The most straightforward way of evaluating outcomes is to ask the people involved in the activity to report on them systematically. This systematic approach has to be open enough to allow for unexpected benefits to be captured, and will need to be employed at several periods (if not continually), so as to capture immediate and longer-term benefits, and changing appraisals of how important these have proved to be. Furthermore, benefits may be experienced at different levels – in terms of the effectiveness and careers of individuals, the organisational capabilities of participating agencies and firms, improvements in communication networks and social interaction more generally. Thus survey questions need to be framed so as to capture different types of benefits.
Examples of the sorts of data on potential benefits that might be generated include:
- Are there improved linkages? Are participants (especially the stakeholders who might be more peripheral to existing networks) more aware of, and better known by, relevant organisations and experts? Are they involved in meetings and discussion groups, do they have access to sources of knowledge and assistance when faced with problems and opportunities? Such benefits can be assessed by asking participants directly about their experiences, or by examining data on meetings, websites, help lines, etc.
- Have new activities or initiatives been undertaken, and have priorities been shifted as a result of Foresight? This involves examining what the sponsors of these activities claim, and what the other people involved in collaboration or implementation believe to be the case, how far reference is made to Foresight in supporting documents, etc.
- Is there evidence of the creation of a "Foresight culture", with longer-term perspectives being taken seriously by a wider spectrum of actors? Have other bodies undertaken Foresight activities of their own, and is there evidence of the results of Foresight being discussed within user organisations?