Case Study: Dutch Agricultural Foresight Programme


Online Foresight Guide

Objectives

The National Council for Agricultural Research (NRLO) is an independent Foresight organisation in the Netherlands. Its network involves about 800 people who participate in workshops, brainstorming sessions, panel groups and Foresight committees. The main goal of the NRLO as a Foresight organisation is to improve the long term strategic orientation of government, business and research organisations by identifying future challenges, opportunities and strategies at the level of the agricultural sector, the rural areas and the relevant fields of science and technologies. An important aspect of the Council's work is its emphasis on developing appropriate social change strategies for the agricultural sector and rural areas. The NRLO's Foresight programme was started in 1995 and completed in 1999.

Examples of Themes or Sectors Addressed

NRLO's Foresight programme focused on three different, but interrelated sectors: agribusiness, rural areas and the fishing industry; the agribusiness exercise was evaluated in terms of its effects and possible longer-term impacts of the process. 35 people were interviewed, and these interviews indicated three major impacts of the overall Foresight process:

  1. It contributed to a transition of the agricultural sector, which the respondents felt to be necessary. It has been effective in indicating which innovations are really necessary, the options for research and policy, and the coalitions necessary for the transition.
  2. In relation to these coalitions, a major impact of the Foresight process was to create an arena in which actors with different interests and positions in the agricultural system could discuss their views, mitigating potential tensions implicit in the crises of the agricultural sector.
  3. About 70% of interviewees think that the process contributed to shared visions of innovation in the agricultural system, and indicate that they have increased their network - innovation strategies and policies have shifted from organisational to interorganisational strategies.

Evaluation

Some of the respondents were, however, skeptical about the impact of the Foresight process. They would rather have had results of the Foresight process translated into concrete recommendations for specified actors to follow up. Several respondents wanted the results to be fed into a regular policy trajectory, contrary to the bottom up strategy behind the Foresight process. Others felt that despite the large number of people involved and the efforts of the NRLO to include actors outside the agricultural sector in the Foresight process, that the results were still too much inward looking.

Source: Jan de Wilt, 2001, "Foresight as a social learning process: the NRLO-case" Paper presented at a meeting of IOFCO, 9th November 2001, Brussels;