ALA Launches Africa Into the Future with Global Research Centre
The launch of the Pardee Centre for African Futures Forecasting entrenches African Leadership Academy as Africa’s foremost learning institution.
‘Since we are a data-driven community, we can now start exploring in order to understand different key problems facing Africa.’
On Monday, May 28, The Pardee Centre for African Futures was officially opened to the ALA community, celebrating the vision and commitment of philanthropist Frederick S Pardee, who inspired, supported and funded the initiative. Matthew Young, Associate Dean of Learning and Innovation, who helped facilitate the team in envisioning, designing and creating this centre says: “One of Mr. Pardee’s core interests as an economist, futurist, and philanthropist is in the use of data for being better stewards and leaders of the future. Mr Pardee has supported various learning centres around the globe.”
Designing for the Future
A team of students and staffulty made up the committee that came up with the design, says Matthew. “It took two years to reach its final iteration, as a hub of thinking and inspiration within the Learning Commons. Much consideration was given to how it should look – “visually attractive, inviting, with no walls or barriers, open to everyone” – with the result being a purpose-built centre that is both aesthetically inviting and functional. “The intention was to follow and complement the design ethic of the Commons… The only differentiation is the signage above the Centre and the carpet tiles – this was deliberate, to ensure it as shape and definition, but is entirely continuous with the surrounding space,” reveals Matthew.
The effect is two-fold: the Centre is effectively integrated into the Commons yet draws the eye and immediately invites further investigation. “The idea is that the physical space and visualization will ignite your imagination about the future of the continent – and invite you to ask questions,” says Matthew.
Attention to detail is evident in the fact that passers-by will never encounter a stagnant screen: “The question of how to keep it alive came up, and the committee designed a series of screensavers with compelling images of the continent, relevant data and the International Futures model in action – cycling through this visually intriguing compelling series of images,” notes Matthew.
Divine Kangami, the Economics teacher who led the African Futures committee, believes the platform offers endless possibilities and can only inspire and enhance ALA’s research output. “Since we are a data-driven community, we can now start exploring in order to understand different key problems facing Africa. The platform helps us to forecast future trends. From experience, it has proven that the future trend doesn’t deviate that much from actual trends – because today was the future of yesterday.”
The beauty of the IFs model is that it’s openly accessible and curated from credible sources and organisation across the world.’
International Futures matter, notes Matthew: “Because in order to train and develop effective leaders for the continent, they have to lead with good information – here, we can take the best data we have, mould and shape it to test hypotheses for the continent’s future prosperity.
The information highway is jam-packed with external information, notes Matthew: “But the beauty of the IFs model is that it’s openly accessible and curates data from credible sources and organisations across the world such as World Bank, for example.”
International Futures has proven itself a useful resource tool for institutions of higher learning and policy-making organisations, adds Divine. “The Institute of Security Studies uses the IFs model as a main tool for analysing information and forecasting likely futures – and they release research weekly. At ALA, we have different departments doing research; students are always working on different projects, and the IFs system has many of the variables that meet their requirements.”
Possibly one of the greatest benefits to ALA is the platform’s ability to further inspire teaching and learning. “It’s a great learning tool, too,” notes Divine. “Students can surround a teacher who can demonstrate inquiry here; students can actually see, and in their spare time, play around with the information at their disposal.“
Divine’s forecast for the effect the Centre will have on students and ALA? “It will increasingly become a go-to resource in time; once students understand how it works and how best to use it, it will certainly raise the level of excitement – and that’s how studies should look.”