Wallonia 2020 - a citizen-based Foresight exercise about the future of Wallonia

Online Foresight Guide



Designing the exercise

Running Foresight

Follow-up of the exercise




In 1985, Wallonia launched a process of regional foresight entitled Wallonia to the Future. A series of five Foresight exercises was organised. These exercises were an important stage in bringing together a series of actors concerned about Wallonia's future. Concentrating on such essential questions as paradigm change, the transition to the knowledge society and an intentional break with the idea of decline (1987), the educational challenge (1991), competitiveness and employment (1995), innovation and evaluation (1998), the participants gradually put together a Foresight vision of Wallonia.

It should be stressed that this is a major element in the form, or even the tradition, taken by Foresight in Wallonia over the various exercises Wallonia to the future : a truly endogenous ‘bottom up’ initiative from civil society. As has been well illustrated by the sociologist Michel Molitor, it is a matter of the creation of a new capacity for action, the result of an effort made by society for its own benefit, implying the meeting and orientation of resources of an economic or political, but above all cultural order. Indeed, the approach initiated by the popular education circles is quite different from those of the more specifically economic circles or those of the public powers, because it expresses a local desire – sometimes clumsy and naïve – to take charge of its own destiny.

A member of the Scientific Committee of The Wallonia to the Future process, the director of the Charleroi University Centre, Albert Schleiper, emphasised that The Destree Institute constituted the ideal forum in which to handle the operational follow-up to this type of reflection, which is positioned at the intersection of the social, economic, political and cultural spheres . Finally, ten years later, the minister-president of the Wallonia Government, Robert Collignon, wound up the Mons dissemination conference by arguing that The Destree Institute has had the ability over recent years to position itself as a relay of the civil society in Wallonia, but also as a partner of the public powers, and in particular the Walloon Region.

One thing that is clear is that Wallonia to the future considered cohesion and societal/public participation as strong mobilising issues: call for collaboration, submission of papers, crossroads and then workshops for debate, with partial summaries and a general report. The second exercise was carried away by the vigour of the exchanges on the challenge of education. The consensus conference represented a model of methodology and pedagogy on one of the most specialised subjects. The exercise on the White Paper was so technical that it did not have much of a mobilising effect other than for economists. As to the fourth exercise, starting from the evaluation and expanding the approaches – surveys, questionnaires and interviews –, it had a mobilising effect and made (too) many calls on the political side, the civil society partner being overwhelmed by the issues and the place which the conference had given them.

Reasons for using Foresight

Under the title Wallonia 2020, the fifth exercise sought to define the future desirable and possible features of Wallonia, in order to better define what would be realisable by 2020 and find the pathways, in other words the strategies and action plans to be implemented to reach that vision.

The ultimate goal of that clarion call for deep reflection was to lead the region's citizens to take part in the political agenda and to exercise their creative, critical intelligence collectively. The Contract for the Future of Wallonia, introduced by the government in 1999 created indeed a new context encouraging in-depth foresight inputs in Wallonia, in keeping with the wishes expressed by the 1998 Wallonia to the Future exercise and dissemination conference.

" Wallonia in the future", as a relay of civil society, instigated, from 1987 to 1998, a genuine dialogue between civil society and the political sphere of the society, government and opposition. By recreating a consensus between often opposing forces and by teasing out a society of actors in Wallonia, the foresight process has considerably helped the Wallonia Region in recreating and putting back in place the conditions for a development: building a global society project, reforming structures and organisational modes by introducing innovation and accountability, and tying the cultural project to the economic project. The Future Contract for Wallonia, initiated by the Wallonia government and set in place in the summer of 1999, has been built up on these foundations, on the proposals for contractualisation and social dialogue put forward at the 1998 Mons dissemination conference and at the study day which followed on that theme.

In a new governance way, contractualisation is becoming one of the most meaningful methods of ensuring the participation of stakeholders necessary to any strategy as an output of Foresight. In a given territory, social contracts may act as a safeguard for democracy and can balance the interests of government, administration and stakeholders, while these contracts diminish the standard or the role of the state. In a market economy system, they constitute an approach, which is synonymous with flexibility, autonomy and responsibility.

As well as evaluation or quality control, Foresight holds its full place in that process. It means that the work on the future has to be defined with government like a work done not only for the government himself but as well for the whole society. That is the major contribution of prospective to the democratic process. These three dimensions of Foresight contribute to a better analysis of the critical issues of the future:

Thus, five main effects emerged from the Foresight work done before 2000 as basis to Wallonia 2020:

1. Rebuilding a consensus and creating, from bottom up, a society of stakeholders in Wallonia. This was done by establishing sustainable links between the universities, administrations, employer's and social bodies, and NGOs. The process was independent of the regional authority which was an attentive partner in the project and then co-financer in a second phase.

2. Developing new opportunities for the initiatives of the Region's actors and ensuring continuity in the regional reflection process on the basis of a pluralistic, free and independent scientific committee, during a period which experienced six successive regional governments (1987-2003).

3. The first steps towards establishing an identity in the projects for Wallonia: for the Region's economic, scientific and technological, educational, and cultural future as well as the project for its institutions. This was accomplished by forging a broad civic-mindedness and opening up the mechanisms to elaborate these projects .

4. A departure from the industrial culture through a collective profession of faith in the pre-eminence of immaterial values over material resources and by laying new paths for Wallonia's economic development : paths to create new technology, to loosen or strengthen ties in existing businesses in the context of subsidiaries, and to build on the innate capacities of the local environment.

5. Guiding or participating in innovative action strategies leading to private initiatives or public decisions : public contractualisation mechanisms, dynamics for evaluation and formal foresight. All these processes represent formal frameworks for good governance, so crucial to sustainable development.

Securing political support

The Destree Institute was both the initiator and the operator of the foresight exercise but he launched it with the help of fifty organisations (universities, political parties, trade union, ngo's, administrations, business federations, etc.), contacted by its own.

Rather than basing the process on the empirical techniques of strategic discourse, The Destree Institute as operational coordinator drew inspiration from what had been done elsewhere, especially experience exchanged both with French territorial foresight endeavours and work accomplished in the renewal of futures and foresight studies in Europe.

Considerable efforts were also spent in continuous training and long life learning. For instance, several day-long seminars were organised for the group leaders and working group rapporteurs and an exercise was launched to understand and acquire key concepts in foresight studies. In this way each participant in the process was able to appropriate the images, issues, wishes, possibilities, strategic axes, innovative actions, etc.

Another fruitful input to the process was a series of ten Lessons on the future. These seminars welcomed foresight experts, well-known scientists, practitioners and researchers universities and research centres, who discussed their visions for 2020.

Finally, Wallonia 2020 capitalised on the considerable work accomplished by its partners, during the exercise and after.

Designing the exercise

Setting the Focus and Objectives

The major focus of Wallonia 2020 was the will of the Destree Institut e to begin the foresight exercise with the concrete needs of the civil society and the living realities of the population. To reinforce that aim, besides participants implicated on an individual and citizen-oriented basis, fifty partner organizations were involved in the project in order to enlarge the citizen platform as well as the foresight legitimacy.

At a second stage, the objectives were twofold:

Setting the Time Horizon

The 2020 time horizon was chosen because it was well linked with the regional governance and strategic process: the Contract for the Future of Wallonie, launched in September 1999 with concrete goals for 2010. To go ten years further meant to aim longer and achieve some new common goals. Twenty years also means a generation, so it makes the decision-makers and actors more free to look to the future because the horizon will be out of their term office.

Determining the Users, Identifying and Selecting Participants

- A partnership foresight: fifty associated organizations (universities, democratic political parties, professional and trade organizations, administrations, NGO’s, etc);

- A citizen foresight: four hundred volunteers willing to participate in the initiative;

- A foresight exercise that associate young people: organization of working days in schools (secondary, general, technical and professional schools).

The call launched to all quarters in November 2001 through The Destree Institute leaflet "Feuillet de la Wallonie" disseminated to 20.000 people in Wallonia as well as by the internet, was indeed answered by some 400 volunteers willing to participate in the initiative. A good third of this group participated throughout the two years of the project. Fifty organisations followed the process: all Wallonia's universities and several higher education institutes, all the democratic political parties represented in the Parliament of Wallonia, several professional and trade organizations, para-regional administrations, as well as many foundations and associations. Some organisations invested considerable and constant efforts, others followed the work from a greater distance.

