The value of research and foresight for building agile strategies

The value of research and foresight for building agile strategies
21 September, 2018

Ahead of Global Goals week, Victoria Watt-Smith explains how collaboration is vital to make the humanitarian sector strategic.

Victoria Watt-Smith

Research is the pursuit of knowledge. It allows us to hone decision-making skills in a constantly evolving world. However, humanitarian organisations often operate reactively and to short-term objectives, helping those most in need following disaster. Unfortunately, this way of thinking makes it extremely difficult to act strategically to create systemic change and help crisis-affected people escape these endless cycles of vulnerability.

Nonetheless, the world is changing at warp speed and the future remains unpredictable. Therefore, as humanitarian needs continue to grow and change.  The sector must adapt their programmes to mirror these changes and meet the future needs of the people it serves. A one-dimensional approach is no longer relevant, future changes must be pre-empted in order to build agile and adaptable strategies to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) The SDGs are the blueprint for a more sustainable future and what often underpins humanitarian organisational strategy and programming, the world over.

Making the humanitarian sector strategic

This is where we come in. We are the Inter-Agency Regional Analysts Network (IARAN). We are a consortium of operational aid agencies and academics and it is our aim to make the humanitarian sector more strategic. We use a demand-driven model to respond to the analysis needs of humanitarian organisations at global, regional and country level. This is so that they can be better positioned for the future. Months of rigorous research culminates in the production of analytical studies, where we use techniques such as scenario analysis and strategic planning to explore the potential evolution of an issue or context over a set timeframe (usually 2030, to align with the SDGs). These studies are then used to support and inform organisations’ strategic planning, programme design, and advocacy and policy development.

Evaluation and incorporating different perspectives

Over the years we’ve come to realise that successful research is built on continuous evaluation and learning and as such, each our studies reflect this. Furthermore, every year we release an annual progress review, which details the years’ successes and takes on the chin the shortcomings of the past and addresses next year’s aims and strategy. We also recognise the power in sharing knowledge and expertise. As a consortium, we believe the quality of our work and that of our partners is strengthened by working together – some of our biggest pieces, such as the Future of Aid, have been written with external partners who brought alternative angles and views to the piece.

The case for collaboration

Collaborative working is an approach that the sector is in dire need of and, aptly is the theme for next week’s Global Goals Week. This is a week dedicated to raising awareness of the goals and drive action to meet the targets. Events will be held throughout the week and across the world, which will call on governments, civil agencies, the private sector and the public to work together and reaffirm their commitment to the cause in order to accelerate progress. In 2020 we will be a third of the way through the timeline of one of the of the world’s leading strategies. Whilst there has been significant progress to meeting some of the targets, we are still far behind on many. Innovation will be required to accelerate further progress but this will only be achieved by thoroughly better understanding what the future challenges and constraints for ensuring successful development change could be. They say that money makes the world go round, but perhaps it’s time to reassess and realise that research and foresight keeps the world spinning and provides the opportunities for significant change and its subsequent strategies to be met.

Victoria Watt-Smith is the Communications Officer at IARAN. To find out more visit their website.

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