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Transformative foresight for the subaltern

The future is in Africa

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Frontline Futures is Nairobi-based boutique consulting firm dedicated to charting pathways through complexity at the intersection of humanitarian aid, international development, and peacebuilding/conflict transformation. In a world increasingly defined by rapid changes and unforeseen challenges, our mission is to provide transformative foresight that empowers organisations to navigate the future with compassion and confidence.


At Frontline Futures, we understand that the synergy between humanitarian efforts, development initiatives, and peacebuilding endeavors is critical for creating sustainable and resilient communities across the globe. Our team of experts specialises in leveraging this nexus to deliver comprehensive, innovative strategies that address the root causes of conflict and poverty, while promoting long-term development and peace.


Frontline Futures combines futures thinking with foresight. Both are closely related concepts that often overlap in practice, but they have distinct focuses and purposes within the broader field of future studies. Understanding the difference between them can help organizations and individuals more effectively anticipate, plan for, and shape their futures. Foresight can be seen as a more structured approach that often results in actionable strategies and plans. Futures thinking provides the creative and critical foundation that allows foresight processes to explore a broader range of possibilities. In short, futures thinking broadens the imagination, which foresight then channels into strategic insights and actions. Futures thinking is about expanding perceptions of what could happen, while foresight is about harnessing that expansive thinking into practical, strategic outcomes. In practice, futures thinking and foresight often overlap and are used together to inform and enhance strategic planning processes. Futures thinking enriches the foresight process with a wider range of ideas and perspectives, making it more robust and comprehensive, while foresight structures those ideas into actionable strategies for navigating towards preferred futures.

Through a blend of cutting-edge research, analytical rigor, and deep sectoral expertise, we offer bespoke consulting services designed to equip your organization with the insights and tools needed to make impactful decisions. Whether you are looking to refine your strategic direction, enhance operational effectiveness, or foster innovative partnerships, Frontline Futures is here to guide you through every step of the journey toward creating a more equitable, peaceful, and prosperous world.

Dr. Steven Lichty founded Frontline Futures in 2023. He has 25 years’ experience in various sectors across Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America, including those in post-conflict, transitional, and fragile environments. He works with transformative foresight, futures thinking, organisational development, systems mapping, theory of change, and other qualitative methods of research and evaluation. Steven also co-founded REAL Consulting Group, which provides research, evaluation, and strategic foresight services. Additionally, he works with academic and research capacity building with universities in East Africa. He was a Rotary Peace Fellow and Future Fellow with the Association of Professional Futurists. Steven has a PhD in African Studies, where his doctoral research examined religious pedagogies of political socialisation among Kenyan religious institutions. He also has three master’s degrees, including an MPhil in Futures Studies from Stellenbosch University. Steven is currently focused on the nexus of healing-centred, community-led PVE/MHPSS programming, futures unconsciousness/consciousness, and the WHO’s Triple Dividend.


Bespoke Foresight Frameworks

Frontline Futures can create a bespoke foresight framework to guide a client's formal engagement with the future.  Based on the Association of Professional Futurist’s Foresight Competency model, the Foresight Framework is helpful for learning about the value of foresight, but also provides a platform for integrating systems thinking, analysis processes, with thinking about the future and where a client envisions being two, five or even ten years out. The Mapping Phase (framing, scanning, and futuring), is about designing a map of the future of the ecosystem in which partners are working. The simple logic is that if you are exploring any new territory, you want a map. The Influencing Phase focuses on creating this map, asking where clients want to go. How? When? With whom? Why? This phase uncovers views of social change, complexity thinking, and fosters the ability to think critically, creatively, and holistically.

Cross-Cultural Foresight

Does your organisation work across various cultures? Different regions of the world understand time differently, are more communal in their orientation to change, and use language to describe the future in different but equally important terms. Navigating cross-cultural foresight is important to make sure dominant foresight narratives are not marginalising import views of the subaltern.

Deep Dive Research

Beyond the trends, signals, and drivers, we can conduct an extensive ethnographic study of peoples and communities to capture hidden assets, perspectives, worldviews, and deeply seated myths and mindscapes that can help or hinder development projects, peacebuilding, or humanitarian efforts.

Foresight Audit

Is your organisation ready for the future? A foresight audit can help future-proof your organisation. Using a S.W.O.T. analysis to capture current realities, additional analysis explores what challenges and opportunities might lay on the horizon and provides a rigorous evaluation of the future readiness of the organisation and offers clear recommendations as anticipatory pathways.

