The appropriate position of Foresight has to be considered afresh in each specific case. There may well be exercises where this kind of impact on policy making is of less relevance than other functions such as informing policy, facilitating policy implementation or embedding participation. However, it is of high relevance for exercises that set out to support strategy building to move beyond agenda setting into the implementation phase by working directly with the policymakers themselves.
A sophisticated step forward in the thinking on how to “inject” anticipatory intelligence more effectively into the policy definition and implementation phase derives from the concept of “adaptive Foresight”. The concept is to go beyond both functions of “informing policy” and “facilitating policy implementation” and to complement the Foresight process with a “supporting policy definition” phase where the results are translated into specific policy options and actions. A protected space in this phase will enable policy-makers to open up their hidden agendas, detailing for instance their relationship with other ministries and constituencies. By including an “implementation module” in this way, exercises can be individually tailored to different policy-making bodies and also for other organisations such as companies. In a way this additional “support to policy definition” or “strategic counselling” phase bridges the gap between informing, facilitating and embedding the participation of civil society.
While the need to contribute directly to the policy definition and implementation was shared by Foresight practitioners, a note of caution was sounded during the workshops. In particular it was mentioned that supporting policy definition has an expert-driven tradition in the form of “strategic consulting” whereas in a Foresight exercise, the more restrictive phase of strategic counselling would actually be fed by the outcome of participatory process. The interface between these two phases is problematic and has to be carefully designed.
Moreover, Foresight has to carefully protect its creative dimension, which might be jeopardised if the whole of the exercise were to get more deeply involved in the daily business and constraints of policy definition. In the framework of adaptive Foresight, this could be achieved by actively providing open spaces for unrestricted creativity. Even, it can be expected that the provision of specific spaces for policy definition may ease the provision of spaces for creativity in a symmetrical way.
More information on adaptive Foresight in the following paper presented at the 2006 FTA Seminar:
- E. Anders Eriksson & K. Matthias Weber: "Adaptive Foresight - Navigating the Complex Landscape of Policy Strategies"