Kerstin Cuhls, ISI, Kerstin.Cuhls@isi.fraunhofer.de
Future Radar 2030 is a regional initiative of a semi-private non-profit organisation, the ZIRP (Zukunftsinitiative Rheinland-Pfalz, Future Initiative Rhineland Palatinate) that started in 2001 supported by Premierminister (Ministerpräsident) Kurt Beck of Rheinland-Pfalz (Rhineland Palatinate) who is a member of the ZIRP board together with high-ranking people from industry and academia.
Designing the Exercise
1.1 Getting Prepared for Foresight
Being Clear on Reasons for Using Foresight
ZIRP, the Zukunftsinitiative Rheinland-Pfalz/ Future Initiative Rheinland-Pfalz, was started in 2001 and is supported by the Premier (Ministerpräsident) of Rheinland-Pfalz, Kurt Beck, who together with high-ranking people from industry and academia is one of the members of the ZIRP board. The reason for choosing the topic of demographic change was that the discussion on the potential impacts of demographic change has become very popular recently. However, until 2002 demographic change and its impacts had rarely been referred to in the press and public debates. Though the population statistics have been known for decades, political actors had not put the topic of demographic change onto their agenda yet. ZIRP regarded the topic to be of utmost importance for the economic, social, and political development of the region. So, it initiated the Future Radar 2030. From the beginning, this new methodological and thematic approach to foresight was largely encouraged by the federal government and the public of Rheinland-Pfalz.
The project started with the assumption that demographic change is taking place and will have impacts on society, administration, the economy, science and technology, education and the region in general. In the terminology of scenario writing, this assumption of demographic change would be called the “driver”. The State Office of Statistics Rheinland-Pfalz provided the data-basis with a huge amount of population statistics for the whole region and for every town and communal entity (Städte und Landkreise) for the project. In 2002, the office released a population forecast for the year 2050 that served as a starting point for further examinations. This accumulation of statistics was published as a book and provided to all foresight participants. In presentations, the major issues and sometimes shocking results (e.g. "the town of Pirmasens will lose 42% of its population during the next 20 years") were presented as starting and "shocking points" at the beginning of the foresight workshops. The calculations predicted a drop in the population numbers as a whole and a distinct shift in the age structure. The number of elderly people would grow, while the younger generation is already decreasing. The main factors for these developments would be the continuously low birthrates and a rising life expectancy. Especially in the first workshops about demographic change and the impacts on the administration, many mayors were invited to participate. Some of them were really surprised when confronted with these statistics.
Setting the Focus and Objectives
Future Radar 2030 was planned as a dynamic and open process that could be changed if some methodological problems occurred. Future Radar 2030 had several consecutive goals.
- It should initiate a far-reaching discussion of the problem in order to sensitize the public.
- The participants in the process should spread their knowledge of the issue throughout the region and function as multipliers. This was a new participative foresight approach with persons from industry, academia, administration, associations etc., wherever knowledge was assumed. The general approach was based on workshops with an orientation towards a broader public and was selected by the organisors and the ZIRP board as the appropriate modus operandi to meet these goals.
- The participants from industry, administration, academia, even students (for details, see below) were asked to formulate small scenarios of a possible and preferable future, and then to name recommended actions and measures directly addressed to specific actors who are decision-makers or have the possibility to change something in order to reach the positive goals worked out. These measures were supposed to be the basis for an ongoing in-depth discussion with decision-makers and affected actors in the political, social and economic realms.
One major objective of the whole process was to engender positive thinking about the issue and more awareness of the problems with the public. Very often, demographic change is connected with negative scenarios of emptied districts, generation gaps, undersupply in rural regions, or financial shortages in the administration. But this conception is misleading. It can rather be assumed that the change in population structure implies favourable effects on the development of the country (from smaller classes in schools to a specific kind of tourism for elderly people). Detecting such potentials was a vital part of the task.
Setting the Time Horizon
The time horizon was long-term (30 years, meaning 2030, and even more) when dealing with the statistics and demographic change - and short- as well as long-term when discussing the measures to be taken.
Determining the Users
Future Radar 2030 had an "information function" for different users. It was started to inform people about the demographic change in Rheinland-Pfalz and make them aware of the different impacts that it could have. The potential users were the different stakeholders in the administration of the federal state, the communal bodies, mayors etc, in industry, like managers, responsible persons for the staff in industry or for education, the Chambers of Crafts (Handwerkskammer), Chambers of Industry and Commerce (Industrie- und Handelskammern), in sports or other clubs, or associations like industrial associations, tourist association etc. Concerning the measures to be taken, the users were always named and addressed directly.
Determining the Coverage
When the project was being prepared, it became obvious that the various effects of the population transformation could not be examined as a whole. Therefore, it was decided to divide the project into four sections. The sections were identified in several workshops with experts on the subject, all from Rheinland-Pfalz and coming interdisciplinarily from different sectors. The subject sections were discussed and decided in open rounds, and estimated as being decisive and influential for the future of the region. Thus, Future Radar 2030 focussed on the challenges of the demographic change on:
- Communal Affairs
- Industry and Labour
- Cooperation of the Generations
- Market Opportunities.
Assessing Previous and Existing Work
In many respects, Future Radar 2030 is different from other foresight projects in Europe. It is regional in scope, but makes use of different methods from workshops to a survey. It addresses the decision-makers and multipliers more directly than e.g. national foresight approaches. It involves people from the region, brings them together in an interdisciplinary way and lets them discuss matters that are relevant for everyone - but from different perspectives. Based on the knowledge about the previous national foresight activities (like the German national Delphi surveys and the Futur process, the German Research Dialogue, that had just started), the combination of qualitative (workshops, scenarios) and quantitative (survey) approach was chosen.
The organisers of ZIRP already had the basic subject of demographic change in mind. In 2001, they were still looking for an adequate methodology. At this time, they found a report written by Dr. Kerstin Cuhls of the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (ISI) in Karlsruhe published by a German Foundation (Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung). They contacted her and with her co-operation, the methodology that was described and recommended in the report (a combination of workshops, scenarios and a survey as well as work out measures) was adapted to meet the needs of ZIRP: working out concrete results, being resource-saving, regional and involving participants from the region, raising awareness about the topic of demographic change. The characteristics of Future Radar 2030 are a clear starting point, the definition of the object of investigation, namely demographic change in Rheinland-Pfalz and its impacts on society, economy, science etc. with a special focus on communal affairs, industry and labour, the cooperation of the generations and market opportunities, and the regional concentration on the federal state of Rheinland-Pfalz. Moreover, the detailed topics were worked out by teams in different workshop formats. The long process of detecting the important issues was accelerated and simplified by determining the starting point "demographic change", and the limitation on the four impact fields of communal affairs, industry and labour, the cooperation of the generations and market opportunities
Mapping Available Resources
The resources of ZIRP were relatively modest compared to other (e.g. national or corporate) foresight exercises. There was one major responsible person and one or two others (full-time equivalent) from ZIRP organising the workshops and inviting the participants, the other people involved were students from the University of Mainz who took on organisational and preparatory work. Dr. Kerstin Cuhls was involved as an external advisor and professional facilitators from small firms in Rheinland-Pfalz were engaged to facilitate the workshops. The locations of the events were chosen as an incentive for the participants, nice sites and always something special: castles, companies or academies in nice places. In order to save resources, all of them were relatively cheap to rent or the companies acted as a kind of “sponsor”, providing rooms and catering. Other incentives for the participants could not be paid.
1.2 Setting-up the Exercise
In this case, the board of ZIRP with high-ranking people from academia, industry and politics had to be convinced to support the process. Therefore, at board meetings, presentations from the ZIRP organisors and Dr. Kerstin Cuhls were organised. Companies had to be convinced to sponsor workshops. Some of the companies had high-ranking persons in the board of ZIRP so that they were already committed to contribute, others had to be convinced in bilateral talks by Heinz Kolz, the head of ZIRP. Sponsoring companies were, for example, BASF, Ludwigshafen, DaimlerChrysler, Wörth, or Boehringer, Ingelheim.