Horizon and Environment Scanning

Horizon scanning is a systematic process used to identify early signs of potentially important developments through an ongoing examination of trends and disruptions that could affect the future. It focuses on the longer term and aims to uncover emerging issues, technologies, and dynamics before they become mainstream or pose significant challenges. Environmental scanning, on the other hand, is a broader process that involves monitoring, evaluating, and disseminating information from the external environment to identify opportunities and threats. It covers a wide range of factors, including political, economic, social, technological, environmental, and legal aspects (often referred to as PESTEL analysis). Environmental scanning is typically more immediate to short-term in its focus, aiming to keep the organization informed about the current and emerging landscape in which it operates.


Scenario Development

A key component of foresight is developing various scenarios that might occur in the future. A simple two-by-two matrix can provide a powerful illustration of the different ecosystems your organization might face in the coming decade. Frontline Futures has developed a three-dimensional model that incorporates changes across three axes. 

Strategic Foresight and Planning

Focused on informing and enhancing the strategic planning process of organizations or governments, this service identifies emerging trends, potential threats, and opportunities, helping leaders make more informed decisions about the future. Strategic foresight and planning aim at enhancing adaptability and resilience, focusing on actionable insights, integrating with organizational strategy, and using a variety of analytical tools (scenario planning, trend analysis, and environmental scanning) to gather and analyze data on future possibilities.

Trauma-Informed, Healing-Centred, MHPSS-Focused Futures

Frontline Futures partners with the Green String Network GSN to provide holistic Mental Health and Psychosocial Services for communities and groups that want to process individual, communal, cultural, historical, and/or transgenerational trauma. GSN maintains an array of programming activities that target youth, adolescents, children, security officials (police/military), etc. Research shows that we process the future using the same regions of the brain where we store our past memories. To build flourishing futures, it often requires engaging with some neuroplasticity to reconcile the past, reenage the present, and reimagine the future.

Workshops and Trainings

Frontline Futures can facilitate dynamic and interactive workshops and/or trainings that introduce foresight and futures thinking across a range of sectors and organisations. We have worked with community- and faith-based organisations, international and national NGOs, humanitarian agencies, government offices, and multi-national corporations. 


There are many different ways to describe the future. The following is a short typography of futures. 

Alternative Futures

This typology, often used in scenario planning, outlines a range of fundamentally different futures that could emerge based on various critical uncertainties. Alternative futures might include:

  • Growth Futures: Scenarios where trends continue towards expansion and progress.

  • Constraint Futures: Scenarios shaped by limitations, such as resource scarcity or environmental degradation.

  • Transformation Futures: Scenarios where significant societal, technological, or environmental changes occur, leading to a fundamentally different world.

  • Collapse Futures: Scenarios where systems fail, leading to breakdowns in societal, economic, or ecological order.

  • Disruptive Future: Futures that emerge from the development of new technologies, unexpected societal shifts, or sudden changes in the global environment that disrupt current trends and trajectories. These futures emphasize the impact of innovation and the potential for rapid change in industries, social systems, and global dynamics.

Decolonised Futures

Decolonised futures is a concept that seeks to unravel the ongoing effects of colonialism and envisions alternative futures that are just, equitable, and respectful of diverse knowledge systems and cultural values. It goes beyond simply ending formal colonial rule and focuses on dismantling the structures, ideologies, and power dynamics that perpetuate colonial legacies. Core principles include: 

  • Centering marginalised perspectives: This involves prioritizing the voices and lived experiences of those who have been historically marginalized and exploited by colonialism, recognizing the validity of their knowledge systems and ways of being.

  • Challenging dominant narratives and mindsets: Critically questioning the historical narratives and power structures imposed by colonizers, acknowledging the harm and inequalities they continue to create.

  • Recovering and revitalizing indigenous knowledge: Recognizing the value of traditional knowledge systems and cultural practices of colonised peoples, viewing them as valuable resources for shaping alternative futures.

  • Promoting self-determination and agency: Empowering marginalized communities to determine their own future paths, breaking free from imposed structures and fostering self-sufficiency.

  • Building solidarity and global partnerships: Recognizing the interconnectedness of struggles against colonialism and fostering alliances between marginalized groups across different regions.


Democratised Futures

Democratised futures is a concept that focuses on expanding participation and power-sharing in shaping how our societies develop. Here's a breakdown of its key aspects:


  • Inclusion: Ensuring that all individuals and communities, especially those traditionally marginalised or excluded, have a voice in the decision-making processes that affect their lives.

