How to reveal alternative futures for nations?

For the past two months, Demos Helsinki has worked in collaboration with Tanzania Commission of Science and Technology and National Planning Commission on how to create capabilities and use foresight and co-creation by conducting research project with a headline “the Future of Forests as a Resource for Tanzania”. The research process combined foresight methodologies and co-creation tools to create four scenarios on the future of forests until the year 2035.


What happened in the project? 3 step research process

Step 1, Background study

First step of the process was to understand and scan the environment. This was done by short desktop research for identifying key questions around the forests in Tanzania and with a Delphi study with 34 experts on different fields in Tanzania, Finland and elsewhere abroad. Delphi is a technique used to help structure the communication of a group of experts and to help them come to an understanding of the future developments of the chosen problem or area of interest.


Step 2, Backcasting workshop

Based on understanding the context and environment, backcasting workshop was conducted in Bagamoyo, Tanzania. The workshop consisted two days of scenario building for four different future scenarios for ”Forest as a resource” combined with methodology training on foresight. The third day was concentrating solely on methodology training on foresight and co-creation and joint reflection on learnings.

There were 26 participants from different expertise fields from forests to ICT and planning, including e.g. officials from the Planning Commission (both President’s and Zanzibar’s), COSTECH and researchers from different universities and institutes.

In the “Counting Backwards” workshop the backcasting method was used to explore the roadmaps to the sustainable and profitable use of forests in Tanzania. Before the scenario building, four alternative states of future for 2035 were defined with the help of futures table. After that the states of future of 2035 were enriched through various exercises. Starting with these alternative futures, each group ”counted backwards” from 2035, first to the year 2025, then to 2017, with the usage of various co-creation tools. All the work was done on big, visual timelines on the wall.


Step 3, Finalizing the scenarios and education

After the intensive workshop days, the scenarios were finalized and digitalised as well as a short summary of the key drivers of change and answers to key questions like education or energy portfolio in each scenario was made.

Final part of the project in Tanzania was a final seminar that was organized at COSTECH for larger audience of 41 participants to test the coherence and collect additional contributions to the scenarios, as well as to spread knowledge on foresight and collect views on its position in strategic planning in Tanzania. The participants were also provided with a report and methodology guidebook for future research processes.


What it really was for?

What the whole project really was, is a natural continuum of a process started earlier this year, when Demos Helsinki conducted its first workshop in Tanzania. The aim of the first project was to introduce foresight as a tool in planning in Tanzania and the second project continued the process through more in-depth research on specific context of forests as well as more in-depth methodology education. The goal was very much focused on creating local capability to conduct foresight research and train the use of foresight methods – to create resources to operate without the help of any external experts. And while listening the last reflections of the workshop days and discussions at the final seminar, it is not hard to believe that this is exactly what will happen – not in 2035, but in the very-near future.

You can download the final report of the process, which includes finalized scenarios and background information but omits the methodology descriptions from here: