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Understanding pathways of poor and vulnerable communities

Jason Christopher Chan (Based in the RAHS Programme Office, Prime Minister's Office Singapore, Singapore)
Livia Dee Von Chng (Based in the RAHS Programme Office, Prime Minister's Office Singapore, Singapore)


ISSN: 1463-6689

Article publication date: 2 November 2012




In partnership with The Rockefeller Foundation, the RAHS Program Office (RPO) of the National Security Coordination Secretariat at the Prime Minister's Office in Singapore has undertaken the innovative approach of the Searchlight function to systematically make sense of the current contextual environment to be better positioned to anticipate the future of poor and vulnerable communities. This paper aims to outline the approach taken and to offer a glimpse into the next steps.


Using the expertise and knowledge from the Searchlight newsletters, RPO applied its SKAN‐to‐Trend Process to funnel down newsletters and generate themes for investigation. The process is augmented by the RAHS 2.0 system, to collect and classify data generated to analyse and understand relationships therein, and anticipate as well as discover emerging issues.


The scenario building tools allowed the RPO analysts to use systems thinking to build systems maps and influence diagrams to help identify critical drivers based on influence and to understand the relationships between driving forces. From the systems map, critical feedback loops were identified and analysed, and evidence marshalled to support alternative policy options to help overcome the vicious cycles of the poor and vulnerable communities.

Research limitations/implications

Although the approach may seem limited in terms of breadth, it does provide a more in‐depth study of relevant insights and themes.

Practical implications

The selection process was done by analysts whose selections will necessarily be subjective depending on each of the analysts' worldview and leanings. This was balanced by gathering a team of analysts from RPO from diverse backgrounds, from the sciences and engineering to the arts.

Social implications

It is evident that the expanding gulf of growing inequality will tear the social fabric because poverty and inequality are so intricately linked.


The paper shows that, as a visualisation partner, RPO will present a diversity of perspectives through the utilisation of its risk assessment and horizon scanning processes and tools to help understand the pathways of poor and vulnerable communities.



Chan, J.C. and Dee Von Chng, L. (2012), "Understanding pathways of poor and vulnerable communities", Foresight, Vol. 14 No. 6, pp. 511-529.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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