Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: Foresight, Volume 18, Issue 1
The International Foresight Academy (IFA) was a Marie Currie project funded by the European Commission Seventh Framework Programme during 2012-2015. The IFA project was run by a consortium of partners led by the Austrian Institute of Technology GmbH (AIT) and consisting of Internationales Institut Fuer Angewandte Systemanalyse in Austria, Zurcher Hochschule Fur Angewandte Wissenschaften in Switzerland, Unitatea Executiva Pentru Finantarea Invatamantului Superior, A Cercetarii, Dezvoltarii Si Inovarii in Romania, Turun Yliopisto in Finland and Interdisciplinary Center For Technological Analysis and Forecasting in Israel.
The project consisted of two parts: a research part dedicated to the issue of Foresight as a format of participation in different democratic traditions, and a second part that managed the networking of the partners doing research on the Foresight field with regard to democracy and participation. IFA aimed to bring together international Foresight activities around the globe and from contrasting cultural and political contexts acknowledging the fact that over the years, Foresight has seen significant diversity in terms of approaches of application, methodologies as well as rationales and objectives serving different functions in policy development. At the same time, Foresight has been applied differently across various regions of the world, while the Foresight practice is also upgraded over time to respond to novel pressing needs and circumstances.
Within this framework, the project enabled the study of international approaches to Foresight analysis regarding political and social topics. A core theme of interest was how the collective practice of Foresight can organise democratic participation, particularly regarding the solving of major social challenges. IFA further investigated whether Foresight can address technically complex issues and overcome public disinterest in those subjects. The means by which the project addressed its goals included a set of international exchange programmes for scientists, summer schools for young researchers and seminars for established researchers.
The present special issue hosts contributions that were presented at the International Foresight Academy Seminar that was organised by one of the IFA partners, Zurcher Hochschule Fur Angewandte Wissenschaften I – ZHAW, in Winterthur, Switzerland, 16-19 September 2013.
This Academic Seminar explored the development and use of Foresight approaches aimed at enabling a smarter, more participatory and sustainable future through cross-cultural comparisons. The organisers invited authors to submit contributions which either elaborated on the underpinning theoretical basis or presented a practical national/regional perspective or an individual approach to participatory Foresight, relating technological innovation(s) to social impacts. The focus was set on two major themes of interest:
1. Foresight’s role in supporting democracy targeted impacts: This theme examined whether Foresight has had and can have an impact in empowering citizens to engage in decision-making processes and thus shape participatory governance systems and democratic societies.
2. Foresight and stakeholder engagement in addressing grand challenges: This theme focused on the role that participation and democracy enabled through Foresight approaches can have in designing and implementing sustainable solutions to challenges societies face today and may face in the future.
Within this framework, the first contribution by Correa titled “Prospective games for defence strategic decisions in Brazil” presents a model, based on strategic simulation and scenario planning, for a more participatory decision-making process in Brazil. The focus area is defence, a traditionally “closed” arena with specific decision-making processes confined within the limits of national ministries and defence agencies. The paper tries to break this tradition by arguing for a planning process that enables a participatory engagement with civil organizations and individuals who are disposed in three levels:
1. Decision-makers beyond the Ministry of Defence (and military services) that include other representatives of the executive and legislative branches.
2. Civilian representatives with a broad understanding of the national and international contexts that can contribute to developing insights and shaping the forces that may contribute to the nation’s future.
3. Experts in fields of interest to national defence, comprising representatives of several sectors and broad areas of knowledge, including scholars, scientists, politicians, military, industry, among others.
The second contribution deals with another major issue in participatory decision-making, that of the communication and collaboration across different stakeholders. The university–industry–society link has long been an area of study with varying recommendations on how it can be strengthened depending on the sector of context. The paper by Piirainen titled “Foresight and the third mission of universities: the case for innovation system Foresight” argues that innovation system Foresight can significantly contribute to the third mission of universities by creating an active dialogue between universities, industry and society. This can be done through the development of joint understanding of the research and innovation agendas and future needs of stakeholders. The findings highlight the importance of understanding the systemic nature of innovation and its role in economic development. