Clarifying the Purpose and Motivation for Foresight

There are different reasons why foresight exercises are undertaken, ranging from scientific curiosity and underpinning research through to supporting policy making and advocacy. Processes may have more of a technical analysis approach or be more oriented towards helping overcome conflicts and reaching agreements on contested issues, while other may be work in a very integrated way.

There no rights and wrongs in this diversity and different processes all have their place and their contribution.

The critical issue is for a group of actors who are embarking on a foresight exercise to be clear on its purpose and the motivations of those involved.  This will shape who is involved, the way the work is undertaken, the methodologies used and how the boundaries are set for what will be assessed.

A decision on the time frames and scales of concern is useful as part of the purpose and motivation. This will be useful part of the boundary definition of the exercise and provide a clearer ‘objective’ for the stakeholders.

Anticipatory Governance:

An important motivation for foresight, anticipatory governance provides the opportunity to govern with a longer-term perspective for current and future generations. It requires a sharing of perspectives on what constitutes a desirable future, and identifying and responding to drivers and trends that threaten or support these futures. It requires the exploration of plausible futures and creating mechanisms of resilience and risk management for different scenarios, being aware of and mitigating ‘tipping points’, and looking for ‘weak signals’ that foreshadow ‘black swans’. (See Drivers, Trends, and Uncertainties in the Framework for details).