What does 2030 look like for the Global Development Community?
Building a development organisation’s strategic plan in an evolving and uncertain world is a challenge. The intersecting and complex nature of global forces that impact development makes the prospect of conducting a comprehensive and practical analysis daunting. The megatrends represented here are the most pressing issues and opportunities for development from 2030 to 2050.
Critically examining the impact of these trends allows us to challenge ingrained assumptions about our global operating environment and the theories of change that rest upon them. Organisations can use these trends to think ahead about how to mitigate risk and leverage opportunities.
A Multipolar World of Shifting Global Influence
Hegemonic state actors are on the decline as low- and lower-middle-income countries (LMICs) seek to govern more of their own development. Traditional development actors of high-income countries are losing their influence.
Changing tides of influence will prompt global development actors to more deeply engage with diverse interest groups including both grassroots and civil society organisations from LMICs. Continued advocacy and influence at the global level with both multilateral and International Finance Institutions (IFIs) remains essential to elevate locally owned solutions, policies, programmes and practices that are equitable, impactful and ensure transformative sustainable change.
Development finance institutions must continue to decentralise, ensuring national government ownership and commitments are met. Similarly, organisations in high-income countries will increasingly challenge themselves to examine the inclusivity of their priority-setting and decision-making processes, recognising the need to incorporate decolonising frameworks.
Gains, Losses and COVID Implications
As we look ahead, we see a global economy defined by relative gains and losses for LMICs.
Income inequality between countries continues to decrease while inequality within countries grows. Inequalities have been compounded by the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has slowed or partially reversed the global community’s progress on poverty reduction. Systemic solutions are needed to bridge operational silos and effectively address the multiplier effect that the pandemic has had on all sectors.
Development organisations face a simultaneous increase in the need for and the slowing, halting or reversal of funding. These organisations will look to philanthropy and private sector to fill potential gaps and diversify sources of financing to build greater financial health. However, the development community will continue to grapple with the nature of private sector engagement, finding ways businesses can play an additive role in building capacity for good governance, and in fostering accountability for businesses to honour their commitments to social good.
Shifting demographics will exacerbate differences in social values as high-income countries age and the LMICs experience nonlinear regional demographic shifts.
Shifts in social norms that impact individual agency will be subject to the progressive push and conservative pull, with implications rippling across political and legal stages. Education remains a key pathway to increase agency; development actors continue to tackle multidimensional gaps in learning and achievement, while workforce-focused education strategies become increasingly relevant.
For development actors to reach the most marginalised with their organisational strategies, they will need to address systemic barriers, intersecting inequalities and cycles of poverty that perpetuate oppressive norms. Addressing normative barriers and adopting intersectional approaches will ensure that global development organisations are working towards broader, more equitable and sustainable systems change.
Will LMICs be left Behind?
As we look forward, we see a world continuing to rapidly transform in the face of technological growth.
There is increasing space online for economic participation, education and social activism, but issues of equitable access, safety and privacy remain. It is possible that LMICs could “leapfrog” the development pathways of industrialised economies to participate in the digital economy. However, it is a greater risk that advancing technologies will entrench poverty in developing economies.
Technology is a key enabler of innovation and the development community is ripe for some new solutions to age-old problems, but careful policy planning and investment upfront is necessary to ensure technology uptake occurs effectively and equitably.
Declining Global Cooperation and Attacks on Civil Society
The past ten years have seen the narrowing of civil society space, democratic backsliding, rising populism and a decline in global cooperation. An upswing in democratic values and global cooperation in the next ten years will be limited at best.
In this environment, development organisations must contend with hostility from governments in the form of foreign agent laws and restrictions on non-profit registration and operation for both global and local organisations. Limits on freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom to operate will be especially difficult for organisations focused on political, social, or human rights advocacy. For both global and local advocacy organisations, operating in a state with a hostile government makes it difficult to be impactful. While there is no assured method of counteracting authoritarian and populist behaviour, a multi-level approach to advocacy, including grassroots movements, local and national governments, regional bodies and global forums, can help ensure some effective lines of advocacy even when others are limited or closed.
Catastrophic Weather Events, Resource Scarcity & Migrant Crisis
The environment is likely to become increasingly unpredictable, less arable and more prone to catastrophic weather events.
As more communities become impoverished or displaced by climate catastrophes and worsening resource scarcity fuels conflict and civil unrest, migrant flows will rise dramatically. A whole-system analysis and response is needed to account for environmental impacts and threats. Programmes and interventions need to be designed with consideration for contextual realities. Development organisations that are not engaged in meaningful dialogue with people on the ground on environmental issues will find themselves in an inoperable environment in the future.
How to Use Megatrends to Design Your Strategic Plan
We find being aware of megatrends helps inform strategic choices because it allows teams to proactively challenge and ultimately generate a relevant, resilient and impactful strategy.
To learn more about these megatrends and see a list of questions to consider when using these trends to inform strategic choices, please download our full report.
To learn more about these megatrends, please read our full report.
To engage further with these megatrends, it may be helpful to bring in a neutral third party to conduct a relevant trends analysis or facilitate a line of self- reflection with your team. This can help to ensure that there is space in a strategy process to stop, think and challenge ingrained assumptions.
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