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Round two: Exploring plausible futures

Round two: Exploring plausible futures

Sport and development can better prepare itself for the post-2015 agenda by scenario planning.

A historic moment

This very moment used to be unimaginable -- a time in history where sport was actually a legitimate and respected approach to making progress on social, health and other development outcomes. The future was uncertain. It always is.

When it comes to strategising about how sport for development can make ourselves relevant in the unknown post-2015 Millennium Development Goal conversation, a good starting point is to look back and acknowledge where we have been most effective in achieving the MDGs.

Since, we don’t have full information about what the global community priorities will be, we need to anticipate and better understand where sport has been most effective and where it might be most powerful as a tool in the future.

We can actually better prepare ourselves by doing some simple scenario planning.

Scenario planning

Scenario planning is a foresight methodology. It is used to make sense of an uncertain future. It’s a methodology often used by militaries, policy makers, corporates and others to make decisions in the face of complex and unknown situations. It’s not about prediction, but rather about exploring what plausible futures might look like, based on illuminating drivers for change.

Before we can start scenario planning, we need to split up what we know into two big buckets: (1) things we believe we know something about and (2) elements we consider uncertain or unknowable. In S4D, we could start with trends. We’ve seen momentum in what areas? What safe assumptions can we make based on our progress on the MDGs? I’d bet that education won’t fall off the agenda. That’s a pretty safe call, in my mind.

The second step here is to acknowledge those true uncertainties. The UN Task Force on post-2015 agenda came straight out and said something will change:

It cannot simply be more of the same. For one, that would only move the targets farther into the future. This would be an admission of failure. For another, it would negate the possibilities of learning from experience in the pursuit of doing better or moving faster. It might also be possible to do the same things differently or do altogether different things.

The power of collaboration and diversity

What will the new focus points be -Gender equity, youth unemployment, climate change, good governance? For S4D practitioners and academics alike, this is intuitive but uncertain. However, we could take our inputs (trends, successes, failures, etc.) and through process of analysis and interpretation, use these to create multiple scenarios.

The art and science of scenario planning lies in using your expertise and knowing the limits of it – of blending the known and the unknown into a limited number of internally consistent views of the future that span a very wide range of possibilities.

The real power in this process, more than of its outcome, is the collaboration and diversity of inputs and perspectives. It would also help inform ‘who is not yet in the room’ and give us insights into who else we need in creating transformative intra and multi-sector partnerships.

For S4D, we must move from transactional to transformative partnerships to prepare for the post-2015 agenda. Imagine the possibilities if the top 10 most insightful thinkers in S4D came together with 10 experts that know nothing about our work but are leading thinkers in public health, gender, environment, etc. That’s when the real game would be on!

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[This article has been edited by the Operating Team]

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