Exploring the Sustainable Futures in Mongolia

February 27, 2024

The 21st century presents Mongolia with both immense opportunities and complex systems challenges for future development. A rapidly evolving world characterized by VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity) demands innovative approaches to achieving sustainable development.

Recognizing this, UNDP Mongolia’s Accelerator Lab (A-Lab) pioneered Futures and Foresight exercise in Mongolia to equip ourselves with the tools and insights needed to navigate these uncertainties. However, it's important for readers to understand that futures foresight is focused on preparing for multiple possibilities rather than predicting a single outcome.

The VUCA Landscape and the Need for Foresight

Mongolia's development journey unfolds within a dynamic landscape marked by climate change and vulnerability, resource dependence, infrastructure challenges, water scarcity, urbanization pressures, traffic congestion, economic fluctuations, political complexities, and its unique geographical position. Strategic foresight methodology is used to rethink some complex issues that have become the new norm, to map futures based on today's data (signals), and to see positive opportunities.


Strategic foresight, after years of research, is not about predicting the future but enabling the imagination of various creative futures, enhancing our capacity to perceive, influence, and adapt to upcoming events, guiding us on how to approach thinking about the future.” - J. Peter Scoblic


Our Futures and Foresight Experiment

Since last September, UNDP in Mongolia initiated a series of workshops titled "Exploring Futures" as part of our broader portfolio exercises. Focusing on the Sustainable Livelihoods, Environment, and SDG Finance portfolios, two teams were formed to gather and analyze "weak signals" – emerging trends and indicators - that hold the potential to significantly impact the future. The workshop involved a series of engaging exercises, including horizon scanning, futures wheel, building the radar, reflection on signals, and news of tomorrow, fostering creative collaboration and out-of-the-box thinking. Through these exercises, participants explore the potential to develop a proactive and informed approach to the future, make better strategic decisions, foster innovation, and gain a competitive advantage in their respective fields.

During “Building the radar” exercise

UNDP Mongolia

“Futures wheel” team exercise

UNDP Mongolia

Key Learnings and Takeaways

We analyzed the signals collected during the workshop to develop "Futures signals spotlight" with seven themes (and their risks) from dozens of trends of nomadic horizon, such as empowered women, collaborative finance, sustainable practices, and resilient communities lead to fill the information gaps.

When looking at the spotlight below, it would be better to look at it curiously, rethink, and discuss it instead of directly reflecting on it. Only then, we can start a conversation, with questions like, Will women herders take the lead in efforts to mitigate climate change? and/or Why does it matter for development? and/or So what for development? 

Reflection moments

UNDP Mongolia

Futures signals spotlight

UNDP Mongolia

*Please note that the signals spotlight is neither a fact nor a recommendation.

Through these exercises, we also sharpened our ability to identify blind spots, reframe challenges creatively, and develop adaptable strategies for the future.

Moving Forward: Futures of Green Transition 

Building on the valuable lessons learned from this initial experiment, UNDP in Mongolia will explore futures of Green Transition. This expanded initiative will involve various participants at the national and international level, inspiring a broader dialogue and collaboration towards achieving a greener and more resilient future for Mongolia.

By embracing the power of foresight, we will continue to learn and explore with the knowledge and tools necessary to navigate the complexities of this era and contribute to our commitment of building a brighter future for all Mongolians.



Telmen Erdenebileg: Head of Exploration at Accelerator Lab, UNDP Mongolia

Oyungoo Enkhbold: Research Analyst at Accelerator Lab, UNDP Mongolia