Building a Team
The team consisted of external people (e.g., persons from the State Office for Statistics(Statistisches Landesamt) to provide data and presentations on the demographic change, Dr. Kerstin Cuhls, Fraunhofer ISI, for external advice) and members of ZIRP (e.g., Head of ZIRP, Heinz Kolz, Dr. Irene Del Valle, later: Dr. Mielke). Most of the organisation of the workshops was prepared and conducted by students; the other members of the organising teams were professional facilitators for the different workshops, e.g., Günther Wirkus, Dr. Gerhard Keck, Mr. Aßmann, Ms. Frietsche.
At the beginning, the students and facilitators did not know about foresight and the methodology that could be applied in this case. The facilitators were hired for the workshops and had to learn everything necessary for a foresight workshop (objectives, procedure to prepare participants for thinking into the future, working out future topics and grouping them…) during one evening. Everything should be applied in a workshop that was to start the next morning. That was a challenge.
These consultations were necessary during the evenings before all workshops started; nevertheless most of them went well. Major complaints were heared during workshops for which the necessary knowledge was not available, when the structure of the workshop allotted too much time for a specific task or not enough time for another. Another problem occurred when the larger so-called future teams were split into small groups that were not facilitated. In some cases, these groups were too small or did not have the necessary expertise to fulfil their task. Some even asked for facilitation because they were too much involved in their discussion to keep their objectives in mind.
Designing the Methodology/ Selecting Methods
Each of the four main themes or impact fields mentioned above was handled in a similar way:
1. Key topics of demographic change and its impacts were collected and evaluated with the help of subject-oriented research. An advisory board consisting of experts and members of the ZIRP executive board identified the issues
- communal affairs,
- industry and labour,
- the cooperation of the generations and
- market opportunities
as being of greatest importance, as the major impact fields of the demographic change, and suggested them as topics for the future teams.
2. For each of these impact fields, three to four so-called Future Teams of about 12 members, all with different regional and professional backgrounds were established. Thus, very heterogeneous groups emerged.
3. In their first meeting, the groups collected ideas and small scenarios for the future by applying creativity methods like a "time travel" exercise and meta-plans. With the help of fantasy trips (imaginative time travel) into the year 2030, the experts generated short images of a realistic and positive (nice, wishful, wanted, liked …) future. After clustering the ideas and topics, small groups of three to six persons worked on the three to six most important clusters.
4. The second meeting (workshop) served to specify the mini scenarios in small groups.
5. The scenarios were then written and put into a written questionnaire which was sent to more than 300 experts from industry, academia, associations etc. in Rheinland-Pfalz, selected from publicly available databases and being classified as knowledgeable on the subject. They were asked to estimate how likely (scale 1 to 5) the scenarios were to happen.
6. The results of the questionnaire were the basis for the last meeting of the Future Teams. The groups completed and corrected their scenarios according to the questionnaire and then formulated recommended actions/ measures to be taken for defined actors: stakeholders and decision-makers in the field, the government, the federal government, the regional or communal decision-makers, associations, churches, the administration, industry, crafts associations/ Chambers of Industry and Commerce, and others.
7. In the end, the ZIRP board formulated 10 to 12 so-called “Guiding Theses” for each of the impact fields to give an overview about the outcome of the ZIRP foresight. The Guiding Theses were published in press releases, flyers etc. and used for further strategic discussions and awareness-raising workshops in the federal state of Rheinland-Pfalz.
Although the Guiding Theses were short and easy to handle, the major outcomes were the "recommended actions/ measures to be taken". But these were very diffuse, ad hoc, criticised as "too subjective" and sometimes one-sided. They provided rich material for further discussion, but the sheer number of them made them difficult to handle. Another lesson to be learned is that the "recommended actions" were more authentic, as they directly derived from the foresight process. The Guiding Theses were formulated by the "external" ZIRP board and abridged the results in such a way that they sound relatively "trivial".
Running the exercise
The different workshops, expert meetings and the small survey with questionnaires, databases etc. had to be organised. Because of the limited resources, this was mainly done by students working for the ZIRP. The materials needed – like pinboards, paper and pencils – and catering were also managed by them. Invitations were written and signed in ZIRP, the same for the minutes which were sent to all participants shortly after the events.
Identifying and Selecting Participants
As the participants in Future Radar 2030 were supposed to be the "multipliers", those who are informed and then tell others about the challenges Rheinland-Pfalz is facing, they were selected according to the subjects from publicly available databases, internet etc. Most of them were high-ranking people from industry, academia or public bodies, but also students, teachers and members of associations were invited. In the first subject, Communal Affairs, for example, there were the mayors of different towns and villages, people from (small and medium) industry associations, small companies, scientists, students, teachers and others. For the impact field Industry and Labour, especially the trade unions, associations and small companies were consulted, but also the people responsible for the staff from large companies. Students, researchers, managers, mayors or other people affected were also invited.
The participants were regarded as the multipliers. They were provided with material like the huge amount of information gathered (recommended actions/ measures to be taken, but also ideas and clusters of ideas), the minutes from the meetings, but also a set of powerpoints to prepare own presentations wherever they were needed. The participants as multipliers were asked to present the Future Radar 2030 as often as possible and wherever they wanted. The ZIRP helped when questions arose.
At the beginning, there was no clear communication strategy. But after the process was finished, conferences, workshops and follow-up discussions were started and are still under way until the year 2006 (see implementation). The invitations are often signed by prominent people, e.g. Premier Beck himself.
Collecting and Processing Information
The population statistics from the "Statistisches Landesamt" (official statistics office, publication: Statistisches Landesamt Rheinland-Pfalz: Rheinland-Pfalz 2050. Zeitreihen, Strukturdaten, Analysen, Mainz 2002) for Rheinland-Pfalz were the major information sources to start the discussion, even to shock some of the participants: Telling the mayor of a town that his region/ town will possibly lose 43% of the population during the next 20 years was regarded as a shock.
The ZIRP organisers also considered adding information about the different subjects during the process, but this was cancelled as there much information had been already generated in the workshops and an overflow of information was to be avoided. The information from the workshops were sent as photos and scripts together with the minutes to keep all participants informed and gave them the opportunity to search for additional information in-between the workshops. Nevertheless, it was a lot of material and the challenge was to excerpt the major points without losing interesting issues. In some cases, this was criticised. On the one hand, too much information, on the other, detailed information is needed. The problem - also within ZIRP - was that there were not enough personnel to work out and analyse the major points in more detail. Often, also the knowledge to identify and analyse the topics was not available and external experts from universities or research organisations were consulted in bilateral meetings or on the telephone.
Managing the Process
During the process, there were definite deadlines for each theme. Therefore, the workshops had to be timed accordingly. During the workshops, it was the task of the professional facilitators to work out all points of the schedule. The workshops as such were improved continuously. Especially the fantasy trips into the future were a new element in such a workshop, they were refined. The structure of the workshops was also adapted somewhat. It often turned out that the time in the small groups (three to six persons) was too long and the time in the whole Future Team was too short to discuss the topics in sufficient detail.
After three impact fields/ topics were worked out in a series of three workshops, it was decided that only one workshop would be sufficient for the last field "market opportunities" as this was regarded different from the others and the ZIRP board also wanted to save resources and time.
The workshops took place during weekends (two days), but it was difficult to convince the participants to sacrifice three weekends, so there were only a few participants left over in the end. Shorter workshops were tried out, including the Friday (Friday and Saturday) which turned out to be more efficient. Nevertheless, three workshops à two days is a challenge because of the length, only one workshop of two days is rather short. In this case, a survey in-between is impossible.
The management of the high-ranking board of the ZIRP and the participants on the other hand was a challenge. The board expected quick and detailed answers to certain questions, the participants wanted to discuss the issues in a way that all group members understand and transfer the message. Therefore, the ZIRP manager often had to mediate on the phone and explain the minutes or other material to both sides.
Keeping Everyone Informed and Up-to-date
Extensive material and minutes were sent to all participants after each event. But this was sometimes an overflow of material, and although all pinboards were transcribed, misunderstandings were possible because on the pinboards only single words were noted, the underlying details were often not transferred But in general, the participants had no problems when he or she missed one of the workshops, it was easy to go on working because the whole material was available and the facilitators guided in such a way that it was not always necessary to know all the details.
There were more problems with drop-outs: to keep the participants on board for three weekends (altogether 6 days) is not easy. There were no direct incentives possible and the number of participants decreased from workshop to workshop. The attempt was made to make the locations interesting for the participants, but this was not enough, also tried to make them interested in the subject. As this was insufficient, too, it was decided to shorten the whole process. Therefore, the fourth impact field (new marked opportunities) took place in only one workshop during one weekend.
