ASM organised a roundtable discussion with Catarina Tully on 6 September 2018 at its MATRADE office on 6 September 2018.
The discussion centres upon on how the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is driving a renaissance in strategic foresight in the development sector and among multilateral organisations.
Cat Tully gave a short introductory speech on how strategic foresight can be applied to achieve SDGs. Her speech included a case study on Foresight Handbook for Youths developed by UNICEF. She then elaborated on what foresight is, and the importance of strategic foresight to achieve a desired target or goal.
It is most common to set targets or goals to envision the future. However, targets are linear by nature and thus not suitable for the real world in which many aspects of the future are interlinked. To address the interlinked future, she suggested for complex system approaches to be taken in addressing strategic planning and setting targets for the future. In this regard, foresighting can be a powerful tool in anticipating the future.
According to Cat, foresighting activities involve both deductive (analytics) and inductive (articles, creativity) processes. It enables us to harness emerging technologies to benefit human and humanity while at the same time being aware of potential risks. By being informed of both elements, our ability to adopt and engage with emerging technologies can be leveraged for economic transformation. Other than for economic purposes, foresight also enables governments to address conflicts that may arise detected through current signals.
Continuing her speech, Cat highlighted the challenges in employing foresight methods. One of the major challenges would be creating an impact from foresighting activities. Transmitting foresight output into policies is an important element in order for foresighting activities to be actually impactful. This can be achieved by institutionalising foresight.
In institutionalising foresight, it is important to employ an ecosystem approach by leveraging on science and technology. The ecosystem approach should address the whole ecosystem encompassing legislation, judiciary, bureaucracy, as well as organisations. Obtaining commitment from stakeholders for them to decide on how they can contribute is also vital. In order for foresight activities to be effective, the whole ecosystem needs to be addressed.
Cat cited an analysis by McKinsey in 2012; it found that companies that have long-term planning obtains substantially better returns, as they are better equipped for the future. This further proves that foresighting could equip government, agencies and corporations to be prepared for what the future holds. To assist with future ASM foresight activities, a relevant literature that can be referred to is the GCPSE Foresight Manual: Empowered Futures for the 2030 Agenda.
Catarina Tully is the founder of the School of International Futures (SOIF). SOIF helps leaders, communities and organisations engage with the future, to make better decisions today. SOIF runs projects and foresight retreats across the world and has 600 alumni in 50 countries. Catarina advises on and teaches strategic foresight, emergent strategy and system stewardship internationally, including at the UN and as a Visiting Professor in Malaysia and Russia.
Previously, Catarina was Strategy Project Director at the UK FCO and Senior Policy Adviser in the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit. Before working in government, she worked in strategy and international relations across the not-for-profit and business sectors, including Christian Aid, Technoserve and Procter and Gamble.
Catarina has degrees from Cambridge and Princeton Universities. She is a trustee for Involve, a public participation Think Tank; the Foundation for Democracy and Sustainable Development (FDSD); a Global board member of Academics Stand Against Poverty (ASAP); a member of the Advisory Group of the British Foreign Policy Group (BFPG); Visiting Professor at Moscow’s Presidential Academy for Public Administration and Chairholder of the Yayasan Tun Ismail Mohamed Ali Berdaftar (YTI) Professorial Chair in the field of Leadership at UNIRAZAK in Malaysia.