The Live the Future project aims to mobilise leadership within all sectors and anyone else who can make a difference with a view to drawing together and intensifying efforts to mitigate the effects of HIV and AIDS in South Africa. Our donor, the Metropolitan Group, has for a long time played an active role in the HIV and AIDS arena, having developed the Doyle model - the first actuarial tool to project the demographic effect of HIV and AIDS in southern Africa. We view the Live the Future scenarios as an equally pivotal tool to:
- Create a shared understanding of the key factors driving the HIV and AIDS epidemic so as to minimise the spread and the effect of the epidemic
- Create a vision of a successful future that will inspire people from different sectors to commit to specific actions at an individual, organisational, community as well as at national level
- Identify key actions required to align, intensify and broaden efforts countrywide to maximise synergies and use limited resources more effectively
- Influence policies and agendas at different levels
The key question we asked when developing the scenarios was: 'How will HIV and AIDS and our responses shape the future of South Africa by 2025?' We took nine existing sets of scenarios about South Africa's future as well as AIDS in Africa, and then we invited several large groups of people who represent the AIDS community (from grassroots level through to NPOs, labour, business and government) and other disciplines to question, change, comment and add their voices to these stories. In this way we built in a strong and authentic AIDS component, which was then complemented by additional research from independent think tanks and experts on specific areas of interest. These different stories (scenarios) about the future were then combined with quantitative methodologies; for example, the different sets of assumptions were modelled by demographers and actuaries to create an encompassing image containing words, pictures as well as numbers about where we might be heading. This resulted in the set of future stories and other supporting material contained in this document.
The main strength of future scenarios is that they reveal what might happen rather than what we want the future to be - they therefore help us to move beyond our own mental maps, to think the unthinkable, and to plan accordingly. In short, scenario building implies choice and therefore hope. The project resulted in four distinct scenarios which reflect the interrelationship between a wide range of aspects including socio-economic, psychosocial, legal, environmental and political issues. These scenarios describe how South Africa could look in 2025.
The Live the Future scenarios suggest that unless we aim to prevent new infections, collaborate and adopt a holistic and integrated approach we will make little progress in stemming the tide, i.e. 'we will continue mopping up the water while the tap is still running' (an apt metaphor for our current situation). So which path into the future do we choose? When Alice in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland asks the Cheshire cat which path to take he responds, 'If you don't know where you're going, it doesn't matter which path you take.'
We strongly believe that South Africa has the resources, drive and quality of leadership across all sectors to turn the tide on the HIV epidemic. We hope that the scenarios depicted will change mindsets and help South Africans to gain hope and dare to dream of a generation free of HIV and AIDS. Join us in living this dream by taking the necessary steps to shape South Africa's future in areas where you have influence; in your personal life, in your community and in your work or professional capacity. Together we can create a Summer for All People.
Background to the Live the Future Project
by Peter Doyle, acting chairman of the Metropolitan Foundation and previous CEO of Metropolitan Holdings
Some may think that the ability to predict the future is a powerful gift; however, greater power lies in being able to create the future. This statement also describes the essence of scenario planning. Instead of predicting the future of HIV and AIDS in South Africa, Metropolitan believes that building scenarios can help South Africans shape the future effect of the HIV and AIDS epidemic on our country. Our current lack of co-ordinated action and collaboration, and ongoing denial and conflict, are in any event already shaping a future scenario for us. The time to debate whether or not we have a problem has long passed. The time has come for us to grasp the problems presented by HIV and AIDS and break its stranglehold of fear, stigma, denial, dissent and destruction that it holds over our people and our leaders.
Many people believe that scenario planning was one of the key catalysts that unlocked the miracle of socio-political transition in South Africa. Why not be bold and believe in another miracle? These scenarios might provoke debate and even disagreement. If so, bring it on! It is only through robust dialogue that we can begin to shape our future. We therefore invite contributions, discussion and especially proposals on what actions we must take now to shape our future.
What is really important is not the accuracy of the scenarios, but the determination of the actions we take now as a result of seeing scenarios of a possible future. The exercise will therefore be futile if it does not lead to some form of action. The many people that have been involved in developing these scenarios had one common passion - to see action, save lives, reduce unnecessary suffering, and to reduce the negative impact of a preventable and increasingly treatable virus. But who must take the action? The simple answer is you. We need all sectors of our society to collaborate in this effort, be it government, business, labour or civil society. What actions must be taken? We must communicate. We must prevent new infections.
We must provide treatment and care. We must reduce the negative consequences of the epidemic. We must get rid of stigma and discrimination. We must collaborate to find and establish workable solutions.
We hope that these scenarios will help to create a future where, together, we can beat HIV and AIDS.