The most innovative idea was inspired by the work of Gordon Ollivere, a futurist from Sunderland, Great Britain. The innovation was to directly associate classes in the secondary, general, technical and professional schools in the thinking process. In this case "associate" meant spending days in the school with the students, and working under the same method as that used with adult citizens.

Wallonia 2020 was launched in the aim to foster broad, collective and participative mobilisation by the civil society of Wallonia in preparing a common strategic project.

The call launched to all quarters in November 2001 was answered by some 400 volunteers willing to participate in the initiative. Five secondary School classes were also involved in the process. So, more than 400 individuals have participated in the Foresight.

The Destree Institute thus sought to reverse the usual logic of its work in the framework of Wallonia to the Future initiative. Unlike the earlier congresses, the Scientific Council was not responsible for determining the issues that the experts and citizens would address. This time the participants expressed their concerns and expectations on the basis of their experience as citizens and therefore did not speak from their professional capacity as such. That means that the issues to be addressed were defined by the participants without any thematic orientation but with specific brainstorming methods. So, the entire first step of the exercise was dedicated to collectively identify the issues which will be studied and discussed further.

Determining the Coverage

The level of the work was clearly the whole regional territory of Wallonia, with a capacity for the working groups to meet in different places of the Region.

As the discussions were very opened during the step of identification of the issues with the citizens involved = the participants, nobody could say at that moment the kind of topics which were going to be learnt in the next steps. Finally, the issues were very linked to the regional governance process, participation of the citizens to the decisions, education, culture and economic development.

Mapping Available Resources and Assessing Previous and Existing Work

From the start, the participants had received the reports of the four earlier exercises < http://www.wallonie-en-ligne.net>. A link was also established with The Destree Institute's foresight mission for the Government of Wallonia that undertook exploratory foresight so as to highlight the complementarity of the work done on each side. For this reason all the participants of the Wallonia 2020 conference were given the report Wallonia listening to foresight, a methodological introduction and analysis of the trends that may affect Wallonia in 2020.

During these two years of work (November 2001 to October 2003), the participants were therefore able to take advantage of various foresight initiatives undertaken in Wallonia. One of the importance stressed on information platform access was to provide participants with a diversity of possible motivations and inputs emerging from these different experiences, depending on the territories and the parties involved, inputs on which that could capitalize for their own thinking; the foresight exercises ranged from the sectoral, thematic, territorial, societal areas, etc. However, all were inspired by the same need — a better grasp of global developments and how best to develop them with a view to the sustainable development of the region as well as good regional governance.

Communication strategy

At each stage of the exercise, a four pages leaflet was printed and sent to the participants, regional stakeholders. This leaflet presented the output of the stage and the organization as well as the method of the next stage.

All along of the exercise, a website was built presenting all the documents and outputs of the foresight for all the working groups. this website is still alive at : http://www.wallonie-en-ligne.net/Wallonie-Futur-5_2003/index.htm

While the previous Wallonia to the future Foresight exercise are at the following address :


(all in French).

During the last week, and the "hot" phase of discussion of the final report, the website received more than 200.000 accesses on the Wallonia 2020 report.

Building a Team

The people who make up the team built for the project were six :

- one project manager with a competence in foresight,

- one researcher with a competence in foresight,

- one coordinator with a competence in citizenship,

- one researcher with a competence in animation,

- one assistant

- one network administrator.

- one outside foresight expert at the beginning of the exercise

Organising the Exercise and Designing the Methodology

Between November 2001 and October 2003, the undertaking unfolded in five major phases:

Stage 1: Call for actors, the formation and start-up of the working parties

Stage 2: Formulation of the issues and future stakes

Stage 3: Formulation of the future desirable and possible features

Stage 4: Definition of a programme of innovative strategic actions

Stage 5: Submission of the joint recommendations to the main decision-makers

Stage 1

The process to convene the fifth Wallonia to the Future Congress took place from late 2001 to early 2002. The session opening the process, Wallonia 2020, an opportunity for citizen-based reflection was held on 26 November 2001 at the Theatre de Namur. This kick-off conference brought a huge success with 400 people.

