Reporting on: Future Experiences | Glasgow School of Art (Expert Day 1)

By Vanessa Duclos, lead Research Administrator of the SFA Network
David Gerow, SFA Intern and PhD student

This fall, the Sustainable Futures in Africa Network is collaborating with the Glasgow School of Art’s (GSA) Innovation School. Over the semester, the 4th year product design students will work on a project on the theme of “Future Experiences: Sustainable Development & the Global South”. During this 8-week project, the cohort will investigate future forms and functions of sustainable development work in relation to the Global South, ultimately developing a future scenario and designing the artefacts, services and experiences associated with it 10 years from now.

Today, contemporary product design is not only an industrial or production-focused occupation; rather, it is becoming an epistemological practice, which explores the future, generates new knowledge and formulates hypotheses about how people may live or work in the years to come. Whether they are designing an artefact, service or experience, it is fundamental for a designer to know how to understand what drives people, what their needs are and why.

Dr Mia Perry worked with Dr Kirsty Ross, lecturer at the GSA and final year coordinator, to build the structure of this project. Over the last couple of weeks, the students split into seven groups worked together to conduct research in the domains of Health, Energy, Mobility, Economies, Education, Societal Structures and Environment. Each of these domains was examined through various lenses: Social, Technological, Economic, Ethical, Educational, Values, Political, Legal and Ecological. Then, based on this research, the students mapped societal shifts and identified emerging themes or scenarios.

This morning, the students shared their initial future scenarios with “the experts”: academics and professionals working within the field of sustainable development in the Global South, and members of the SFA Network. By sharing their work, the students had the opportunity to validate certain aspects of their research, as well as the chance to ask technical questions and benefit from the experts’ real-world experiences to further shape their scenarios/designs. The team of experts will meet with the cohort of emerging designers throughout the duration of the project, which will culminate later this year in an exhibition of the designed future artefacts, services and experiences.

I was happy to be in the expert cohort, along with my University of Glasgow colleagues: Stewart Paul, Anthony Kadoma, Prof Jude Robinson, Dr Raihana Ferdous, Dr Neil Burnside, Prof James Conroy, and SFA Network partners Prof Sola Ajayi (First-Tech University, Ibadan), Andrew Vincent (Classrooms for Malawi and Nu Blvck), Diarmuid O’Neill (DFID), Prof Jo Sharp (University of St Andrews) and Dr Christian Micha Ehret (McGill University).

The initial research presented by the student groups was impressive both for its accuracy and for how it pin-pointed challenges related to sustainable development work. The students were genuinely interested in learning more about lived experiences and described how being exposed to this topic – and to the SFA Network by extension – had changed their perspectives on their roles as designers (progressing towards a more participatory approach with clients). I am certain that the expert team is also looking forward to the next experts input day, November 7th. It was a refreshing, inspiring, positive and thought-provoking experience for all, and a promising start to a successful collaboration.

Impact Story – Thank you SFA Network!

By Grace Awosanmi, Research Administrator – Nigerian Hub

I wanted so much to be in a circle of those who were keen in in improving food and agriculture in Nigeria and discovering SFA after an extensive Google search was a blessing.  Being in the network with a lot of professionals and reading some of the research and activities that happen within the network was the very key for me in choosing to study Sustainable Development. Understanding sustainability is really something I always desired. It is also an opportunity to tell my class during presentations that Africa too has a lot going on in a bid to achieve goal 2030.

So yes, thank you SFA for allowing me to become an affiliate member, even without knowing any previous member. I also got a Swedish Institute Scholarship to study this course which is a platform that allowed me to share a bit of the work of the Sustainable Futures in Africa Network. I am excited about this journey. I am also the only Nigerian/African in my class (This I believe is a blessing).

Margaret Ojochide Aligbe

The above words came from Margaret during an email conversation. I was thrilled to know that she was now a postgraduate student at Uppsala University in Sweden to study for her Masters’ degree in Sustainable Development. A graduate of Agricultural Economics and Extension with a passion on how to tackle and achieve zero hunger in the Sub-Saharan Africa. She previously worked as an administrator and volunteer with the LAGOS FOOD BANK INITIATIVE (, an NGO committed to reducing hunger in the Nigerian society.

Margaret became an affiliate member of the network last year from Nigeria. I was excited with her inclusion – the Nigeria SFA Hub was expanding. We developed a good relationship around the activities and events that were ongoing in the hub and across our country. At the time she became an affiliate member, the hub was engrossed in engagements with the mining communities, so a right hand of fellowship was extended to her to join in one of our trips. Unfortunately, she couldn’t join our team for recent field trips, but the communication line remains open. Over the past months, we communicated through emails and she became more interested with the ongoing project activities across the hubs as we conversed. Apparently, the activities and results she was hearing and seeing were inspiring her.

She did not just want to be an Affiliate member but a full fledge member with qualifications and experience which can bring about a productive use in the future. She never stopped looking for ways in which to engage more with the hub and the network. She later informed me that the decision to go for a programme in Sustainable Development came as a result of her going through the profile and the expertise of the members of the hub.  Whereas the information gathered and gleaned through the network website also stimulated her interest to focus more on how to make sustainable development goals work for people in Nigeria and Africa as a whole in her study.

From the entire SFA family and the Nigeria hub, we say well-done and congratulations Margaret. We look forward partnering with you for future opportunities.

Interview with SFA Co-Director | Career Changes to Fuel your Passions

By Vanessa Duclos, Network’s Research Manager

Do you sometimes have doubts about your career choices? It is never too late to discover new passions, and to follow the necessary steps to make it a new vocation. While visiting the University of Glasgow in September, Dr Deepa Pullanikkatil, Co-Director of the SFA Network, was interviewed by Emma Smith from DEVEX about why and how she changed her career from civil engineering to environmental sciences, with a focus on climate change adaptation.