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Enhancing Equity and Future Readiness: JBA and Futures Insights from Malawi


Reflecting on my career in project management and research over the years, I've always been on the lookout for innovative methodologies that can enhance my approaches that resonate with unique challenges and existing aspirations. Recently, I had the privilege of exploring the Justice Based Approach and strategic foresight in a workshop offered by United Edge, which has provided transformative insights that are particularly relevant to our context in Malawi and most parts of Africa.


Understanding the Justice Based Approach


United Edge’s Justice Based Approach and their Justice Toolkit give a powerful framework that prioritizes equity and fairness in all aspects of project management. It centers on addressing systemic inequalities and promoting fairness across all project outcomes by integrating justice into the core of our decision-making processes. For those of us working in Sub-Saharan Africa, where social and economic disparities are prevalent, this approach is crucial. It focuses on:

  • Amplifying Marginalized Voices: It ensures that the perspectives of marginalized groups are central to policy formulation, research processes, project planning and implementation. This means actively involving community members who are often excluded from decision-making processes (e.g. Persons with Disability, Adolescent Girls and Young Women, and Adolescent Boys and Young Men, etc).

  • Promoting Equity: It aims to design strategies that address systemic inequalities to uplift the most disadvantaged among the target population.

  • Ensuring Sustainability: It considers the long-term impact on communities and the environment, ensuring that benefits are sustainable and do not exacerbate existing inequalities.


Unleashing the power of strategic foresight 


Strategic foresight is about anticipating and preparing for the future. This is especially important for countries in the Majority World / Global South, where we face a range of unpredictable challenges ranging from economic shifts to pandemics, all worsened by climate change. United Edge’s training in strategic foresight equips participants with tools such as:


  • Trend Analysis: We understand and analyze current trends to anticipate future developments.

  • Scenario Planning: We prepare for various potential futures, allowing for flexibility and resilience in our projects.

  • Visioning: We define a clear vision for the future and map out the steps required to achieve it.


Backcasting for justice


One of the most impactful aspects of strategic foresight’s methodology is backcasting. This technique starts with envisioning the desired future and works backwards to identify the necessary steps to achieve it. This is particularly relevant as it:


  • Sets Clear Goals: It helps define a vision of a just and equitable future for our communities.

  • Identifies Barriers: It highlights the disparities and obstacles that need to be addressed.

  • Creates Action Plans: It outlines concrete steps to move from the present to the desired future, ensuring that every action is purposeful and aligned to our goals.


Applying these approaches in Malawi


Integrating these methodologies into my work in Malawi has been transformative. Here’s how they’ve reshaped my approach:


  1. Enhanced Community Engagement: The Justice Based Approach has enhanced my engagement skills with communities. By actively involving marginalized groups, I ensure projects are more inclusive and reflective of local realities.

  2. Improved Risk Management: Strategic foresight, especially backcasting, has strengthened my ability to anticipate and mitigate risks. By envisioning a desirable future and identifying potential challenges, I can better prepare for uncertainties.

  3. Informed Decision-Making: These methodologies have refined my decision-making processes. I now prioritize decisions that contribute to long-term sustainability and justice, rather than focusing solely on immediate gains.

  4. Innovative Research Techniques: Backcasting has opened new avenues for research, allowing me to explore future scenarios and their implications in a more meaningful way. This will make my research more relevant and impactful for addressing local challenges.


The Justice Based Approach and strategic foresight offered by United Edge are not just theoretical frameworks; they are practical tools that can significantly enhance the effectiveness and impact of our work globally. By focusing on equity, sustainability, and future-readiness, these methodologies provide a robust framework for driving meaningful change. For African project managers and researchers looking to make a lasting impact, embracing these approaches can lead to more inclusive, resilient, and forward-thinking projects.


 

Benson Mwambene is seasoned project manager and researcher passionate about innovative methodologies that drive equity and sustainability in Malawi's development sector. He is an alumnus from United Edge's Strategic Foresight workshop for social justice leaders and is now a passionate advocate for the Justice Based Approach.


For more information about our upcoming workshops on Strategic Foresight for Social Justice Leaders, click here.


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