Drivers, Trends and Uncertainties

Identifying the key drivers that influence the food system, their associated trends and patterns, and the main uncertainties are crucial before undertaking a scenario development process. This can be done through a consultative stakeholder process (see SUSFANS example in the Understanding Systems of Analysis Section).

Drivers are influences on food system activities and outcomes. Global-level drivers of the food systems are enumerated below:

  1. Demographics and development
  2. Consumption
  3. Technology
  4. Markets
  5. Climate and environment
  6. Policy and geopolitics

Trends are emerging patterns of change likely to impact the food system. Examples of global-level trends are enumerated below:

  1. Increasing population
  2. Increasing urbanization
  3. Worsening climate change
  4. Increasing resource scarcity
  5. Accelerating technological change
  6. Increasing market connectivity

The global food system faces a number of uncertainties in the future decades, such as:

  1. Pace of market growth
  2. Effects of climate change
  3. Shifting demand of food
  4. Disruptive technologies
  5. Migration
  6. Social and economic change

Identifying the critical ‘steam trains’ and ‘black swans’ in the system of concern are crucial in a foresight process. However, it is equally important to consider the transformational opportunities that such systemic risks can offer. Stakeholders must be asked include the transformational opportunities that may exist alongside the systemic risks that can be a barrier (or inherent to) the desirable and plausible futures they are envisioning.

An exploration of drivers, trends, and uncertainties also requires the identification and acknowledgement of underlying assumptions. Assumptions may differ between stakeholders, and are crucial to identify in the stakeholder analysis, the system of concern, and the mapping of drivers. This step actively contributes to the creation of scenarios in the foresight process and ensures that the stakeholders are aware of the underlying assumptions of the discussions and negotiations.

Steam Trains

Considering easily perceived drivers and trends that will influence change (whether direct or indirect).

Black Swans

The rate and/or unpredictable events that have big impacts.