Defining the approach

Online Foresight Guide

There are different ways of approaching a Foresight process once the focus and scope have been decided upon.

Types of approach to designing a Foresight exercise

Choosing the best mix of approaches

The particular balance of approaches to Foresight chosen should depend, of course, on the specific circumstances.  This may seem to be an obvious point.  Nevertheless, there have been several cases of an approach simply being copied from one context to another, without adequate appraisal of how the approach might need to be modified or restructured to deal with the new circumstances.  In some of these cases this has led to major failures in the Foresight process, and a loss of political support for Foresight.

What can be chosen, in practice, is going to depend upon various political circumstances.  It may be that senior policymakers have an entrenched idea of what Foresight should be, they may even be seeking to emulate high-profile programmes that have been undertaken elsewhere.  There may be high-level doubt that a broad public could have anything of value to say about important topics, or it may be feared that a process of broad consultation could exacerbate existing ethnic, political or civil strife.  Results may be required to inform extremely pressing policy decisions, or to convince international aid or loan agencies that serious strategic analyses have been conducted.  This highlights, among other things, the need for scoping and feasibility studies prior to embarking on a major exercise.  Such studies will often be required to arrive at an exercise 'plan', and they are also important for convincing actors of Foresight's merits - as can other strategies, such as soliciting contributions from international experts to pre-Foresight meetings.

We may have to accept that something less than the ideal is all that can be achieved in current circumstances.  To the extent that we do a good job now, explain as far as possible why particular choices have been made, and make our case for doing things differently in the future, there may be hope for continuous improvement in Foresight practice.

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