Development Predictions: Looking back and looking forward

Emergency aid is broken. Insurance will help us fix it. Cybersecurity and data security become mainstream concerns. Big data meets thick data. These are three of the predictions from Bond’s future thinkers in 2017, which aim to ‘predict’ what is in store for the development sector in 2017 – though they’re worth a read even if you don’t work in development.

Screen Shot 2017-02-21 at 12.06.35 PMSome may seem obvious, others too long-term for 2017, but (we expect) Bond’s ambition* in producing these predictions is less about the accuracy, but rather to help their members explore how global movements and changes can have real impacts their work. This was at least the goal behind SOIF’s work with BOND to compile “100 facts and insights” that could shape the future of development to 2030, completed a few years ago.

Predictions are an easy and practical tool for this kind of engagement; they encourage people to speculate, and as you slowly lengthen the time-horizon they can help people to engage with uncertainty and explore alternative possibilities. However, it is important not to overshadow the real benefit of the activity, which is to open ourselves up to possibilities and build resilience, rather than to place too much importance on “sure bets.”

Having said that, in 2016 SOIF gave a prediction, with Cat Tully writing that there would be a global crisis of governance “fueled by a political flashpoint or disaster”. And that this would bring to light how governance and government structures are not agile enough to deal with today’s extreme events.  With the refugee crisis and Brexit we were disappointed to be proved right.

“While Catarina did not exactly predict the Brexit vote or Donald Trump’s election as President of the US, her prescience is remarkable. 2016 has been a year of huge social upheaval, with Syria’s civil war creating the worst humanitarian crisis of our time.”
– Bond 2016 development predictions: how did we do?

We hope that Bond, as well as other organizations continue to help their communities challenge perspectives and open their minds to alternative futures. After all, strategic reflection is vital for all organizations, governments and individuals. Whether to identify “weak signals” or developments that come from different sectors and practices. They allow us to cross boundaries of disciplines, identify critical drivers of change, and plan possible scenarios. They are also important reflections to look back on, as Bond has done, to be able to see where we were right, wrong, why, address what we see as “givens” in the future, and what areas we feel are more volatile.  The inflection at the end of the year is a good way to frame and underline the importance of engaging with the future.

We look forward to seeing what 2017 brings.

*Bond is not the only organization in this community realizing the importance and need to look forward, as we saw when AFD completed a study looking at future scenarios for development.

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