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Making sense of the rapid changes shaping our world is essential for determining effective strategies. Asking questions about the trends affecting us all can make efforts to reduce poverty and inequality better fit for the future, uncertain though the future is. But to which trends should we pay attention? Many think tanks, international organisations and consultancy companies analyse megatrends. To what extent do these analyses converge or differ? Are they leading to similar insights about the forces affecting us all?

This scan of recent scans offers a simple narrative of four clusters that are considered to drive change: Rapid Technological Development, Demography, Environmental Pressures, and Shifting Power. Many other local, national and regional trends interact with these megatrends. Inherent in trends analysis is uncertainty: no amount of discussion or data can give certainty about their extent, speed or consequences in different parts of the world, or for specific groups of people. However, analysing trends and possible scenarios allows for critical ‘what if’ thinking, grounded in realism about what is emerging.

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