This project explores different ways of identifying and understanding disruptive trends so that they can be used to deliver on global sustainability, starting with the 17 global goals set by the United Nations: the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Rapid changes in society triggered by disruptive trends, including rapid technological development, new business models and shifting values, providea window of opportunity for a platform that explores how these disruptive trends are understood; and how they can be leveraged to accelerate progress towards global sustainability goals.

Disruptive trends are becoming increasingly important as the pace of change in society is increasing and many of technologies underpinning them are more powerful and interlinked than ever. By better understanding different disruptive trends, including their likely impacts, probabilities, uncertainties, links to each other, time horizons, etc. we can support strategic decisions that can help deliver on our global sustainability goals.

The project will initially identify the potentially disruptive trends and their relation to the SDGs by analyzing leading trend assessments. In a second phase AI/machine learning will be used to gather additional information about potential disruptive trends.

New ways to visualize, collect and process information, as well as tools that allow for interaction with large data sets, make it possible to present complex information in ways that can be understood and used by more stakeholders, i.e they can be tailor-made for different users depending on need.

In summary, in order to ensure global sustainability, there is an urgent need to ensure that disruptive trends can be used strategically by all relevant stakeholders.

Aim of the platform

  1. Provide an opportunity to understand how different disruptive trends and key trends assessments are – or under which conditions can be – linked to the global SDGs, with the help of an online web-based platform

  2. Make it easier to identify disruptive trends with low probability, high-impact characteristics

  3. Allow companies, the public sector and other stakeholders to turn trend assessments into drivers for sustainable and scalable innovation, including catalyzing opportunities for public-private partnerships

  4. Support decision-makers in developing, deploying and accelerating the uptake of solutions to sustainable development challenges, with the help of disruptive trends. The support will focus both on direct delivery and indirect delivery, through improved policy frameworks

  5. Encourage providers of trend assessments to include possibilities of delivering on the SDGs in their reports

Context for the SDG trend scanning platform

The platform is based on three assumptions

  1. Disruptive trends have the potential to deliver sustainable solutions, but they could also accelerate unsustainable trends. Rapid changes in society, including global sustainability challenges, combined with rapid technological development, new business models and shifting values, have created a situation where trend assessments that are science based (i.e. using a systematic methodology based on evidence) could play an important role.

    During the 20th century industrialization tended to improve in incremental steps. It was possible for companies and governments to have plans for decades ahead, based on assumptions that only minor changes would occur. The urgency to deliver over-ambitious sustainable results, including rapid reductions of greenhouse gases over the next decades, eliminating extreme poverty, and ensuring that socio-economic progress leaves no one behind, combined with disruptive trends, require a new approach. If trend assessment used to be more of an inspirational aspect of strategic decision making, for many it is now a matter of survival.

  2. Innovative tools can provide tailor-made guidance based on complex information. Global trends are complex, with different time-horizons, mixed impacts, undisclosed probabilities, and unstructured uncertainties, making it difficult to use many of the trend assessments in a development context. The fact that different trend studies use very different methodologies and terminologies only makes things more challenging. However, new ways to collect, process and present data allow for meta trend assessments that use multiple trend studies. Such assessments can be tailor-made, in order to enable the use of trends as drivers for innovation and strategic decision-making.

  3. New innovative partnerships are needed to deliver more than incremental improvement in existing systems. Achieving the ambitious targets of the 2030 Agenda requires a revitalized and enhanced global partnership that brings together governments, civil society, the private sector, the United Nations system and other actors; and the mobilization of all available resources. Enhancing support to developing countries, in particular the least developed countries and the small island developing states, is fundamental to ensuring equitable progress for all.

    The need for innovative partnerships to deliver on the global sustainability goals is recognized as such a priority, that there is a specific global goal for partnerships (SDG17).

