Filed under: Development 2.0 Governance Social innovation

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Noah Raford: “Classical strategic planning is based upon the assumption of a slowly changing future. That assumption is wrong.”

In preparing for the upcoming research and development event, Foresight for Development – Shaping the New Future, one of my tasks was to compile an essential reading list for the participants.

This is easier said than done. There are gigabytes and terabytes of publications, books, and blogs out there. How was I to synthesize all of this into just two pages?

Since many of the participants – and much of the development sector in general – are quite new to foresight for development I have tried to pare down an essential list that provides a good basis ,not only for preparing for the event, but also for learning more about these sometimes nebulous concepts.

Okay, ready? Here we go. 

Foresight for Development

Noah Raford’s Manifesto argues that classic strategic planning is based upon the assumption of a slowly changing future.  He challenges this assumption and the result is a must-read.

Furthermore, his talk on foresight and surprise at LIFT 13 presents two different approaches to dealing with change. Emergent Futures Mapping with Futurescaper explains how the Futurescaper online tool is making sense of the drivers, trends, and forces that will shape the future.

Practising Strategic Foresight in Government: The Cases of Finland, Singapore and the European Union discusses the principles of strategic foresight, among other things.

“Foresight as a Strategic Long-Term Planning Tool for Developing Countries” provides an answer to the question on the value of foresight in long-term planning and its implications for development.

The Practical Foresight Guide provides the concepts and practical approaches to develop cost-effective and collaborative foresight capabilities, with limited external help.

The future can be imagined in different ways. These three scenarios show how the world of governance could evolve by 2050. 

Foresight Engines/Platforms/Tools

There are several interesting blogs and papers, here are just a few:

The blog Foresight Engine Asks the Crowd to Change the Future presents the Institute for the Future‘s Foresight Engine. Another presentation on “Zen and the Art of foresight maintenance” offers ten best practices.

Connected Citizens: Re-imagine How Government Works gives advices on reprogramming government through gaming, Connected Citizen, and increasing citizen engagement.

Maker Cities is a multiplayer game that empowers people to imagine and create the future of their city.

Serious gaming in action is a brief presentation by Institute for the Future on why gaming has to be considered when thinking of the future.

The Gaming Futures platform describes how communication technologies have contributed to changes in societies and and the distributions of political power in the past, present, and four alternative futures. The Alternative Futures at the Manoa School also unpacks the concept of “alternative futures”.

Myanmar Futures Exchange 2014 is an excellent example of catalyzing the creativity of citizens in Myanmar. 

Big Data And Development

The starting point for the big data reading journey is the UN Global Pulse’s new introductory guide on big data for development. For those that want to dive deeper in the big data waters, I would recommend the White Paper.

McKinsey’s Report provides information on the state of digital data, and the potential values and implications for different stakeholders.

The primer for “Mobile Phone Network Data for Development” explains how analysis of big data can provide valuable information for development and humanitarian purposes.

There are also heaps of very interesting blogs:

There are the essentials of big data for development as well as robust discussions on how data can be channelled into actionable information.

Finally there’s “The Rise of Big Data”, which reminds us that “we can learn from a large body of information things that we could not comprehend when we used only smaller amounts”.

Big Data and Disaster Risk Reduction

Big (Crisis) Data refers to the relatively large volume and variety of digital information that may improve situational awareness and response during disasters.

There is also an interesting list of misplaced assumptions about the relevance of big data for disaster response and emergency management.

The use of humanitarian technology and innovation is presented in this UNOCHA study and neatly summarized in the blog, Humanitarianism in the Network Age: Groundbreaking Study.

Social media platforms can also contribute to further analysis and assessments of situational awareness. The Artificial Intelligence for Disaster Response platform leverages machine learning to automatically identify informative content from Twitter during disasters.

This is by no means a definitive reading list: What ‘must-reads’ have I left out?

Your recommendations for additional resources are more than welcome!
Stay tuned and please be sure to join the debate on Twitter. Follow #UNDP4Future for more!


  • Helena Puig Larrauri

    Vasko, what a great summary. Thank you! I don’t have a reading to add, but do have a comment. We’ve been thinking about how foresight can be applied to peacebuilding / peace processes. My sense is that most work right now on foresight in the public sector is on economic development and governance. If you come across any, would love to hear about it.