Reports / Reports

Scanning for a Better Future

From anticipating the need for schools of public health to developing novel ways of making agriculture more productive, the Rockefeller Foundation has a long history of thinking ahead to find new ways of improving the future of poor and vulnerable populations globally.
As we approach our Centennial in 2013, the Foundation has developed a systematic approach to continuously identify innovations and detect signals that indicate how the world is changing. Known as the Searchlight function, an on-the-ground network of regionally-focused trend monitoring organizations from Africa, Asia, and the Americas conducts regular, ongoing scanning for novel ideas, research results, and “clues” about how to address some of the world’s most complex and pressing problems. Now in its fourth year, the Searchlight function is a unique, first-of-its-kind effort in the philanthropic and development sectors, taking an innovation pioneered by companies and governments and applying it to gain a better understanding of the challenges and potential solutions related to poverty and development.
This workshop report highlights the creative findings and ideas that emerged from the latest annual Searchlight gathering that brought together representatives from the participating organizations and a small group of foresight experts. The goal of this week-long workshop, held in the New York City area, was to identify novel ways of framing the critical problems facing poor and vulnerable populations in two particular subject matter domains, livelihoods and urbanization. As the report indicates, it was a lively, dynamic, and energetic conversation touching on a wide range of intersecting topics, from suggesting new ways for individuals, young and old, to get involved in improving their urban communities to considering how to improve the flow of capital from diaspora populations back to their home countries. Using visioning exercises, graphic facilitation techniques, and scenario-like storytelling, the meeting demonstrated how imaginative individuals from different backgrounds can come together to generate new insights that connect the dots and weave together a rich mosaic of themes and patterns.