How to use the SDG trend scanning platform

The platform can be used in different ways depending on the user.
Three examples are given here:

  1. If you want to get a better understanding about disruptive trends: Use the platform to see which trends are themost popular; what different stakeholders view as most important; when are different trends assumed to become important and what kind of impact they are likely to have, etc.

  2. If you want to understand more about a specific trend: Use the platform to look more closely at a specific trend. Which experts think it is important, and which experts do not include this trend in their assessment. How does the trend link to other trends, etc.

  3. If you want to see which disruptive trends affect the Sustainable Development Goals: Use the platform to see which trend assessments identify links between trends and the SDGs

As the platform is based on a user-driven development approach, we very much welcome suggestions for how the platform can be improved so it better fits your needs. Please see under ‘co-develop’ for how you can provide feedback.

Selection of sources

The initial selection of sources was based on what key stakeholders, governments, companies, international organizations and think tanks, used when they were assessing potentially disruptive trends.


An overview of the key functions: constantly being revised, based on user-feedback:

The number or percentage of trend assessments that include a specific trend category
The predictions that have been made for different years
Scientific transparency
The levels of transparency with regard to areas such as methodology, probability and uncertainty
SDG inclusion
The SDGs included in different trend assessments
Trend links to SDGs
The assessment of which trends are linked to which SDGs
  1. Select trends that should be included
  2. Select SDGs to include
  3. Select explicit SDG links: Which trends/trend assessments are explicitly, directly linked to SDGs in different trend assessments
  4. Select keyword links to SDGs: Which trend assessments include key words related to different SDGs
  5. Select group/expert that should be included
  6. Select year of focus for trend assessment (e.g. next year, 2020, 2030, 2050)
  7. Select dates for publication of trend assessments

Time plan

Phase 1: February 2018 – July 2018
Launch of the UNDP-RISE trend scanning initiative @ HLPF 2018 and provide access to a beta-version of the platform
Aim: Highlight the current relation between leading trend assessments and the SDGs. Initiate a process to close the gap between trend assessments done by leading key stakeholders with high credibility, and the SDGs
Begin systematic collection of feedback for the user development process

Phase 2: July 2018 – January 2019
Follow-up the launch and development of the first full trend scanning platform, where AI/machine learning will be a key part
Aim: Identify best practices with opportunities to use key trends, to deliver on the SDGs and engage key stakeholders

Phase 3: Q1 2019 or HLPF 2019
Launch of the trend scanning platform 1.0
Aim: To increase the understanding of which key trends support delivery on the SDGs; and understand how to make strategic use of these trends.

Phase 4: Q1 2019-Q1 2010
Follow-up the launch of the first full trend scanning platform and evaluation of phase 3 and 4
Aim: TBD


The collaboration between UNDP and RISE is based on the unique and complementing capacities of the two organizations. UNDP is a world leading stakeholder for the transformative 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, along with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). RISE is an internationally leading innovation partner bridging new emerging trends with the needs in society. By bringing together knowledge about innovation and disruptive trends with knowledge about the agenda for Sustainable Development, new opportunities can be identified.

UNDP’s Bureau for Policy and Programme Support

UNDP works in about 170 countries and territories, helping to achieve the eradication of poverty, and the reduction of inequalities and exclusion. We help countries to develop policies, leadership skills, partnering abilities, institutional capabilities and build resilience in order to sustain development results.

The Bureau for Policy and Programme Support (BPPS). The Bureau brings together our policy work across all regions and all levels, and ensures that risk awareness and crisis prevention and recovery are fully integrated into our development work. We have increased our focus on country support, moving a larger number of our experts to our regional hubs and making sure that our policy-related work is directly relevant to country-level results.


The vision of RISE is to be an internationally leading partner for innovation by:

  • Supporting the creation of innovative, sustainable solutions to global grand challenges
  • Creating powerful innovation infrastructure for industry and society
  • Strengthening existing and new industry clusters
  • Supporting SMEs
  • Increasing both our own and our partners international presence and competitiveness