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Why prioritising future generations is crucial if we want to make progress globally

Guest post by Nancy Muigei.

I recently took part in a strategic foresight retreat organised by the School of International Futures (SOIF). The retreat brought together senior-level individuals in strategy, policy, leadership, and analytical positions from governments, NGOs, international organisations, and businesses. The purpose was to engage in discussions and gain insights into strategic foresight, particularly in light of the challenges our world is currently confronting. These challenges include debt distress, climate change, cost of living crisis, financial crisis, and multiple crises.

I was intrigued by the diversity of the participants and how accomplished each one was. To some extent, I found myself questioning whether I really belonged to such a prestigious space. For many years, my desire was to learn and deepen my knowledge in strategic foresight. I did try and look around and most of these courses ranged between $5,000-$10,000. As such, I never even imagined that I would one day take the course, let alone sit in one place with all the experts whose work I had followed from afar.

I attended by invitation as part of the Next Generation Foresight Practitioners (NGFP) Network. This invitation was not only an honor, but a recognition that investing in the next generation of foresight practitioners is an intentional act of decolonising the future.

Nancy stands with five others during a session at the retreat.

Decolonising our futures: working with the next generation

Not to generalise, but foresight spaces have often been exclusive and privileged. In Kenya it was only in the early 2000s that foresight for public interest started to gain traction, and we now have a handful of practitioners in the field. Recently, there has been an increasing number of futurists due to the efforts of SOIF and others to decolonise futures. As such, intentionally mentoring and working with the NGFP Network is an act of intergenerational fairness on the part of SOIF.

What is our duty and responsibility for the next generation?

Jane Davidson, Chair of Wales Net Zero 2035; Former Minister for Environment, Sustainability in the Welsh Government; and architect of the Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 spoke at the retreat, sharing about their journey advocating for the well-being of future generations. It was interesting to learn how their work has influenced the SDGs positively and why we have a duty and responsibility to ensure fairness for current and future generations. Do the policies and investments governments make today take into account the next generation?

The Welsh case challenges us on the urgency and need to relook into our own contexts and question things purposely. In many ways these questions are urgent and can’t be ignored. What is our duty and responsibility for future generations? What can we learn from SOIF’s Transformative Triangle? Can we apply this model as a guide to addressing intergenerational issues?

SOIF Transformative Triangle. Center: Fairness for current and future generations. Top: Citizens are involved in shaping their desired futures. Bottom right: Leaders make intergenerationally fair decisions. Bottom left: Organisations and sectors are prepared for the future.

My key takeaway from the retreat was that strategic foresight practice needs to be transformational. It all begins with building a future mindset. We have to be intentional and inclusive in our future processes, ensuring we do not colonise the very future we are de-colonising. Put simply: responsible foresight.

As I reflect about the future and where I am right now. I am confident I have the tools I need to navigate uncertainty, complexity, and even ambiguity. I also realise others are needed for collective intelligence to solve our world’s most intractable challenges, such as systemic corruption, the future beyond the SDGs, de-materialising, or realising net zero.

I’m inspired by some of the work led by the UN Secretary General like the Summit of the Future happening next year, and along with other Next Generation Foresight Practitioners look forward to making great contributions to the process.

Nancy Muigei is a Foresight Practitioner and Governance Adviser at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office in Kenya. Nancy is one of two NGFP Africa members Small Foundation supported to attend the 2023 SOIF foresight retreat.

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