This paper aims to depict foresight programmes as extended service encounters between foresight practitioners, sponsors, and other stakeholders. The implications of this perspective for evaluating the outcomes of such programmes are to be explored.
The range of activities comprising foresight is reviewed, along with the various objectives that may underpin these activities. The more substantial foresight programmes are seen in terms of a series of steps, in each of which various partners can be involved in generating service outcomes and later steps of the process. The arguments are illustrated with insights drawn from various cases.
A foresight programme is likely to feed into more than one policy process, so that the foresight activities can be linked to various stages of the policy cycles, as well as engaging participants with different degrees of influence on the policies in question. The outcomes of the foresight activity are also heavily shaped by the degree of involvement of various stakeholders, not least the sponsoring agency and any other groups it seeks to mobilise. Seeing foresight as a service activity brings to the fore the notion of co‐production, and the importance of the design of the service encounters involved.
The task of evaluating foresight is a challenging one, and comparison of foresight activities needs to bear in mind the different scale, scope, and ambitions of different programmes. Simple static comparison of formal inputs and outputs will miss much of the value and value‐added of the activity.
A dynamic approach to evaluation stresses the learning of lessons about the roles of multiple stakeholders – and the responsibilities of sponsors as well as practitioners.
Foresight programmes are frequently commissioned, and often have significant influence on decision‐making. Attempts to systematically evaluate these efforts have begun, and this essay stresses the need to be aware of the complex interactive nature of foresight, highlighted by viewing it in service terms.
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