Reimagining Indonesia’s New Capital City: Foresight Approaches for an Inclusive Smart Forest City

December 27, 2022
Reimagining Indonesia

UNDP Indonesia's Accelerator Lab in partnership with the government and civil society is working on the ‘Anticipatory New Capital City’ project, which aims to generate community insight into the national development agenda


Reimagining Indonesia’s New Capital City: Foresight Approaches for an Inclusive Smart Forest City


In the last few decades, development challenges have grown even more inextricably connected and complex. COVID-19 has disrupted our prevailing systems, showcasing their fragility against unforeseen shocks. The pandemic exacerbated gaps in inequality, threatening to push an additional 207 million people into extreme poverty by 2030. Acknowledging the threats to human development, the recent UNDP Human Development Report of 2021/2022 emphasized the need to navigate forthcoming uncertainties as a result of this crisis to prevent future disruptions to development progress. While we cannot predict the future, there are signals of change, disruption, and opportunity in the present that alert us to what may lie ahead, allowing us to better anticipate a changing horizon to mitigate the crises of tomorrow.

At UNDP Asia Pacific, we are supporting governments to be more ‘future-fit’ by building the capacity of governments to be more responsive to the long-term issues and understanding the nature of development challenges through a futures lens. This includes leveraging the tools of strategic foresight to evolve national planning and governance models to better anticipate uncertainty. One of the teams at the forefront of this effort is the Accelerator Labs, the world’s largest learning network on sustainable development challenges with 91 independently operating labs serving 115 countries. The Labs have been working together with government stakeholders and civil servants around the world to reimagine how we conduct development and bring about long-lasting change.


Scenarios of the New Capital City


For Indonesia, the realities of climate change, increasing natural hazards, and interconnected socio-economic risks visible in the present underscore the importance of long-term thinking in planning and risk analysis.  The government’s decision to relocate the national capital from Jakarta to the planned city of Nusantara in 2024 provides an ideal opportunity to evaluate existing systems, reflect on what is emerging, and reimagine how cities are designed and governed. As the new heart of a unified nation, the Nusantara Capital City aspires to achieve a ‘Global City for All’ that provides better connectivity and access for Indonesians across the archipelago, reducing the effects of concentrated overpopulation and inequal growth, and enhancing prosperity for the nation at large.

The Government of Indonesia already has a forward-looking scenario on the new capital city. By 2045—the centennial of Indonesian independence—the city can take pride in its efficient design and governance. Through a ‘Forest City’ approach as one of the core principles of the city, the plan also underlines the area’s natural environment and acknowledges its local biodiversity, while highlighting the importance of community participation. To help ensure that this process is inclusive and the outcome is representative of many voices, the UNDP Accelerator Lab Indonesia is working together with its government and civil society partners on the ‘Anticipatory New Capital City’ project. It aims to adds value by expanding opportunities for generating bottom-up insights, to balance national development agendas with local development trajectories and visions for the future.


Collective Imagination and Contextual Visions for Policies


The involvement and participation of local indigenous communities is among the top priorities for this project, which aims to ensure equitable community inclusion within the planning and development process of the new Indonesian capital. To achieve this, anticipatory approaches will be used to identify emergent risks and opportunities from local communities to inform the policy and planning processes, ensuring that the new city’s design fully harnesses the creativity and wisdom of populations with varied lived experiences for their shared future. To do this, the project will also draw on UNDP RBAP’s ‘Inclusive Imaginaries’ toolkits, which offers a framework for gathering community perspectives rooted in local culture in order to support the development of more contextually relevant and culturally-informed visions for policy and programme development.

Afterwards, the foresight- and imagination-based findings from the field will be triangulated with desk research and expert discussions on the current context to offer potential scenarios and pathways forward that are rooted in present and anticipated realities. Moreover, UNDP Indonesia will incorporate insights from its multisectoral work in areas such as climate action and democratic governance, to enrich the understanding of the complexities and ensure the delivery of a comprehensive output that is driven by local communities.

A Way Forward: Anticipatory and Inclusive Governance


While the project will primarily provide recommendations to support the design of the capital city in its early stages, it also aims to mainstream anticipatory and inclusive modes of collective intelligence and decision-making within capital governance now and in the future.  Through participatory foresight approaches like the ones applied in this project, governments can continue to draw insights from ‘change signals’ identified by communities on the ground to develop or course-correct policies accordingly. These methods can complement existing efforts by the Government of Indonesia that leverage foresight and futures-oriented approaches, such as the collaboration between the Ministry for National Development Planning (BAPPENAS) and the United Nations Global Pulse on the future of Indonesian MSMEs, strengthening policy planning processes to become more future-fit.

Incorporating anticipatory and inclusive research and analysis tools into planning processes enhances the government’s ability to determine optimal pathways to developing a smart and green city.  Given the complexities, inequities, and challenges of today’s world, it will be difficult to create more sustainable and equitable futures by using the same planning mechanisms, sources of knowledge and approaches to decision-making used in the past. The tools of foresight and imagination are not a replacement for traditional planning mechanisms but rather tools to assist in gathering a more nuanced understanding of  possible futures and how we may create them. In the case of the new capital, anticipatory approaches can help equip the city’s planners with tools to not only identify possible crises ahead, but also the future needs and desires of its inhabitants.

While we have valuable tools to assist, there is no silver bullet approach or universal model to align the urban planning and governance process with aspirations and priorities of citizens. UNDP Indonesia is keen to be part of this ongoing learning process with government and civil society, and to share some of the learning that emerges along the way. Watch this space for insights, learnings, and reflections that develop throughout the course of this project.



Aisha Marzuki, Head of Exploration, Accelerator Lab, UNDP Indonesia

Indrajit Joyosumarto, Innovation Officer, Accelerator Lab, UNDP Indonesia


Edited by:

Aarathi Krishnan, Senior Advisor on Strategic Foresight, UNDP RBAP

Samantha Happ, Strategic Foresight Team, UNDP RBAP

Sophia Robele, Foresight Specialist Consulstant, UNDP RBAP