Home Sci-Tech South Africa: Afrikan Futures Catalyst Team Wins Global Award

South Africa: Afrikan Futures Catalyst Team Wins Global Award

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The Afrikan Futures Catalyst team has been selected as one of the five winners of the United Nations (UN) global design competition for their project: “Driving change for peace in institutions of higher education in Afrika”.

To mark the UN’s 75th anniversary, the UN Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA) and Design Futures Initiative called on designers and futurists to create ideas on how to better sustain peace. Projects had to consider what new and innovative tools could make UN diplomacy and peace processes more effective and sustainable.

The projects had to address how emerging technologies and methods might help to prevent armed conflict around the world. In the end, several entries were received from around the world, but only five projects were selected to receive this global honour.

Inspired by their work with the University of Cape Town (UCT) Futures Think Tank, the Afrikan Futures Catalyst Toolkit was the only submission from Africa awarded this honour by the UN DPPA.

Becoming a disruptor

Abbas Jamie and Zoë Palmer are the drivers behind the Afrikan Futures Catalyst Toolkit. Jamie, a UCT alumnus, comes from the engineering industry, and Palmer, a Rhodes University alumnus, has a background in environmental sciences.

They were initially appointed to facilitate the work of the UCT Futures Think Tank, which was established by Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng in 2018, but their role soon evolved into working with the university’s Vision 2030 task team. They worked closely with UCT’s leadership, bringing in new methodologies like futures studies, complexity and design thinking to help shape the university’s vision.

“One of the first things we did was to change the question from ‘How does UCT respond to disruption that’s happening?’ to ‘How does UCT become a disruptor?’ “

Jamie said: “One of the first things we did was to change the question from ‘How does UCT respond to disruption that’s happening?’ to ‘How does UCT become a disruptor?’ “

Initially, most of the energy came via the monthly sessions of the UCT Futures Think Tank. Coming from outside UCT had its benefits for Jamie and Palmer. They did not come with any preconceived ideas about how things work and instead came to listen.

“Through our intervention UCT has come up with its massive transformative purpose (MTP), which is ‘Unleash human potential to create a fair and just society,’ said Jamie.