Three lessons that young Malagasy taught us about how to use foresight

UN Global Pulse embarked on a foresight journey to equip young Malagasy with the skills and tools they needed to shape their own futures and lead futures dialogues in their communities. This was part of a broader collaboration with the UN Resident Coordinator and UN country team in Madagascar, the International Labour Organization, the research center National Youth Observatory, and the Ivorian Centre for Economic and Social Research (CAPEC).

Madagascar is a very young country – almost 63 percent of Malagasy are under 25 – and the population is projected to soar to 51.6 million by 2050 from the current estimated population of 29.6 million, a key factor in the country’s development prospects.

As the Government of Madagascar and the UN system prepared to “build back better” after the COVID-19 pandemic – a process known as Madagascar 2063 – foresight tools proved essential for analysing the country’s development challenges to improve decision-making and development planning over the medium and long term.

During this process, a crucial question arose: how can young people get better access to development, employment, and entrepreneurship? Following a forum in the capital, Antananarivo, that brought together young people from all the regions of the country, the answer became clear — young people needed foresight skills to shape a brighter future for their generation and to be part of shaping a new Madagascar.

Diving into the project

The project looked at how foresight could support the active involvement of young people and youth groups in the process of building “Madagascar 2063”. Through two sessions held in November 2022 and January 2023, we explored the future of youth development, employment and entrepreneurship, culminating in a foresight training session for 23 regional coordinators of the National Youth Observatory. 

Our aim was to create an environment where young people could play an active role in exploring their future and bring this knowledge to their local communities. By empowering them to envision alternative futures, we aimed to unlock their potential as positive changemakers. We trained them with the necessary skills and capabilities to take decisive action and to be able to envision the future of their regions and  country.

Learning as we share knowledge

Training goes beyond imparting knowledge; it involves a dynamic interplay of learning and sharing for both participants and trainers. During our sessions, young Malagasy taught us three key lessons to improve our foresight practices:  

1. Contextualise your exercise. One size does not fit all when it comes to foresight. Tailoring our approach to the specific audience was key to improving the benefit  of this exercise. We considered factors such as participants’ ages, their region, language and their interests. We wanted to make sure that the future they envisioned was rooted in their reality. This made all the difference. The level of engagement and enthusiasm skyrocketed when participants felt that their unique context mattered.

2. Don’t just involve your key actors, give them an active role. We quickly realised that the key to success lies in engaging the participants from the get-go. We crafted the training sessions in a participatory and inclusive manner, taking into account the diverse backgrounds and experiences of the young Malagasy. We wanted their voices to be heard, and their perspectives to be valued. When we created a safe space for them to express themselves, we were rewarded with a flood of creativity and fresh ideas to build into the training design.

3. Beware of existing bias. Whether we recognise it or not, our experiences shape how we perceive the future. We saw that jumping directly into the future would not work. Participants often fell into the trap of imagining futures that mirrored their present circumstances. To overcome this cognitive bias, we introduced “futures” tools such as a scenario building tool putting the concerns and hopes of low income populations at the centre of attention. This exercise helped shift their mindset and expand their perspectives, while staying rooted in their own culture and identity.

Our foresight cooperation in Madagascar with young Malagasy illustrated how every occasion can turn into a good opportunity for learning and improving. This is why the UN Global Pulse team positions itself as a catalyst to support communities and the UN system to discover practical ways to benefit from foresight. The project also proved the value of involving youth in foresight and creating participatory and inclusive environments that embrace diverse perspectives. 

As we finish this chapter, we eagerly anticipate watching the UN team in Madagascar take further strides. The national and thematic future exercises now are evolving into a formal process between the UN and the government. It aims to (i) introduce a foresight institute’s curricula for government’s planners, (ii) establish a government foresight unit, and (iii) develop a programmatic framework on youth employment and entrepreneurship. Foresight findings will serve as vital inputs to ensure the framework’s long-term approach.

Special thanks to our partners in this project UN Resident Coordinator in Madagascar, International Labour Organization, the National Youth Observatory and the Ivorian Centre for Economic and Social Research (CAPEC). 

If you want to learn more about the specific tools used for the sessions with young Malagasy, click on the link below to check out the experiment and tools used.

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