Transforming the future of Dutch development cooperation
Adapt, Counteract or Transform: ACT To be(come) resilient and adequately flexible towards the future, Partos – the Dutch membership organisation for development cooperation – initiated a transformative scenario planning process. […]
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Adapt, Counteract or Transform: ACT

To be(come) resilient and adequately flexible towards the future, Partos – the Dutch membership organisation for development cooperation – initiated a transformative scenario planning process. Together with a cross-section of players in sector, we explored ways in which the future might develop as well as ‘A future we want’.

The result: four vivid descriptions of plausible futures and ways in which actors in development cooperation in the Netherlands can prepare themselves for these futures. But also, an inspiring vision of a desirable future. A future that invites the sector to go beyond a reactive approach and that describes how Dutch development cooperation can transform towards a regenerative future.

Perspectivity walked the talk of their credo: For the love of complexity.

Bart Romijn, director Partos


Perspectivity designed and guided the entire process in close collaboration with a core team and in 4 consecutive workshops with a large explorers group from the sector.

Four plausible scenarios

After exploring relevant trends, we identified two major uncertainties critical to the future of Dutch development cooperation: power & governance and socio-economic development.

  • 4-scenariosWill power remain predominantly in the hands of a limited number of large countries, institutions, corporations and iNGOs (top-down)? Or will traditional power be challenged by new actors and spread among many different players all over the world (bottom-up)?
  • Will the world remain predominantly market-driven, with financial growth (GDP) as the main indicator of success? Or will we shift towards an inclusive and regenerative economy, taking into account the needs of people as well as social and planetary boundaries?

These two major uncertainties produce four different scenarios. Four ways in which the future could develop. Each scenario offers distinct dynamics, challenges, and opportunities that players in (Dutch) development cooperation will need to prepare for and adapt to.

From scenarios to response options: adapt or counteract?

For each scenario we elaborated the implications and response options for different types of players in Dutch development cooperation. Two general strategies were considered:

  1. Adapt to the zeitgeist and the power structures as described in the scenario, working from within towards ‘a better world’.
  2. Counteract the power structures that might obstruct development and development cooperation.

The final report elaborates response options for different roles of organisations in each of the four scenarios; from classic humanitarian aid organisations to service providers and from action groups to social enterprises.

Transform to ‘A future we want’

Based on the four scenarios we visualised ‘A future we want’. A regenerative society with care for social needs and planetary boundaries.

A world in multilateral institutions, including the UN, and international mechanisms foster global coordination and fast implementation of even more ambitious SDGs. Big and small players join forces to counter inequality and climate change. Diverse multi-stakeholder coalitions collaborate to create a regenerative and fair economy.

Realizing a future we want requires transformative action based on a quadruple mind shift:

  • From a compartmental approach based on one’s own interest to an inclusive approach respecting and recognizing interconnectedness and viewpoints of others;
  • From ‘us’ in the lead to ‘the most affected’ in the lead’;
  • Focus on scarcity to focus on abundance;
  • Money as main development driver to connected capacity drives development: complementary competencies, skills, time and creativity.

The final report elaborates various strategies, roles, modalities of operation, funding models and competencies needed in (Dutch) development cooperation to pursue this future we want.

The future exploration trajectory was one of the Spindle’s most influential activities during the review period, as it had an effect on a large array of stakeholders.

The Spindle Mid-Term Review Report

About the process and the players

partos-processThis future exploration has been a highly interactive and collaborative effort.

The process started in November 2017 with 100+ anonymous professionals in Dutch development cooperation sharing a forecasting experience. They shared their story through Sprockler, an online story-based research method, which allowed us to distil relevant trends and uncertainties gathered in the Story of stories.

Some 45 stakeholders from a broad variety of Dutch development organisations participated in four consecutive scenario workshops:

  1. Mapping major trends and uncertainties to help develop an understanding of the forces that can shape the future (December 2017);
  2. Sketching scenarios of possible futures in 2025 (11 January 2018)
  3. Identifying implications and options for Dutch development cooperation in each of these scenarios (1 February 2018)
  4. Towards ‘a future we want’: formulating the basis for transformative action (8 March 2018).

The entire process was guided by a core team, who designed, facilitated and analysed the results and wrote the final report.

The Spindle, Partos and Perspectivity
‘Adapt, Counteract or Transform (ACT); The future of Dutch development cooperation’ is a publication under auspices of Partos and its innovation platform The Spindle, in close collaboration with Perspectivity.

  • Partos is the Dutch membership body for organisations working in development cooperation.
  • The Spindle connects innovators among Dutch and global actors into an online and offline movement for inclusive, sustainable development.
  • Perspectivity is a collective of facilitators for transformative change in complex settings.

Adapt, Counteract or Transform, The future of Dutch development cooperation

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Adapt, Counteract or Transform – The future of Dutch development cooperation by Partos, The Spindle and Perspectivity is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.