Photo: kalasek 

2016 development predictions: how did we do?

5 January 2017

In some ways, 2016 was an unpredictable year: the UK voted for Brexit, Trump got elected and Leicester City won the Premier League. But looking back at Bond's 2016 development predictions, many of our experts’ predicted trends are starting to be realised.

Development practitioners met tech entrepreneurs 

Africa’s space programme is still a work in progress, but, as Nick Ishmael-Perkins predicted, 2016 has seen new collaborations between development practitioners and tech entrepreneurs, particularly in using drones to deliver aid.

Increasingly, drones are delivering medical aid in remote regions (Zipline partnered with the Rwandan government) or disaster areas (IntelliNet Sensors and GlobalMedic). Drone use comes with ethical dilemmas (use in warfare, privacy issues), requires adequate regulation, and has cost and maintenance issues, but the technology’s benefits are clear. Patrick Meier of UAViators sees the use of drones in humanitarian aid as the 4th industrial revolution, and emphasises the need to democratise access to them. UAViators develops partnerships in the areas they work in, and teaches local people and businesses how to use the technology so they can deliver humanitarian assistance for themselves – a living example of how investing in technology can improve people’s lives.

We had a governance crisis

Catarina Tully predicted that in 2016 “a political flashpoint or disaster” would lead to a global crisis of governance, a loss of faith in leadership, and a realisation that the world does not have a flexible or agile enough structure to deal with political meltdown.

While Catarina did not exactly predict the Brexit vote or Donald Trump’s election as President of the US, her prescience is remarkable. 2016 has been a year of huge social upheaval, with Syria's civil war creating the worst humanitarian crisis of our time.  In response to the mass displacement of peoples, panic rose in Europe with far right and anti-immigration parties gaining in popularity. A common theme for all of these parties and their supporters – as with the Brexiteers in the UK - is a loss of faith in the ability of the EU to protect their interests. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, the rise of Trump and his inward facing policies point towards a loss of faith in traditional political systems to protect American interests.  We are certainly living through a global crisis of governance, and the true implications of the Brexit vote and Trump are of course yet to be seen.

Prosperity defined beyond GDP

Professor Henrietta L. Moore predicted that 2016 would be the year that we redefined prosperity to be about more than just improving GDP. While economic growth still features heavily, for some, the focus has shifted to a wider view that incorporates wellbeing, social and individual benefits.

The World Bank report Monitoring Global Poverty sets out its recommendations on how we should continue to measure and monitor global poverty. The report highlights the need for multidimensionality: poverty measured not just by wealth, but by standard of living, access to health, education and jobs.

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) cover a much wider remit than the Millennium Development Goals, incorporating a broader spread of social and environmental objectives. Risk management firm DN VGL has developed a forecast model assessing the likelihood of the SDGs being met by 2030. They found that, at current rates, none of the SDGs will be met in all regions of the world. However, they also praised the extraordinary action taken by 17 global companies at the frontier of progress on the SDGs, including Tata, Danone, and Unilever, who approach the SDGs as an integral whole and “see the possibilities of combining growth with sustainability, raising productivity, and tackling climate action”, focusing not just on wealth creation but on making genuine improvements to people’s lives.

Disruption became a new norm

Last year, Lars Gustavsson highlighted the changing focus of official development assistance (ODA) from the 26 largest bilateral donors. This pointed to a move away from charity to social and financial investment approaches, with the potential to achieve systemic and structural change. This year we have seen the disruption bringing new actors into the aid sphere: big business, local business, mixed consortia, virtual networks and agile providers of new services.

Lars challenged INGOs to repurpose in order to retain relevance and utility. At Bond we saw first-hand in 2016 how some INGOs are taking that challenge seriously. Our business model innovation course brought together 35 senior leaders from 22 INGOs. Participants grappled with the implications of global trends for civil society; re-articulated the value of their organisational offer, with repeated testing for relevance and adaptability; and explored business models for a sustainable future.  Bond's research into financial trends during 2016 highlighted the particular challenge faced by medium-sized INGOs in diversifying their income and honing their niche.  Small CSOs – as Tris Lumley foresaw in his 2016 predictions – may have more scope for agile evolution; large INGOs have options, at times behaving like businesses, able to  take on contracts to deliver at scale; but those in the middle are finding it hardest to reinvent their roles.   

Looking beyond aid provision, 2016 left us alarmed by the trend towards ever more restrictions on civil society freedoms (see Civicus State of Civil Society Report 2016). In many countries the trajectory is downhill from 2015. It will be interesting to see whether 2017 prompts mobilisation at a local level and collective action to reverse that worrying trend.

Looking at 2017

With increased positive engagement of business in development and technology being harnessed for good, our 2016 predictions show there is much to be positive about as we go into the new year, despite the political shockwaves of the past 12 months.

See what our expert panel think will be the key trends, themes and issues in 2017 and join the conversation with #BondPredicts.

Explore more of these issues at the Bond Conference, where sessions include collaborating for global change, the future of work, the SDGs as our chance for real change, and disruption and resilience in the global south

About the author

Beatrice Waddingham

Beatrice Waddingham is the futures and effectiveness assistant.

Sarah Mistry
British Geriatrics Society

Sarah is chief executive of the British Geriatrics Society. She was previously director of programmes and partnerships at Bond.