Stage 2

To define the issues, fourteen ad hoc working groups, composed of people from all horizons, ages and social contexts were set up. The working groups were make up by an aleatory manner : each participant received a cartoon representing the face of a type of citizen (worker, business man, woman, immigrated people, etc.) with a name. The people who had received the same cartoon and name gathered in the same group. Each working group was led by a chair designated by the group itself, a professional group leader, a rapporteur and a representative from the Destree Institute.

The group leaders and rapporteurs participated in a training seminar. This initial training focused on the group leaders' ability to bring out the issues at stake, followed by what was desirable, then what was possible. The morning was devoted to presenting the foresight concepts needed for the exercise, and the afternoon to a simulation of active group leading.

Each group chose its own meeting dates and times, and worked with an internet distribution/forum list. The working group rapporteurs prepared their reports during the meetings, in a memo format. The work was only written into a structured report at the end of each phase. After approval by the group, the reports were published on the Wallonie-en-ligne.net web site.

From the whole work of the groups during this stage, four major issues were identified; these four components will remain the main references to plan the work of the groups and the presentation of the outcomes of each stage until the end of the exercise.

Outputs of stage 1 : four structural issues :

1. How to reconcile the trend towards individualism that incites to the desintegration of society, but which, at the same time, means that more society is needed? (solidarity, society, cultures)

2. How to adjust the institutions and public actors so that, in a society in transition where the individual is undergoing quick change, the State still represents a bold and recognised collective authority ? (adjustment of the public spheres) ?

3. The inadequacy of the learning processes in relation to society’s evolution raises questions about development, creativity, autonomy, as well as the capacity for entrepreneurship and being responsible (learning and entrepreneurship)

4. How to conceive a pro-active vision of one’s long-term future ?A collective, federating, permanent and mobilising project is required. Its conception, and, what is more, its realisation is long coming (strategy and pro-activeness)

These issues have been initially consolidated by The Destree Institute as operational coordinator of the exercise and presented to the different rapporteurs for validation. The public delivery of this first stage took place attended by the Minister-President of Government of Wallonia.

These consecutive exchanges on the foresight exercises outputs between the different stakeholders and knowledge providers in the process are fundamental to maintain confidence and implication of the participants in the whole process and generate new value of the consecutive outputs. The public restitution was also the occasion to launch the second phase.

Stage 3

Eleven working groups of about 20 participants each, meeting approximately two full days, were entrusted to express their vision of desirable futures and to imagine possible futures for Wallonia by 2020. At the start of this phase, the working groups were to find desirable solutions to address the four issues. The groups then went on to imagine possible futures for the 2020 horizon. The third step was to look at the desirable solutions evoked and identify those that were feasible in the context of the possible futures described in the second phase of this work. In general, when the participants placed the "desirables" and "possibles" along a matrix they were able to first reformulate new desirables, and then structuring desirables. In this stage, new comers took part to this exercise from a hundred youths (+/-120) attending three secondary schools associated with the process.

Under the sign of Renewing the vision, the synthesis of the eleven working groups' reports prepared by The Destree Institute was validated by the rapporteurs during a working session, then by the Wallonia to the Future Scientific Council, enlarged to include the rapporteurs.

For each of the four issues defined during stage 2, the desirables expressed by the groups were reorganised in the form of three solutions.

Issue 1. Solidarity, society and cultures

How to reconcile the trend towards individualism that incites the disintegration of society, but which at the same time, means that more society, more general interest, is needed?

1.1. To recognise the individual, each person's diversity and role as actor in society

1.2. To set the framework and create new areas for the citizens' political involvement

1.3. To take the common good and general interest into account - from the local to the global level.

Issue 2. Learning and entrepreneurship

The inadequacy of the learning processes in relation to society's evolution raises questions of development, creativity, autonomy, the capacity for entrepreneurship and being responsible

2.1. To free initiatives and to break down structural constraints

2.2. To design education that can measure up to the knowledge society

2.3. To introduce enterprises in the school and the school in the enterprises.

Issue 3. S trategy and pro-activeness

How to conceive a pro-active vision of one's long-term future? A collective, federating, permanent and mobilising project is required. Its conception, thus its realisation, is long coming.

