Navigating uncertainty in a turbulent world

September 27, 2023 @ 4:30 pm – 6:30 pm Europe/Rome Timezone
Sala Triaria, Villa Schifanoia
Mia Saugman
Join this round table chaired by Professor Erik Jones, Director of the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies

This invitation-only small and informal roundtable discussion will explore how ‘uncertainty’ influences the way we think and act across a range of policy domains. The roundtable will be opened by Professor Ian Scoones from the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex and Principal Investigator of the ERC Advanced Grant, PASTRES (Pastoralism, Uncertainty and Resilience: Global Lessons from the Margins,, which is co-hosted by EUI. An open discussion structured around a series of short presentations will follow. This will explore how an ‘uncertainty lens’ may be relevant to participants’ areas of work, before a concluding session on emergent insights of wider relevance to policy and governance.

Uncertainties are everywhere. Whether it’s climate change, pandemics, financial volatility or the outbreak of war, we don’t know what the future will hold. Navigating uncertainties, where we cannot predict what will happen, is essential. But how is this done, and what can we learn about responding to, managing and living with and indeed from uncertainty from different experiences?

The concept of ‘uncertainty’ contrasts with ‘risk’, where prediction and control-oriented management are possible. While the world has always been uncertain, perhaps it is our modernist attempts to predict, manage and control that are failing, bolstered by a hubristic faith in technology combined with controlling forms of economic and political order. If uncertainty is to be navigated effectively new approaches are needed, some reclaimed and adapted from previous times or different cultures.

A focus on uncertainty – and not risk, control and fixed management plans – therefore suggests a very different way of doing things. This is as relevant to global finance and banking or pandemic response as it is to managing water or electricity systems in California or responding to drought in Kenya.

As the PASTRES programme argues, embracing uncertainty requires fundamental shifts in both policies and practices, as well as professional training and support. Importantly, we can all learn from others who live with and from uncertainty, such as pastoralists across the world. From such lived experiences, key principles emerge for navigating uncertainties in a turbulent world.

This roundtable is by invitation only.