All events and the whole concept were monitored during the process by ZIRP and by Dr. Kerstin Cuhls (advisor). She took part in as many workshops as possible and gave direct feedback to improve the process.
For every workshop, a short questionnaire was distributed to understand what the participants liked, disliked or what could be improved. The facilitators were also asked for feedback. All this information was used to improve the process, e.g. to ask the “right” questions during the workshops.
The outcome of Future Radar 2030, more than four hundred recommended actions for different spheres of action, were summarised in so-called Guiding Theses ( Leitthesen ). They were key assumptions for an improvement of the future prospects for the region. These Guiding Theses were formulated by breaking up the thematic structure of the working process and looking for related topics in the results of the different groups. For them, results were clustered, and the main ideas formulated into visionary and yet realistic statements.
The theses and a PowerPoint presentation about the whole process serve as basis for the public presentation of the project outcomes. The Guiding Theses were therefore used in publications, flyers etc. but were too broad to have an impact on the decision-making process. All Guiding Theses as well as the complete set of scenarios and recommended actions can be found on www.zukunftsradar2030.de.
Publicity was one basic variable of the project. The inclusion of as many institutions and individuals as possible was of great importance to start a broad dialogue with the whole society of Rheinland-Pfalz. Networking between these different people and informing them about the hot topic of demographic change and its implications was one of the outputs. The ongoing public relations activities mentioned below are also intangible outputs as they serve for discussions and awareness-raising among different stakeholders in the region.
By May 2005, the project work of the experts and Future Teams was completed. But the follow-up activities are still continuing. By midyear 2006, the public relation activities are planned to be finished. The project will have reached its goal when a broad and continuous discussion on the issue of demographic change is implemented in the public of Rheinland-Pfalz, and when the name of ZIRP and Future Radar 2030 are constantly connected to the issue.
The ongoing public relations activities of the results rest upon four main pillars:
- Panel discussions at regional and national level serve as ways to sensitise and motivate local authorities and decision-makers. One example is the village Rombach, where a kind of future conference for the citizens was organised.
- Regular participation in congresses and symposia to find new experts and target groups for the project.
- Publications and press releases about the results of the project to reach a broad public.
- Internet site www.zukunftsradar2030.de as a platform for discussion and interchange between the participants as well as a substantial source of information concerning every field of demographic change. By now it includes one of the largest collections of commented web-links and a list of experts.
There are many follow-up activities, e.g. a conference, small information workshops about the impact fields of demographic change, even a village conference (Rombach) where the citizens of a village discuss the implications of demographic change making use of ZIRP results.
Sponsors and the Project Team, Participants, and other Stakeholders
Successful activities of sponsors like DaimlerChrysler, Boehringer or BASF and project teams are different workshops, follow-up events (mainly discussions at different locations with different stakeholders) and conference presentations. For these, also the participants are invited and provided with a set of powerpoints to prepare their own presentations wherever they like to present the results of the project. All participants act as multipliers, in their companies, their villages, the teachers in schools etc. ZIRP guides and helps if needed. The major task of all involved is to spread information about demographic change, its implications and what can be done to avoid negative effects.
For the board of ZIRP, a critical evaluation of the whole process was important to decide on the next steps. Therefore, the monitoring and improvement during the process was organised as well as a short evaluation statement at the end. The monitoring was performed by Dr. Kerstin Cuhls as often as possible with direct written or oral feedback to the organisers. After each workshop, there was also a short meeting of facilitators and ZIRP organisers to give feedback.
A very short evaluation (summary of the findings) was written by Dr. Kerstin Cuhls at the end. This was based on the monitoring and some of the positive and critical points observed, e.g. the problems in the very small groups with lack of expertise, the structure of some of the workshops or the long duration of the workshops and the negative effects on participation (see above). The material of the ZIRP was also given to two external people who were not involved in the process (Dr. Thomas Reiß from ISI, and Dr. Philine Warnke from IPTS, Seville), who added short statements about the project. The short evaluation paper was accepted by the board as a basis for further discussions. It is still to be decided whether the process of Future Radar 2030 will continue with another topic.