For many people in Ukraine and around the world, 2020 was a year of remote work, increased stress, and disruption to our daily routines. But the COVID-19 pandemic has only reinforced trends that were there previously, and raised certain issues up on the agenda: What work skills should be prioritized? What social protection policies should be put in place for gig workers*? And which of the current working practices should continue into the "post-COVID" period?
* The term gig workers covers both freelancers and those who have other jobs outside their main place of work. In Ukraine, this category usually includes entrepreneurs (known by the Ukrainian acronym FOP) and persons providing services under civil law contracts.
Our study looked into the nature of work, examining the situations on two levels simultaneously:
- At the level of the Eurasian region, based on an analysis of prior publications and research by UNDP staff from six different Accelerator Labs, who jointly prepared a report highlighting 30 current key signals and trends relevant to the future of work. This report can be downloaded in Ukrainian or English via this link: "The Changing Nature of Work: 30 Signals to Consider for a Sustainable Future"
- At the level of Ukraine, where the study was based on collective foresight methods – in other words, we explored the likely future, searching for and interpreting information related to changes in the area of work. The research was carried out by volunteers, who worked in coordination with the Head of Exploration of the UNDP Ukraine Accelerator Lab and in partnership with Impact ua.
In this article, we present the conclusions of the approaches we applied.
The future is not fully predictable – our ideas about the future are mainly just an extrapolation of current trends, which are based on previously existing data. But to see into the future, we don't just need to look behind us. Rather, we can look along a number of possible paths ahead of us –alternative futures – or scenarios, images and ideas that can often seem strange, as they might not meet our subconscious expectations.
Our collective foresight produced a set of micro-scenarios and possible consequences of the changes we detected. In the first part of this article, we present working day scenarios and the signals that support them, while in the second part we describe our research path – after all, in foresight, the process is no less important than the end result.
A working day from the future
Oksana Ivanivna, 65
Makariv, Kyiv Oblast, Ukraine
Next, we grouped these signals along two dimensions: their likely impact on performance, and their potential for acceleration, and combined the most interesting of them into new "unexpected opportunities" (the method used by the International Institute for the Future: "Reveal Unexpected opportunities" by IFTF).
As a result, we gained an understanding of the (dis)balance of driving forces that determine the direction and the speed of changes when it comes to work, and collected a significant number of "artefacts" and opportunities of the future, which were prioritized for further research.
Interpretation and prospection (insight into the future):
At the next stage, we visually interpreted the prioritized signals and capabilities using the "Future Wheels" method, which was proposed by futurist Jerome Glen in 1971. This method involves unfolding the consequences of the selected signal or the probable change by several degrees of order, allowing one to think non-linearly.
You can take a closer look at these "wheels" by following this link – this is one of the most important products of our collective foresight, which helps us get a better feeling of the directions in which current trends – and their unexpected combinations – are taking us.
All of the above-mentioned is the result of collective foresight, and in the process of developing it, we tried to delve into the most interesting signals, and work with the ideas with the least predictable consequences. Our small-scale study indicates that the changes occurring in the area of "work" are non-linear, and their solution requires the use of a systemic approach. This approach should be based on pre-emptive public policy measures, rather than simply responding to problems in current systems. It is necessary to experiment with new solutions, and support local projects and ideas that can be scaled up.
About Accelerator Lab
In 2019, UNDP Ukraine established a new unit that aims to identify local innovative solutions, and help Ukraine’s reforms development ecosystem test such solutions and employ new methods to address sustainable development issues. If you follow our blog, you've already heard about the UNDP Ukraine Accelerator Lab – over the past few years, our small team has been working on a variety of issues: from digital literacy among the elderly, improving the speed of emergency responses, and introducing the principles of the circular economy to your favourite coffee shop.
Each "engagement" of the Accelerator Lab is aimed not only at creating a better understanding of issues at hand and a coming up with a possible set of solutions – we also apply public sector innovation methods to resolve them (by the way, our partners from NESTA have brilliantly visualized these in their "landscape of innovative approaches"). Our lab and others like it sidestep the "business as usual" approach, hypothesising that by working in a different way, we will gain new experience and knowledge, and in this way discover a shorter path to workable solutions.
This work would not have been possible without the involvement of volunteer researchers: UNDP’s Accelerator Lab in Ukraine expresses its sincere gratitude for the diligent work of Anna Bazilo, Kateryna Viter, Oleksandr Vilchynsky, Anna Gasparian, Zhansaya Zhansaibayeva, Diana King, Yuliia Legka, Ksenia Lukach, Maxym Semenchuk, Yurii Chipko, Yevhenia Sabadyn, Anna Shevchenko, and Mariia Khomich.
Text: Ievhen Kylymnyk. Editing: Euan Macdonald