Starting in the private sector, strategic foresight and futures thinking have become increasingly popular among governments, civil society and academia in North America, Europe and parts of Asia and southern Africa, as ways to anticipate plausible futures and avoid strategic surprise.With more than 50 years of experience funding research in countries in the Global South, but relatively new to the strategic foresight space, Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) did not have a good sense of who was working on foresight in these spaces nor how foresight was perceived among actors in the Global South—particularly important in the context of calls to "decolonize development". To gain a a better understanding of the actors in this space and these issues, IDRC worked with a team at School of International Futures (SOIF). Together we conceived of the notion of developing a database of actors engaged in foresight, futures and related methods, who are living, working or supporting capability-strengthening in the Global South. SOIF carried out the work for this project funded by IDRC.
Soon recognizing the potential value that this could bring to the broader strategic foresight and futures community, SOIF transformed the research into a public, on-line, searchable, updatable and filterable database—what you have here.
In doing so, we are hoping it can:
But we are not there yet. This database is not comprehensive, nor does it claim to be. We haven't captured everyone. Numerous countries are not included. So, if you are reading this, and you're not in the database, please register and add your details—and our community will have grown just a little bit bigger.
This initial beta version of the directory was produced as part of a research project that consisted of three components: desk research drawing on SOIF's own knowledge of the sector, surveys and expert interviews. The desk research and interviews were conducted by SOIF researchers drawn from our Next Generation Foresight Practitioners network, supported by the SOIF team. The survey was disseminated to the NGFP Sensing Network, SOIF’s network of policymakers and practitioners, and through additional networks working in foresight and futures.
The research focused on five regions: Asia; East and Southern Africa; West and Central Africa; the Middle East and North Africa; and Latin America and the Caribbean.
Additionally, Arthur Muliro, the Deputy Managing Director at the Society for International Development (SID), acted as an expert advisor, who informed the research methodology, and helped us to close some of the research gaps.
We are incredibly grateful to all those who participated in the survey and interviews for their contributions.
While this mapping exercise has helped surface the fact that different regions of the world use different terms and tools, and have different understandings, the definitions SOIF is using are as follows:
Futures is an umbrella term for a global transdisciplinary field of study, methods, and tools, which focus on future-oriented analysis. It includes a range of activities and methods associated with longer range of planning and alternative futures scenarios (APF, 2020; IDRC; Gidley, 2017). It is plural, because there is always more than one future to explore.
Foresight is the capacity and capability to think systematically about the future to inform decision making today (Maree Conway, 2015).
In this first phase of mapping, SOIF searched for organizations and individuals who were doing work that fit with the definitions we were using, who were engaged in different more formal foresight and futures networks, or who were referred to by other known actors working in this field of study. As a result, we have mapped more than 650 individuals or organisations. However, we quickly realized that different regions have interpreted and adapted this field of study, its tools and methodologies, to fit their specific country or regional contexts. So if the work of organizations and individuals fit with the spirit of this enterprise, we also included them.
Along the way SOIF had six learning questions that guidded the research:
The School of International Futures (SOIF) is a global non-profit collective of practitioners in strategy and policy for future generations. We work to ensure that leaders, organisations and citizens are connected to the power to make change for a better, fairer and more sustainable world for future generations.
The initial project was supported and funded by the International Development Research Center (IDRC). IDRC is part of Canada’s foreign affairs and development efforts. They champion and fund research and innovation (including strategic foresight work) within and alongside developing regions to drive global change. IDRC invests in high-quality research in developing countries, share knowledge with researchers and policymakers for greater uptake and use, and mobilize our global alliances to build a more sustainable and inclusive world.
The SOIF research team was supported by researchers from our Next Generation Foresight Practitioners' programme who provided additional regional context and research support. We would like to thank these researchers for their support, as well as everyone who contributed to the research, through the survey, interviews or by providing their advice.
Foresight designer and researcher, Technical Editor at the Journal of Futures Studies, Lecturer at CENTRO
Project Manager, SOIF
Researcher, School of International Futures
Governance Adviser (A2L) at UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office, Kenya
Center for Engaged Foresight and NGFP Fellow
Founder of Present Lab
Director, Programmes and Research, SOIF
Founder & CEO at School of Humanity
The initial project was funded by IDRC. The directory is currently being maintained by SOIF, but we hope that in the future the directory will be supported by a range of partners in different geographies, or become a decentralised resource.
If you're interested in contributing, partnering or would just like to find out a bit more then please get in touch.