We all think about the future. In a period of profound uncertainty, we try to imagine the impact of events – near and distant – on our daily lives, our institutions, on the choices that we make. There are no easy answers. Indeed, no one can accurately predict what will happen in the future. We can however learn to handle uncertainty. We can prepare ourselves to deal with outcomes we may neither anticipate nor wish for.
This is where scenarios are useful. They help us to think about the future and to prepare for what might happen. Scenarios describe different paths into the future. They are tools to bring out people’s thoughts and to help them think through different possibilities. They can be useful in helping identify what needs to be done to achieve a desired goal.
Since the future is unpredictable, the Uganda Scenarios Project team developed these scenario stories to:
Anticipate and influence change: Scenarios help identify surprises and interruptions in trends. They highlight factors that are shaping Uganda’s future. Through this revelation, scenarios can help major actors identify pitfalls, provide opportunities to to chart new directions and provide long-lasting strategies to avoid being caught off-guard by unforeseen events.
Lead to new ways of thinking: Scenarios encourage thinking beyond traditional approaches to problem solving. This new way of thinking can serve as a catalyst for radical change. These scenarios will bring a new dimension to ongoing discussions on the issues and challenges facing Uganda.
Reduce future risk: The use of scenarios can help key actors in government; private sector and civil society groups better determine the outcome of certain actions before they are actually taken. In addition, by being able to recognize various signals, surprises can be minimized and the responses become more effective.
Help develop a common framework: It is often very difficult to direct a focused vision in an entire country. The scenarios can provide a framework and language for handling complex conditions and options. Most importantly they can build and expand common ground that will be critical for Ugandans to find creative solutions to the many challenges they face.
This site presents three scenarios that Uganda could face during the next few decades. They are called the Rope Bridge, the Embaliga Walk and Ovago Vile Vile, Ovago Dra Dri. The team has published these stories with the singular objective of catalysing a broad public debate on the possible futures that Uganda might have to face and the individual and collective choices that will have to be made. Two key questions emerge from the team’s experience:
- Where are we going? It can be argued that Uganda needs to make fundamental changes in its vision, organization and direction in order to take full advantage of future opportunities and to minimize the impact of the threats that will inevitably arise. The project team is convinced that Uganda will soon be confronted with a series of increasingly difficult choices. Many of them will demand that significant sacrifices to be made by all – not just by the government, but also by Uganda’s citizens and friends.
- What does it take to overcome the destructive habits of the past? Uganda has suffered a lot in its short history as an independent nation. The multiple traumas of conflict and of exclusion have left their mark on the nation and its people. Many Ugandans have grown up in an atmosphere of conflict, of fear and many have suffered cruel deprivations. Even as Uganda makes bold steps into the future, the past still continues to haunt the present. Divisions across ethnic, social and religious lines rear their head every now and then. Meaningful reconciliation and a commitment to the ethos of a united Uganda by all its citizens are a sine qua non. Whether or not Ugandans are able to face the coming years as a united nation will largely depend the determination of its people to place its past firmly behind it, to strengthen those ties that bind the country together and to learn from past experiences.
At the core of the Uganda Scenarios Project is the learning objective. We ask whether it is possible for us to learn from our past experience and present circumstances in order to make adjustments for a better future? How will we do it? How will external forces influence this? What processes will facilitate such dialogue and adjustment? What responses should we expect?
Citizens need to understand their role in shaping the society they inhabit and should be empowered to take greater responsibility for the choices they make. The scenario stories help to build greater awareness about the forces that have shaped and continue to shape the country. As a strategic tool, they can contribute to pinpointing and exposing the critical areas in Uganda’s development and providing a method through which various actors can test their decisions to see how they might fare over time.
The stories help identify surprises and discontinuities in trends and factors crucial to transitional processes, making it easier to identify pitfalls and encouraging the design of robust and resilient strategies to meet challenges faced. They also serve to help reduce future risk by helping key stakeholders and actors better determine the outcome of certain actions before they are actually taken. Various signals are highlighted such that surprises are minimized and responses and action are made more effective.
Finally, it is hoped that the stories will help stimulate new ways of thinking beyond traditional approaches to problem solving, serving to break stereotypes and encourage radical as opposed to incremental changes. Remember, they are not predictions – merely sketches of a future Ugandans might have to face whether they like to or not.