Innovating Together for the 2030 Agenda
Use of Foresight to Develop and Monitor a new Strategic Country Framework for UN in South Africa 2019-2024
This article appears as a blog on Centre for Public Sector Innovation
In 2015 the UNDP, in partnership with Centre for Public Sector Innovation (CPSI), initiated a conversation on foresighting as a tool to support long-term planning. With the support of the Global Centre for Public Service Excellence, workshops were held in various countries such as Lesotho, Ghana, Malawi, Cape Verde, Rwanda and South Africa.
Following the various discussions and engagement, a need was identified both within the UN Country Team and amongst government officials to use Foresight in a very practical manner, that is to help frame the next UN Strategic Country Framework (SCF) and regional and national medium-term planning. An important aspect would be alignment of these plans with the SDGs, National and Provincial (sub-national) Plans.
The outcome of these initiatives would ensure that plans will not only be better aligned, but also be part of a joint roadmap towards acieving developmental goals. An added benefit would be that this will actively stimulate innovation to wards achieving empowered futures.
One of the key deliverables was a provincial level foresight exercise to ground the initiative in real developmental issues.
What follows is a short discussion of the workshop held in the Eastern Cape Province in South Africa.
EASTERN CAPE PROVINCIAL DEVELOPMENT PLAN (PDP)
The Province is in the process of reviewing its PDP due to numerous socio-economic challenges. An analysis on departmental Annual Reports and Annual Performance Plans (APP) indicate that government is unable to meet its set targets due to high service delivery demands. In some areas there is also underperformance of up to 42%. As these areas are linked to national priorities and SDG targets, “business as usual” is not a viable option.
Foresight therefore becomes a crucial tool in stating alternative futures to unlock innovative strategic planning, policy formulation and solution-focussed design methods. Foresighting empowers decision makers and people to have a new way of thinking out of the ordinary by placing the future in the foreground.
PUBLIC RELIANCE ON GOVERNMENT
Most communities and community-based organisations in the lesser-developed parts of South Africa rely on government services or on the secondary economy created by government. Government decisions therefore have a direct impact on their lives. Government is not always actively engaging with citizens, communities and the private sector to jointly engage on planning. The Foresight workshops provided for the opportunity of joint engagement on what an ideal future of the province would look like and then formulating a joint plan of action. Thus, instead of heavily relying on government, foresighting helped breaks barriers to new ways of thinking where ordinary citizens are playing their role in achieving the SDGs and co-develop solutions.
FORESIGHT AND SCENARIO PLANNING
Our traditional models and assumptions are inefficient and our planning processes do not mirror the true reflection of the realities. As elsewhere, planning in the province assumes a slowly changing, linear future which can be predicted by relying expert knowledge. Planners also tend to think that the future is fixed whilst future is very much in the making. Using some of the tools from the GCPSE’s Foresight Manual, the workshop, attended by government, private sector, academia and not-for-profit organisations started building a number of scenarios related to Governance and the Economy.
Guided by one of the experts in the field, Chantel Illbury, looked at areas of under-performance or pressure points (e.g. 85% of the budget spent on social services) and strategic opportunities, both current or in the future (e.g. exploring the Ocean’s Economy with 800 km of coastline and harnessing green energy).
In building the scenarios, the teams considered the:
- Players – who are the key players in this space when it comes to decision-making? What are the strategic relationships that have need to build with the players? Are they for, against or neutral?
- What are the certainties? You know how it is plays out.
- What are the key uncertainties and Unpredictable.
The teams focussed on the uncertainties with potential high impact and plotted these towards building the various scenarios.
The workshop was the start of a process to rethink local planning and make it future proof. It centred the development cooperation between the UN and province in a very reciprocal manner. The province gained from the UNDP expertise and knowledge and the UN CT were given insight into the developmental challenges at grass-roots level. One of the very positive experiences for delegates was when wildcards were introduced: the solutions that came from the group to mitigate the impact of these wildcards turned out to be viable interventions that can immediately be implemented in the province to address some of the current challenges.
The next phase of this initiative will be three-fold:
- At provincial level it will be institutionalised and combined with other approached such as design thinking to help develop a comprehensive provincial strategic plan. There will also be support for developing the innovative solutions needed to actualise the provincial Future. The Office of the Premier and ECSECC are already providing the leadership in this regard.
- At UN Country Team level, the current planning process will be enriched by the insights from the coal-face and participants from the provincial workshops will help strengthen the discourse.
- At national level (Department of Planning Monitoring and Evaluation and other roll players), Foresight will be incorporated in the on-going activities that set the mandate and priorities for the next medium term.