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Volunteers would really bolster the amount of big data for development. Photo: Zaven Khachikyan/UNDP in Armenia

In preparing for the upcoming research and development event ‘Foresight for Development – Shaping the New Future', one of my tasks was to compile an essential reading list for the participants.

This is easier said than done. There are gigabytes and terabytes of publications, books, and blogs out there. How was I to synthesize this into two pages?

Since many of the participants - and in the development sector in general - are quite new to foresight for development I have tried to pare down an essential list of that provides a good basis not only for preparing for the event, but also for learning more about these sometimes nebulous concepts.

Okay, ready? Here we go.


Foresight for Development

Noah Raford’s Manifesto argues that classic strategic planning is based upon the assumption of a slowly changing future.  He challenges this assumption and the result is a must-read.

Furthermore, his talk on Foresight & Surprise at LIFE 13 presents two different approaches to dealing with change that really make you think.

The Emergent Futures Mapping with Futurescaper blog gives more detail on the online tool Futurescaper for making sense of the drivers, trends and forces that will shape the future.

The paper “Foresight as a Strategic Long-Term Planning Tool for Developing Countries” provides an answer to the question on the value foresight in long-term planning and its implication in the development context.

The book 'Practising Strategic Foresight in Government: The Cases of Finland, Singapore and the European Union' discusses the principles of strategic foresight among other things.

The Practical Foresight Guide provides the concepts and practical approaches to develop systematic, collaborative foresight capabilities with limited external help and at low cost.

The future can be imagined in different ways. These three scenarios show how the world of governance could evolve by 2050.


Foresight Engines/Platforms/Tools

There are several interesting blogs and papers, here are just a few:

The blog Foresight Engine asks the Crowd to change the Future presents the Foresight Engine of the Institute of Future. Another presentation “Foresight Engine – 5 screens to know, or Zen, Art of foresight maintenance” offers ten best practices.

Connected Citizens: Re-imagine How Government Works gives advices on possibility to re-programming the government through gaming, Connected Citizen, and increased citizens engagement.

Maker Cities is a multiplayer game that empowers people to imagine and make the future of their city.

Serious gaming in action is a brief presentation by IFTF on why gaming has to be considered when thinking of future.

The Gaming Futures platform describes how communication technologies have contributed to changes in the structure of the societies, and hence to the distribution of the political power, in the past, present, and four alternative futures.   The Alternative Futures at the Manoa School also unpacks the concept "alternative futures".

Myanmar Futures Exchange 2014 is an excellent example for catalyzing the creativity of citizens building the future of Myanmar through foresight-insight-action models and leadership development.


undp-rbec-undp4futurePhoto: UNDP fYR Macedonia

Big Data, Foresighting And Development

The starting point for the big data reading journey is the UN Global Pulse’s new introductory guide on big data for development. For those that want to dive deeper in the big data waters, I would recommend the White Paper.

McKinsey’s Report provides information on the state of digital data, and the potential values and implications for different stakeholders.

The primer “Mobile Phone Network Data for Development” explains how analysis of big data can provide valuable information for development and humanitarian purposes.

Also, there are several very interesting blogs. Here are three:

“'Big Data' for development: What is it, and why you should care” presents essentials of big data for development.

“Big Data, Big Impact: New Possibilities for International Development” discusses how the potential of torrents of data can be channeled into actionable information.

“The Rise of Big Data” which reminds us that “we can learn from a large body of information things that we could not comprehend when we used only smaller amounts”.


Big Data and Disaster Risk Reduction/Humanitarian Assistance

Big (Crisis) Data refers to the relatively large volume and variety of digital information that may improve situational awareness and response during disasters.

There is also an interesting list of misplaced assumptions about the relevance of big data for disaster response and emergency management.

The use of humanitarian technology and innovation as presented in this UNOCHA study and summarized in the blog Humanitarianism in the Network Age: Groundbreaking Study.

Social media platforms can also contribute to further analysis and assessment for purposes of situational awareness. The Artificial Intelligence for Disaster Response platform leverages machine learning to automatically identify informative content from Twitter during disasters.

This is by no means a definitive reading list. What have I left out? Your recommendations for additional resources are more than welcome!

Stay tuned for more and please be sure to check out the debate on twitter. Follow #UNDP4Future on 16-17 June for more!

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