The term "participants" refers broadly to all the people taking part in the Foresight exercise other than the members of the project team directly responsible for running the exercise.
Importance of participation
One of the main features of any Foresight activity is its participatory dimension, i.e. the active, widespread and highly valued involvement of the various participants or stakeholders throughout all the stages of the exercise. This participation should not be occasional and sporadic, but must be considered a determining factor in the final result. Going beyond mere consultation, this can require the participation of stakeholders in steering the exercise from the identification of the general and specific objectives, through the planning of the activities to be completed and the methodologies to be adopted, to the management of operations and the dissemination of results. This is particularly important in enhancing the results of Foresight because it will give stakeholders a sense of ownership of the process and its outputs. The more actively they have been engaged into the process the more likely it is that they will use the analysis and results of the exercise to choose the most appropriate actions to prepare for the future.
Besides panels and working groups, it is common to arrange 'windows' of wide consultation during certain phases of the process, where instruments, such as questionnaires, workshops and public meetings, are used. This is important:
- to get "out of the box" thinking,
- to enhance the visibility of the exercise,
- to avoid domination by any one particular group, and
- to confer wider ownership over the outputs of the exercise.
General aspects of participation
For a Foresight exercise to be successful it is vital to identify the people that should be engaged. This may change over the course of the exercise, so this process has to be repeated at intervals. This can range from identifying experts who are needed to provide specific information, to identifying respondents for a survey or finding participants on panels or in scenario building workshops. There is no one recipe for this. Depending on your goals and on the methods you are using, the criteria will be different. However, other aspects such as cost and management capabilities also need to be taken into account when deciding how many people and who should be involved.
Also the number of participants can vary widely from a few tens of people up to thousands. Participants can include representatives from various administrations, universities, businesses, industry associations, chambers of commerce, trade-unions, NGOs, the media, and the wider public. For each particular exercise the suitable range and number of participants has to be considered carefully.
Much will depend, for instance, on whether the main goal is to bring about change in a particular arena (e.g. a new approach to be adopted in the healthcare system) or you are more focused on analysing a specific topic (e.g. the societal impact of ambient intelligence). So, for instance, in some cases you will need a small group of high ranking people from specific stakeholder organisations while in other cases it is more important to engage people outside existing networks to create out of the box thinking.
In the description of each Foresight method you will find some criteria for the choice of participants meeting the needs of this particular method. However, it is highly recommended that you compile a set of criteria specifically tailored to your exercise and to the specific event you are planning. A list of criteria that have proven of relevance in past Foresight experiences is given below.
It might be useful to note down the criteria you want to use within a structure (such as a matrix) before you actually set out to identify names.
Steps for enrolling participants
There are two main steps to enrolling participants:
There is more information on enrolling participants in one of the example cases: