Farmers and rural communities need better foresight of the challenges that lie ahead, so they can ensure agricultural research, innovation, investment and policy are relevant to their needs. Through the Global Foresight Hub, GFAR challenges the present, providing stakeholders with opportunities to undertake forward thinking on current issues in agriculture and rural development. We engage society in shaping their agricultural futures by giving them skills and capabilities in future thinking, and we support them to use those skills to change the future through policy dialogue and debate.
Global Foresight Hub
While many institutions are involved in forward thinking, they have tended to work in isolation from each other and from wider societal concerns and policy processes. The Global Foresight Hub, facilitated by GFAR, is a global network linking all those concerned about the future of agriculture and its role in development – particularly farmers and their communities. The purpose of the Hub is to break down the institutional “walls” or silos that prevent stakeholders from working together to achieve their goals. It works by
- Facilitating interaction between different approaches and institutions
- Stimulating creative thinking about a range of controversial and plausible futures
- Opening up debate about the future for agricultural research for development
- Integrating all stakeholders’ perspectives
Hub activities are focused on three key areas: challenging the present, through a global “forward thinking platform”; engaging society by building skills and capabilities in future thinking, and changing the future, by facilitating regular opportunities for policy dialogue on key agricultural issues, leading to priorities for action.
Challenging the Present
The Forward Thinking Platform aims to provide an open space for exchanging ideas and information, and debating the futures of food, agriculture, rural development and their implications for agricultural research. The Platform works like a think tank, bringing together foresight practitioners on agriculture and rural development, food and nutrition security. Together they can share results, and compare methods and field experiences. They can discuss out-of-the-box perspectives and limits to current knowledge, and identify collaborative activities.
Engaging Society: Creating Future-Smart Farmers
Research by the Forward Thinking Platform shows that those who are directly concerned with the future of agricultural development - farmers and rural communities - are not engaged as equal partners in future thinking, but at best as beneficiaries of the end results. GFAR works to address the current imbalance by building collective capacity in forward thinking, locally and globally, by:
- Supporting foresight activities across GFAR constituencies, particularly in farmers' organisations and regional fora;
- Building the capacity of all stakeholders in forward thinking, particularly young professionals; and
- Supporting a diversity of forward thinking approaches in research and innovation systems.
Foresight in Action
Grassroots Foresight Initiative: Farmer’s organizations and members of the Forward Thinking Platform developed the Action Plan in 2014. The Initiative is under way in six countries and is managed by the Asian Farmers Association and the Plateforme Régionale des Organisations Paysannes d’Afrique Centrale.
Regional fora: FARA made foresight a priority in its Medium Term Operational Plan; CACAARI included a foresight session in a joint meeting with GFRAS in 2014; and AARINENA is also planning foresight activities.
YPARD, a partner in GFAR, is developing its members’ foresight capacity. This includes training YPARD Foresight Ambassadors in participatory scenario building. YPARD Asia recently engaged in a foresight process during its first regional meeting.
CIFOR and WorldFish are working with the Global Forum to strengthen their capacities in engaging locally with stakeholders using participatory scenario building. This is applied respectively on the futures of forest tenure security in Indonesia, Peru and Uganda and the futures of fish and aquatic agriculture systems in Southern Africa.
Changing the Future
The Global Foresight Hub connects science and society. National and international Policy Dialogue Platforms provide opportunities for discussion and debate on the future of food, agriculture and rural areas, and for smallholder farmers to directly shape research priorities. These Platforms are instrumental in helping decision makers understand the implications of alternative future scenarios for research and policy agendas and for identifying future foresight priorities.
The second Global Conference of Agricultural Development (GCARD2) was an example of a Policy Dialogue Platform facilitated by GFAR. Foresight was one of the main themes at GCARD2 and the foresight sessions led to tangible commitments and actions. These include the focus on ICT and foresight at the AFITA conference, and the Hosted Scientists Program at GFIA on Innovation Platforms.