail in “Financing the UN Development System. Pathways to Reposition for Agenda 2030” (September 2017), Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation in collaboration with the MPTF Office, http://www.daghammarskjold.se/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Financing-Report-2017_Interactive.pdf. [2] Amounts Mobilised from the Private Sector by Official Development Finance Interventions: Guarantees, syndicated loans and shares in collective investment vehicles’, OECD working paper, 2016. [3] Baznas was established by the government based on Presidential Decree 8/2011. The agency is responsible for collecting and distributing zakat at the national level. [4] Thomson Reuters Foundation, February 2018, http://news.trust.org/item/20180209112650-s1njv/.

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