Defining the focus

Online Foresight Guide

The focus of a Foresight exercise binds the exercise as a whole together. Therefore, defining it carefully before starting is essential.

Typical types

Focus on an issue

A Foresight exercise that focuses on an issue usually sets out to tackle a certain core problem like "global warming", the "ageing population" or the "competitiveness of the R&D system". Such exercises are sometimes also referred to as "thematic Foresight".

Focus on a geographical territory

A Foresight exercise with territorial focus looks at future developments within certain geographical boundaries. Usually the development of a coherent vision for the future of this territory is a prime objective of the exercise. Territorial foresight exercises can have various different levels:

Some examples of geographical Foresight exercises can be found in the table of example cases.

Focus on a sector

An exercise with a sectoral focus looks at future developments within a specific industry such as the "chemical industry" or the "aerospace sector". Some examples of sectoral Foresight exercises can be found in the table of example cases.

Focus on a corporation

Corporate Foresight focuses on a company and its environment. This type of Foresight is not primarily addressed in this guide, although many of the techniques and methods discussed here may be relevant.

Combining the dimensions

The different types of focus outlined above are not mutually exclusive. In practice there will usually be a lot of overlap between them. So for example a territorial Foresight exercise can be confined to one particular issue (e.g. the ageing population in region x). Exercises that focus on a sector or issue will also often set geographical boundaries (e.g. European manufacturing, the French health system etc.). However, usually one type of focus will generally prevail.

Defining the focus of an exercise

Usually, the focus of a Foresight exercise is roughly predetermined by the situation. There will be a prime motive for starting the exercise and various players, including the sponsor and coordinator, will have their ideas on what the exercise should primarily address. However, experience has shown that it is worth spending some time before starting the exercise to define the focus more closely together with the main actors. This will help to avoid misplaced expectations and to streamline the efforts from the outset. The result of such an initial phase could be a kind of mission statement or a guiding question for the exercise.

Starting from the analysis of the context and the definition of the focus it is possible to define the objectives for the exercise.

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