3.1. To change perspective: set farther sights, at the level of Europe and the world

3.2. To renew Wallonia's tools for democracy

3.3. To conduct regional political action that is more cross-sectoral, more mobilising.

Issue 4. Adjustment of the public spheres

How to adjust the institutions and public actors so that, in a society in transition where the individual is undergoing accelerated change, the State can represent a bold and recognised collective authority?

4.1. To rework the territories and simplify political structures

4.2. To change the nature of the relationship between the citizen and public actors

4.3. To improve respect for the citizen and their security in society.

Stage 4

To move to the collective identification of strategic and innovative actions, a call for voluntary proposals and ideas was launched on the Destree Institute list servers and by snail mail both to the Wallonia 2020 participants as well as to any other person/entity wishing to become involved (civil society, associations, economic actors, enterprises, the State, education, research, culture, health, etc.).

Four working groups - one per issue - entrusted to formulate collective proposals for strategic actions. In order to guarantee the validity of the proposals, it was useful for the groups of more or less 40 participants to be chaired by a member of the Wallonia to the Future Scientific Council, with the vice-chair held by a representative from the Administration or private enterprise associated for the circumstance. This would help them share their knowledge of policies and existing measures in the areas addressed and to evaluate the relevancy of the proposals formulated by the participants.

The four working groups focusing on the four issues based their exercise on the various contributions and memos they had received. The four rapporteurs submitted four texts with fifteen proposals for innovative actions.

Stage 5

The tasks undertaken in the next phase consisted in structuring and assembling the actions considered as priorities and innovative into a programme, by associating successively the pilot team responsible for the process at The Destree Institute, the Wallonia to the Future Scientific Committee, and the rapporteurs. The result was a programme of fifteen actions - primarily focusing on the issues of multi-levelgovernance - which formed the basis for the dialogue the Conference held on 25 October 2003 with the major decision makers of Wallonia.

Issue 1. Solidarity, society and cultures

Action 1: creation of intercultural, interdisciplinary and intersectorial transversal rooms of debates and orientations, in order to insure the participation of the citizens to the regional contract programmes (foresight, association to decision, evaluation).

Action 2: building of infra-regional spaces of governance (territorial development councils).

Action 3: launch of a process of common definition of the content of the general interest missions in order to pass a decree defining the legal and financial framework as well as the modalities of intervention of the regional public powers.

Action 4: questioning of the Federal level and of the European Community by the regional governments on the issue of the general interest missions.

Issue 2. Learning and entrepreneurship

Action 5: to negotiate a pact between the actors of education - at all levels - and the civil society about issues such as the modification of the positive discrimination system, the best articulation of the links between the school and the family, a revalorization of the profession of teacher, interdisciplinarity, etc.

Action 6: to give the pedagogical autonomy to schools and to the teachers, by creating a delegation system, in order to construct a legal framework to organize that autonomy, to replace the rule by the agreement.

Action 7: to sensibilize all the components of the society to the impacts of the knowledge society and of its implications.

Action 8: to encourage the creation and the functioning of long life learning and training spaces, in partnership with the actors : teachers, NGO's, socio-economic actors, in particular.

Action 9: to open school to the real life by organizing interactive exchanges between the companies, the world of work and school.

Issue 3. S trategy and pro-activeness

Action 10: to define a transversal programme of actions in order to change the image of Wallonia in Europe and of Europe in Wallonia, by valorising multiculturality, hospitality, democracy and creativity.

Action 11: to valorise and federate the territorial, contractual and endogenous dynamics, by applying the subsidiarity principle in the Wallonia Region and in the French Community.

Action 12: to create and finance steering cells of transversal projects in order to favour the partnerships between operators in crossed initiatives between companies, NGO's, universities and public powers.

Issue 4. Adjustment of the public spheres

Action 13: to integrate the infra-regional territories as stakeholders of the Contract for the Future of Wallonia : provinces, inter-communalities, countries, urban communities, town and municipalities.

Action 14: to valorise transparency and pedagogy of action as criteria of the quality of the public services, with evaluation , contractualisation and foresight processes associating the stakeholders.

Action 15: to develop, at the local level, an ethic of respect of the citizen by the way of proximity policies (local dynamics associating the actors in the fields of housing, police, teaching, transport, urban planning, district management, urban stewards, etc.

