Dr. Steven Gale ’69 has co-edited a book, “The Future Can’t Wait,” that focuses on how U.S. development assistance is not keeping pace with today’s trends. This, Gale asserts, is placing foreign aid in danger. He is currently senior adviser for strategic opportunities with the office of science and technology, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
“As the book went to press, we knew this was just the first salvo, not the end point, for catalyzing new thinking about foreign aid,” says Gale.
He organized the first “Symposium on the Future of Development Challenges” hosted by USAID in 2011 in Washington, D.C. The event was held in partnership with the Department of State, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and the National Defense University. It brought together development theorists and practitioners, economists and demographers, scientists and futurists to focus on an integrative, multidisciplinary approach to futures analysis. It also became the inspiration for the book; the second section includes chapters by symposium presenters.
According to Gale, futures analysis is the process of identifying emerging global trends, examining their underlying causes through disciplines such as scenario planning, data-mining, forecasting and other analytic, textural, and visual tools, and understanding how they influence development. By developing the processes, methodologies, and skills to use futures analysis, he says USAID will become a more rational and evidence-based agency, able to deliver greater and more sustainable impacts. However, the success of futures analysis is dependent upon policymakers’ willingness to take action.
“Futures analysis combined with actionable next steps,” Gale argues, “can enable agency leadership to uncover emerging trends, envision alternative scenarios, and achieve better development results.”
In chapter two of the book, “Going Long and Short, Too,” which Gale authored, he makes a compelling case for why futures analysis must become an integral part of how USAID operates and should inform everything- from project design to program planning to policy formulation and decision making. He concludes:
“Optimal outcomes sought by the development community and our partners in the private sector, philanthropic, and foundational worlds will benefit from fresh thinking and subsequent actions that better recognize the importance of emerging trends to achieve long lasting impacts, build resilient communities, and empower governments at every level to improve the quality of life for all their citizens. Futures analysis should not be a ‘day’ you set aside for a symposium, but rather something that development professionals do every day. Futures analysis should be at the very heart of the discipline and science of development.
“…Today’s solutions to solve tough development problems were born of a more ordered, structured, logical and stable world. The future will have more players, events will be more intertwined, the speed of change more swift, and the problems more ‘wicked’ to solve.”
In a review of the book, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Bert G. Kerstetter ‘66 University Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University and former director of policy planning for the U.S. Department of State, writes, “Government agencies are not normally known for thinking outside the box. This book is the rare and welcome exception, a genuine breath of fresh air. It is the kind of project that should become the norm in Washington, challenging all of us to look beyond what one participant describes as the tyrannies of the in-box, the demand for immediate results, the focus on a single sector, and reliance on uni-dimensional measures of success. It should become an annual exercise.”
At USAID, Gale focuses on innovations to accelerate development and using futures analysis to inform decision-making on emerging global trends. He previously served as the founding director of USAID’s Global Development Commons, principal advisor for strategic communications, and deputy to the interagency policy coordination committee on public diplomacy.
He earned his B.A. in psychology from Hobart College and went on to earn his Ph.D. in experimental psychology from the Graduate School, City University of New York. Gale was a National Institutes of Health and Columbia University post-doctoral fellow and a Brookings Legislative Fellow on the House Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense, and Foreign Operations. Gale was formerly the director for Afghanistan at the National Security Council under Condoleezza Rice at the White House. Earlier in his career, he served as chief of evaluation at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service.