The province of Liège at the 2020 horizon

Online Foresight Guide


Designing a Foresight Exercise

Setting-up a Foresight Exercise

Running Foresight

Implementation and Follow-up


Designing a Foresight Exercise

Being Clear on Reasons for Using Foresight

For 20 years the province of Liège has witnessed a gradual deterioration its social and economic situation. Too dependent on declining heavy industry powerless in the face of the big international groups that move their decision and production centres out of the province, despite the granting of large amounts of (regional, federal and European) public funds, the province has encountered enormous difficulties in creating a real unifying project that would allow to take steps to become a major centre in Europe in 25 years time.

In January 2001, the board of directors of the SPI+ created a working group called “Commission Développement” made up of directors from the SPI+ and external persons. The aim of the working group was to think over the future of the province of Liège for the medium and long terms.

Following a training course on regional foresight at Futuribles, in January 2002 Benoît Collet from SPI+ organised a training seminar led by Hugues de Jouvenel, General Director of the Futuribles group, for the “Commission Développement” about territorial foresight and its methods.

Foresight seemed to be an excessively theorical method from the pragmatic standpoint often adopted by Belgians. So, it took about one year to convince the members of the “Commission Développement” to apply the Foresight approach and its methodology, which it finally did from mid 2001 to mid 2002.

In June 2002, the “Commission Développement” decided to undertake a territorial foresight exercise for the province of Liège. The “Commission Développement” became then the “Groupe de Réflexion Liège 2020”. The aim of the working group was now to think over the future of the province of Liège for the medium and long term and to come up with a strategy of development for the province.

Setting the Focus and Objectives

When the “Commission Développement” was created, it intended to think about the conditions for long term development of the province of Liège without taboos. To achieve this aim, shaping what could be the futures appear to be a first step in crafting a global strategy for the development of the province.

Approaching territorial development suppose to consider all its aspects: social, economic, regional planning, … . That is why “Commission Développement” had been conceived as a multidisciplinary group.

Setting the Time Horizon

The aim of the “Groupe de réflexion Liège 2020” was to think over the future of the province of Liège for the medium and long terms, that is, for at least the twenty years to come. This time horizon was recommended by Hugues de Jouvenel, General Director of the Futuribles group. 2020 is not too far and not too near : it allowed the “Groupe de réflexion Liège 2020” to remain concrete while thinking “out of the box”.

Determining the Users

Citizens, and among them, decision-makers (policy-makers, institutional representatives and employers from the public and the private sectors) and the press, were determined as the users of the foresight exercise. It was undertaken to help them understand the stakes and perspectives of development of the province of Liège.

Determining the Coverage

The geographic coverage chosen was the territory of the province of Liège. As the foresight exercise was funded by the SPI + which mainly depends on the authorities of the province, there was no real choice.

With more than one million of inhabitants for a territory of 3,682 km2, the province of Liège is one of the ten provinces which make up of the Belgium federal State. The density of population is very high around the central city of Liège and there are high discrepancies in the province. For instance, the unemployment rate varies from 4% to 18% according to the area. As the province of Liège represents a territory which is a bit artificial, it was sometimes integrated into a larger territory when it corresponded to the reality of the province.

Assessing Previous and Existing Work

There was no prior assessment of similar Foresight exercises undertaken in other regions. But some of the people involved in the exercise had information about existing foresight exercises undertaken in other regions.

Mapping Available Resources

The funding of the exercise came from the SPI +.

The duration of the exercise was of two-and-a-half year.

Human resources were of three kinds:

Members of the Groupe de Réflexion LIÈGE 2020 were 38. 25% came from private sector and 75% came from public sector (universities, municipalities, hospitals). All of them had a position of responsibility in their organisation:

M. Philippe BARZIN, Eurogroup Consulting S.A.
M. Bauduin BLAIRON, SPI+
M. Benoît COLLET, SPI+
Mme Catherine COLLETTE, SPI+
M. Jean-Paul CORNIL, Computerland S.L.M. S.A.
M. Jean CRAHAY, JC Développement
M. Roger DEHAYBE, Agence Intergouvernementale de la Francophonie
M. Hugues de JOUVENEL, Groupe Futuribles
M. Jean-Pierre DELWART, Eurogentec S.A.
M. Marc DUBRU, Hautes Etudes Commerciales
M. Marc FOCCROULLE, Université de Liège
M. Louis GENET, Administrateur SPI+, Conseiller provincial
M. Henri GILISSEN, Administrateur, SPI+, E.R.
Mme Véronique GOMEZ, SPI+
M. René GROSJEAN, Université de Liège
M. Olivier HAMAL, Administrateur SPI+, Député provincial en charge des Affaires sociales et des Etablissements hospitaliers
M. Michel JEHAES, Administrateur SPI+, Commune d’Oupeye, Echevin
M. Pierre-Yves JEHOLET, Vice-Président SPI+, Député au Parlement wallon et à la Communauté française
M. Nicolas KEUNEN, Manex
M. Alfred LECERF, Administrateur SPI+, Bourgmestre de la commune de Lontzen
Mme Françoise LEJEUNE, SPI+
M. Alain LESAGE, Economiste
M. Joseph MARTIAL, Université de Liège
M. Luc MELOTTE, Centre hospitalier psychiatrique de Liège
Mme Bernadette MERENNE-SCHOUMAKER, Université de Liège
M. Julien MESTREZ, Président SPI+, Député provincial en charge des Affaires Economiques et du Tourisme
M. Quentin MICHEL, Université de Liège
M. Joseph MOXHET, Président honoraire SPI+, Député provincial honoraire en charge des Affaires économiques et du Tourisme
M. Pierre NEURAY, Chambre de Commerce et d’Industrie de Liège et de Verviers
M. Jean-Marie NIZET, JMJ Services S.A.
M. Alain ONKELINX, Administrateur SPI+, Conseiller provincial
M. Maurice SEMER, Technifutur ; M. Robert STEPHANE, RSC Interactions
M. Didier VAN CAILLIE, Université de Liège
Mme Christiane VANDIJCK, Yvens-Decroupet S.A.
M. José VERDIN, Administrateur SPI+, Fondation André Renard.

External members of working groups were 21. Among them, 30% came from private sector and 70% from public sector. They had all a high position in their organisation:

M. Jean-Louis AUGUSTE, TEC Liège-Verviers
M. Joseph CHARLIER, Consultant en affaires sociales et agricoles
M. Michel DECOUX, Président-Fondateur E.R. Hybritech Europe S.A.
Mme Christine DEVILLE, SPI+
M. Jean-Marie DUJARDIN, Hautes Etudes Commerciales
M. Pierre GILISSEN, Conseiller communal à la Ville de Liège, Secrétaire général adjoint du Conseil Economique et Social de la Région Wallonne
M. Jean-Marie HALLEUX, Université de Liège
M. Jean HENROTTAY, Enseignant
M. Michel HEUKMES, Socran S.A.
M. Damien JACOB, SPI+
M. Alain LANGER, Centre Nature de Botrange
M. Jean-Pierre NOSSENT, Communauté Française Wallonie Bruxelles
M. André OZER, Université de Liège
M. François PICHAULT, Université de Liège
M. Pierre PORTIER, Groupe Portier S.A.
Melle Benjamine RICHY, Technifutur
M. Marcel STIENNON, Conseiller provincial
M. Georges VANDERSMISSEN, Syndicaliste FGTB, E.R.

The “Groupe de Réflexion Liège 2020” acted as a steering committee: they chose the methodology, validated the works by the working groups and were in charge of the external communication of results.

In working groups, there were members of the “Groupe de Réflexion Liège 2020” and external members. Working groups looked at the components (or variables) of the system and constructed microscenarios. Working groups looked at their component for more than one year and had to interview experts to improve their knowledge for the components.

Setting-up a Foresight Exercise

Building Support

Beside the obvious financial and material support, Liège 2020 has benefited from a human support. Indeed, as the future does not emerge from nothing but is rooted in the present, the Foresight exercise requires a diagnosis of the territory. Diagnosis requires collection and study data from the twenty past years. For Liège 2020, this work has been made by Benoît Collet from the SPI+ who was in charge of the scientific secretariat (see “Mapping Available Resources”).

A methodological support by a specialist in foresight is also needed. For Liège 2020, this has been made by Hugues de Jouvenel (Groupe Futuribles). This permits to keep the good direction all along the process and profits from the knowledge (and its experience) of the consultant.

Building a Team

The main characteristic of people who undertake a foresight exercise is their will of reappropriating the future of their region. The persons involved in Liège 2020 were convinced that the endogenous factors of their province are the most relevant levers to act and develop it.

Another characteristic of the team is that each member was “network” persons, i.e., in their respective domains, they lead many relations with the others.

And, finally, it is essential that these persons take part as individuals and not as the representatives of their firms or organisations. This guarantees frank and free debates.

Designing the Methodology

Relied on the logistics of SPI+ and with the scientific leverage of the Futuribles group, the “Groupe de Réflexion LIEGE 2020” was created. It had set itself the task of uniting enlightened citizens wishing to pool their skills to create a potential approach to the future of the province at the 2020 horizon.

Such an approach logically consisted of two strands:

Between these two phases, it was essential that a debate be established, that the diagnosis and the exploratory scenarios be checked, amended and enriched, and that all players start to reflect on what they might do together to build a better future.

Selecting Methods

The scenario method was chosen for the exploratory foresight (first strand of the methodology). It followed the classical stages:

The identification of variables resulted from brainstorming sessions where collective intelligence was in demand. Because of a lack of resources, no structural analysis method was used to identify key variables and no foresight workshop was organised at the beginning of the process.

Organising the Exercise

The exercise involved about 50 persons from the “Groupe de Réflexion” and the working groups over two and a half years. There were 56 meetings of working groups and 24 meetings of the “Groupe de Réflexion” (including several meetings with all the participants).

The scientific secretariat wrote the reports, prepared the meetings, took the minutes of meetings, gathered quantitative and qualitative data, checked with Hugues de Jouvenel, that the methodology was well used by the “Groupe de Réflexion” and the working groups, wrote micro- and macroscenarios.

Hugues de Jouvenel assisted the working groups and the “Groupe de réflexion” for the methodology. He also led meetings with all the participants and took part in the writing of reports.

Identifying and Selecting Participants

The members of “Groupe de Réflexion Liège 2020” have been enrolled on a voluntary basis and following a process of co-optation of the members. Some directors of SPI+ (the ones who wanted to take part) formed the basis. After, they proposed to some selected persons from the province to join them. The selection was made of course according to their level of responsibility in their organisation and their professional experience but also according to the fact that they were “network” persons. And, it was tried to rally all the component of the society (politicians, businessmen, unionists, university professors, persons from cultural sector).

The same process has been used to form the working group with the fact that it was tried to enrol persons involved in the theme they managed.

First, the members of the working group were designed only to elaborate the micro-scenarios. But it appeared rapidly that they really enjoyed the game and it would have been too bad not to enrol them for crafting the macro-scenarios.

Planning Communications

The communication was not planned from the beginning of the exercise. Communication was organized in the end of the exercise. It proved to be an error not to have planned communication because it was far much less efficient.

Running Foresight

Managing Information

Collecting Information

After a brainstorming, six essential “components” of the internal context of the province of Liège were selected:

External context was added to this list of essential “components”.

For each essential “component”, a working group was created to identify the driving variables and as from a diagnosis to draft hypotheses of evolution for each variable.

64 driving variables were identified, including 8 for the external context. For instance, in the human capital component, there were variables such as family, family cell; in the structures of the territory and infrastructures component, there were variables such as the geographical distribution of commercial centres, cultural centres, teaching centres, leisure centres; in the production system component, there were variables such as property and decision power in firms; in the social dynamism component, there were variables such as ‘pillarisation’ which is specific to Belgium. Belgian society is built on two pillars, one catholic pillar and one non-catholic pillar. These two pillars can be found in the organisation of all aspects of society.

Processing Information

For each essential “component”, the working group examined the combinations of hypotheses of evolution of driving variables and selected the combinations which would make it possible to define microscenarios.

27 microscenarios were built up, among which 4 for the external context.

For each scenario, two A4 pages were written describing the path from the current situation to the final image in 2020.

On the basis of these 27 microscenarios built up by the working groups, 4 macroscenarios were built up by the “Groupe de Réflexion Liège 2020”.

The “Groupe de Réflexion Liège 2020” built up the 4 macroscenarios combining the microscenarios of the internal and the external contexts. In fact, the Groupe chose the best suited external context for each of the 4 macroscenarios.

Nevertheless, whatever the external context, each of the four macroscenarios can happen. Indeed, if one cannot deny the influence of the external context on the province, it must not be overestimated. That’s why, it was then chosen to present separately the evolutions of the external context and macroscenarios to highlight the essential role of endogenous factors.

Managing the Process

Managing Time

At the beginning, Liège 2020 was planned to last one year. But, finally and despite the control of the steering committee, it lasted two years and a half.

There were three reasons for this :

Managing Relationships

The relationships between members evolved during the process. Indeed, at the beginning, a diversity of people from various sectors of society tend to complicate the communication. After some time a common “language” emerged and members discovered aspects at stake that they were unaware of. At that time, the value-added of the diversity of the group became really visible.

However, the group showed itself to be slow at decision-making several times during the exercise. The specific problems of “Groupe de réflexion Liège 2020” were that the first President of the SPI+ was not really involved in foresight. So, the decision-making process suffered from SPI+'s excessively formal process of decision-making (SPI+ is a very hierarchical company).

It might have been more efficient to have a kind of executive staff officially named by the Group as was done for the communication process.

Keeping Everyone Informed and Up-to-date

In addition to traditional means of communication (sending reports and other papers by post or e-mail and oral communication), a restricted access website was run throughout the exercise.

The site contains all the information related to the foresight exercise: reports, data, methodological information, comments from the consultant…

Day-to-day Monitoring

The day-to-day monitoring has been carried out by the scientific secretariat.

Expected Outputs

Tangible Outputs

Four macroscenarios and the definition of the major challenges for the province of Liège were the tangible outputs of the foresight exercise:

First scenario: Stone statues

One of the possible futures for the province might consist of a slow erosion of the current situation: groups and projects flounder, entrenched in power struggles and fighting over local interests, without any really ambitious common project being formulated. The losses of jobs in various sectors are seen as inevitable. With a lack of clearly defined strategy and a lack of appropriate networking of the skills and energies, the sources of development dry up little by little or are under-exploited. And all this of course has a very negative impact on the level of em-ployment and purchasing power. In this unfavourable context, a chain reaction would start up that would in particular affect the creation of businesses, employment in the public sector, training levels, …

The region would lose its structure. Without any appeal, the province of Liège would little by little become a “dormitory province”: the heart of economic activity would be elsewhere …

Second scenario: At each others' throats

This scenario consists of a worsening of the previous scenario with sudden deterioration which, by about 2008, would be distinguished in particular by a clear decline in public resources, a spiral of redundancies and bankruptcies: the absence of investment would lead to a large number of closures (in the traditional sectors and in the leading-edge ones): Liège's production base, consisting of SMEs that would not succeed in reaching critical mass, would suffer globalisation more than sharing in it. The logistics sector at least would still escape the generalised disaster but it would become peripheral to the major logistics developments of Western Europe and would not generate employment in keeping with the investment made and the hopes that it would nourish. Without making the choice, Liège would become a “warehouse province” … In a deregulated context, Liège's agriculture would experience a crisis. The absence of coordinated regional plans for organisation and for environmental protection would have major consequences for natural resources and for the development of tourism.

On the social level, migratory flows would only bring a population without qualification and without any means of integration. Crime and insecurity would increase dangerously and violent confrontations would multiply.

The major players would insist on their rights, more inclined to justify their positions and to look for people responsible for the dramatic situations being experienced than to find lasting solutions to the problems. The province would have become totally passive and would rapidly deteriorate.

Third scenario: The swallow

This scene shows a different attitude on the part of the major players and decision makers of the province of Liège who, driven by alarming economic forecasts, would all get together to work out a comprehensive development strategy. It would be presented in September 2005 and rapid agreement would be reached on making a clean break with the industrial past so as to avoid too great dependence on a single sector and instead relying on the indigenous potential in such a way as to build a manufacturing industry capable of withstanding economic downturns. The existence of a focus of coordination would allow decision makers, who would otherwise be too deeply involved in their local concerns, to operate a strategy of alliances that would manage the defence of their interests whilst at the same time taking into account an overall policy. This would be organised around:

  • training and R & D,
  • the choice of priority and strategic sectors which would be the focus of concerted efforts by all the major players and on different aspects (funding, infrastructure, training, …),
  • major efforts in terms of funding for SMEs and of pooling their resources
  • and, lastly, coordination and establishment of coherence in public development resources.

In this way, the various sectors identified as strategic would experience fluctuating development but would all lead in the medium term to large-scale job creation.

But not everything would be ideal … If the initiatives were numerous, their coordination would pose a problem. Divisions would reappear from time to time: a common strategy would exist but there would still not really be a genuinely shared vision of a desirable future.

Fourth scenario: The phoenix

This fourth scenario represents an idealised version of the previous scenario. In 2012-2013, the decision makers and institutional players of Liège would go from a reasonable common understanding, the effectiveness of which they would have just confirmed during the previous 6 or 7 years to true cooperation that would transcend individual interests. From this time on, the various categories of player in the province (economic, social, political, cultural, …) would have developed relationships with each other, sealed alliances including outside the province and built an effective network that would allow opportunities that arise to be seized quickly by drawing a share of the available resources and of the adaptive abilities of the players. The province of Liège would have become a real network nexus.