Running Foresight

Managing, collecting and processing Information

Foresight exercise needs a lot of information at the different steps of the process. At the beginning of the foresight exercise, the people involved have received a general stock of information about the region and especially most of the development indicators. At each stage of the process, information was provided about the different issues discussed. For instance, the participants got the opportunity to follow a ten lessons' set on the future provided by foresight and regional development experts from Wallonia and other European regions.

Information was provided by The Destree Institute, by the participants themselves for those being involved in knowledge organizations and also by different experts who were involved in knowledge organizations and also by the different experts who were involved to give lessons for the future (Thierry Gaudin, Philippe Moati, Marc Luyckx-Ghisi, Marc Halevy, etc.)

Managing Time

A precise Gantt Chart was built in the beginning by The Destree Institute and followed during all the process. But changes and adaptations were necessary along the process, in particular to reach the deadline of the dissemination conference, fixed since the beginning of the process for strategic reasons and, in the same time, achieving the goals. So, at the end of the exercise, during the three or four last months, we had a "funnel effect", difficult to manage and to deal with the participants.

Managing Relationships

A day by day monitoring was assumed by two people of The Destree Institute Staff to follow the evolution of the work as well to create a permanent link with each of the participants involved. An assistant was opened to the participants' needs all along the exercise. There was a strong personalisation of that function and this member of our team knew all the name of the participants. Most of the contacts were taken by e-mail, by phone as well as by personal letters.


The outputs of the foresight exercise were generally intangible : four main issues, desirable futures expressed in the form of three solutions, regional vision, strategic plan with concrete proposals of actions, social capital of the collective intelligence process, new networking, new understanding of the system and of its evolutions, a new capacity for the actors to work together, a new common confidence in the future evolution of the Region, etc.

Follow-up of the exercise


The evaluation of Wallonia 2020 is still to come. Several questions can be raised about the methods used. Were they the best in terms of investment? Could a few shortcuts have been taken? Some participants tired out, were discouraged, or even irritated by the systematic, complex and occasionally gamelike nature of the work. The conjunction between experts – a majority in previous congresses – and the citizens was probably not seamless. Often in the third phase the citizen mask was discarded and the participants revealed a true expertise in the areas under study...


It is an understatement that the heads of the Wallonia 2020 participants are spinning. Two years of deliberative work form a culture, climate, ties, complicity and an intelligence that does not disappear when the last microphones are switched off. Even before the publication of the reports and papers, several participants in the process asked to schedule new meetings to demultiply the potential accumulated, continue a work they felt was not totally complete, leave the process heads high.

Due to the strength and vibrancy of the foresight approach, and the range of materials assembled, Wallonia 2020 was an exercise completely different from those conducted in the context of the Wallonia to the Future Congress. Some commentators noted that, in the end, as different and autonomous each process was from the other, they actually never really found a meeting point. This is possibly just one hypothesis for the evaluation.

Nevertheless, none other than the Minister-President of the Government of Wallonia, evoking the Wallonia 2020 congress, conveyed the citizens' expectations for good governance to the Commission of the Walloon Parliament the days following the congress. This already demonstrates the strength of Wallonia 2020's regional foresight.

Lessons learned

Starting from the outputs and processes coming out of this fifth step of Wallonia to the future programme but also with the objective to valorize other foresight approaches undertaken from other spheres of the governance than the civil society (public sector, companies), the Destree Institute took the initiative to continue a collective foresight process under the concept of the Wallonia Foresight College which was set up by October 2004, one year after the closing conference of Wallonia 2020.

The concept of College has a threefold meaning:

– Firstly, it rests on the system of regional governance as a whole, the public; private and civil society domains, by stimulating as much as possible the transverse spaces between these three spheres in their interactive dynamics.

– Secondly, we are speaking about an area of joint apprenticeship or rather continuous learning, with the help, of all the sites of knowledge structured by the foresight steps with which Wallonia is associated.

– Lastly, the College, structured into the framework of a pluriannual foresight programme, will, from its foundation, position itself in the knowledge society vis-à-vis the critical challenge of signing up Wallonia for the knowledge society and of making it a sustainable creative territory.

( ) The Destree Institute was both the initiator and the operator of the foresight exercise but he launched it with the help of fifty organizations (universities, political parties, trade union, ngo's, administrations, business federations, etc.), contacted by its own.