  • Equity: Promoting fairness and justice in the distribution of resources and opportunities, addressing systemic inequalities, and providing support needed to enable meaningful participation for all.

  • Collaboration: Encouraging collaboration and partnerships between various actors in society – individuals, communities, governments, businesses, and civil society – to address complex challenges.

  • Transparency and Accountability: Creating systems where those in power are held accountable to the public, ensuring transparency in decision-making processes and access to information.

Participatory Futures

Similar to Democratised Futures, Participatory Futures refers to a set of approaches that involve collective thinking, strategic planning,  and action to imagine, explore, and design possible futures that align with shared values and goals. It aims to democratize the process of shaping our future by moving beyond solely relying on experts, policymakers, or a select few, and instead engaging a diverse range of voices in the discussion.

Possible, Probable, and Preferable Futures

  • Possible Futures: These are futures that could happen, based on the limits of what we know is possible with current or foreseeable technology, societal structures, and environmental conditions. Exploring possible futures allows for a broad consideration of what might occur, without necessarily assessing the likelihood.

  • Probable Futures: These are futures that are likely to happen, given current trends, data, and trajectories. Probable futures focus on extrapolating from existing patterns to forecast what is most likely to occur.

  • Preferable Futures: These are the futures that individuals, organizations, or societies desire to create. Preferable futures are shaped by values, goals, and aspirations, and they guide strategic actions aimed at achieving a specific vision of the future.

Trauma-Informed Futures

Trauma-informed futures broadly refers to an approach that considers the impact of collective and individual trauma on our present and future societies. It aims to shape a future that prevents, mitigates, and heals from the wounds of past and ongoing traumas, promoting individual and collective well-being. Core components of this emerging concept include:

  • Understanding the impact of trauma: Recognising the widespread prevalence of trauma, both individual and collective, within diverse communities, across generations, and throughout history.

  • Building resilience and healing: Promoting approaches that strengthen individual and community resilience to trauma, while also facilitating healing processes for those who have already experienced trauma.

  • Preventing future trauma: Implementing systemic and societal changes to address the root causes of trauma and prevent future generations from experiencing similar hardships.

  • Centering the voices of trauma survivors: Valuing the experiences and perspectives of individuals and communities who have experienced trauma, ensuring their voices are heard and informing future decisions.

Wild Card Futures

These are low-probability, high-impact events that, should they occur, would have significant consequences for society and organizations. Wild cards are unpredictable but can dramatically change the course of future developments. Planning for wild card events involves preparing for scenarios that are outside of the normal expectations but could rapidly alter the strategic landscape.


It is important to distinguish between transformative and strategic foresight. Transformative foresight is oriented toward creating fundamental or systemic change. It seeks not only to anticipate future developments but to envision and bring about significant transformations that address the root causes of current challenges. This approach is often applied in contexts where incremental change is insufficient, such as addressing climate change, social inequality, or systemic organisational issues. Transformative foresight:

  • Focuses on deep, systemic changes: It aims to identify and influence the underlying structures, patterns, and assumptions that shape the future.

  • Encourages visionary and speculative thinking: It goes beyond what is currently deemed possible or probable, exploring radical alternatives and innovative solutions that can lead to substantial shifts in society or organizations.

  • Involves a broad, participatory process: It typically engages a wide range of stakeholders in imagining and co-creating futures that are more equitable, sustainable, and resilient.

  • Seeks to empower and mobilize: By envisioning desirable futures and the pathways to achieve them, transformative foresight aims to inspire collective action and strategic interventions that can alter the course of future developments.

Strategic foresight, on the other hand, is more directly focused on informing and enhancing the strategic planning process of organisations or governments. It is used to identify emerging trends, potential threats, and opportunities, helping leaders make more informed decisions about the future. Strategic foresight, while also forward-looking and innovative, operates within the existing strategic and operational frameworks of organisations. It focuses on making better-informed decisions today that will ensure success in the future, based on a thorough understanding of potential developments and disruptions. 

The primary distinction between transformative and strategic foresight lies in their scope and objectives. Transformative foresight is broader and more ambitious in its goals, seeking to imagine and bring about significant changes that can fundamentally alter societal or organizational trajectories. It challenges existing paradigms and encourages radical thinking about what the future could be. In practice, the two approaches can complement each other. Transformative foresight can broaden the horizons of strategic foresight by introducing more radical and innovative future scenarios into the strategic planning process. Meanwhile, strategic foresight can ground the ambitious visions of transformative foresight in actionable strategies and plans, making it possible to navigate toward those desired futures.

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