The strategic choices made 7 or 8 years earlier would yield good results. Liège's manufacturing industry would no longer suffer from globalisation but would manage to seize the opportunities that it represents for its development. In particular it could count on efficient investment and funding mechanisms.

From 2016 onwards, the employment rate would have been rising to levels close to 70%. Everywhere in Europe “the miracle of Liège” would be mentioned. In a calm social climate, the province of Liège would once more attract foreign businesses.

What is more, with the development of a region that would not be limited to its only economic component, this development would be made with greater attention to the environment and the quality of life. The flow of thought that would have surfaced regarding future generations and the threats that hang over the life of the province would integrate this overall dimension of sustainable development, with the air and the forests being the focus of particular attention. And by benefiting from the concern for the natural heritage and for a cultural and sport policy full of events, the tourism sector would become a sector that contributes to the development and the image of the province in the outside world.

Major challenges for the province

To get together to formulate an overall project within a long-term strategy for the province, by combining all the economic, social, environmental, cultural etc. initiatives. That would produce a form of inventory of the possible synergies, of complementary aspects of areas defined by common agreement regarding each party’s specific skills.

· To establish internal and then external alliances. That demands a spirit of openness and a proactive approach of seizing the opportunities offered, these being attitudes that require in particular knowledge of foreign languages …

These challenges cannot be met except in the following conditions:

  • All of the citizens of the province of Liège must be aware of the fact that it is up to them to define and contribute to the development of the province.
  • We must capitalise on the geo-strategic situation in the province of Liège with the construction of a dynamic region in Europe with economic, social, cultural and environmental plans with a great deal of exchange.

At the Walloon regional level, we must also actively take part in regional development by putting in place a strengthened partnership with the other cities and regional groups in the Walloon region by providing a decisive contribution on two or three strategic axes.

  • We need to rethink excessive dependence on a traditional industry that is in structural decline. Relying on some crucial sectors, it is a matter of diversifying so as to be less sensitive to economic downturns.
  • Development of training and skills forms an indispensable element for dealing with them. New appreciation of technical training and of the professions based on them continues to be at stake for the province.
  • Coherent management of land must be implemented so as to put a brake on the uncontrolled spread of activities and housing into suburbs and also to be able to meet requirements effectively for suitable space for economic purposes.
  • A proper transport and mobility policy must also be implemented so as to provide multiple modes both for people and goods and to jointly redevelop transport.
  • The development of the natural and cultural capital is a major issue because, with its unifying role, it forms a solid foundation where everyone can find himself: agriculture, economy, tourism …

(Excerpt from the brochure The province of Liège at the 2020 horizon, it can be downloaded at )

Intangible Outputs

The four scenarios have informed people who in Liège and outside are wondering what the future of the province of Liège will be. They have struck people’s imagination. In particular the first and the second scenarios struck people because they presented very pessimistic evolutions for the province (see “Tangible Outputs). Sometimes the scenarios have been misinterpreted as if one could choose this scenario rather than this one, as if scenarios were not imaginary constructions that give us elements to go ahead in reflection.

Implementation and Follow-up


The inhabitants of the province of Liège and its major players (policy makers, institutional players, employers of the private and public sectors, the press) needed to be informed of the results of the foresight exercise.

After the study (first phase of the exercise, see methodology of the project), it was essential that a debate was established, that the diagnosis and the exploratory scenarios be checked, amended and enriched, that all players start to reflect on what they might do together to build a better future.

Then, it would have been possible to move on to the second phase which consisted of examining the medium and long term policies and strategies that the major players might adopt to prevent the undesirable effects from occurring and to set in motion a real dynamism of development.

Unfortunately, up to now a real debate was not established and it was not possible to move on to the second phase of the exercise.

Dissemination should have been integrated into the foresight exercise as from its conception.

At the end of the first phase of the exercise, an extensive dissemination activity was organised through communication with brochures in four languages (French, Flemish, German and English), a website with a forum, a press conference and articles in the press was organized and it had a maximum effect. But as there had not been enough dissemination during the study, there was no real appropriation of its results by people which should have been its users.


As communication was not planned as from the beginning of the exercise, most participants of the “Groupe de Réflexion” and working groups did not feel involved in dissemination and did not contribute to this task.


There was no evaluation in the end of the study because its results were embarrassing (see scenarios 1 and 2 which are very pessimistic in “Tangible Outputs”).

Following-up on Foresight

Positioning in the Policy Cycle

Up to now, the foresight exercise was not used to define a policy because only its first stage has been carried out. Most policy makers do not wish to move on to the second stage.

Only the ecologist party has taken some elements of the study for its programme.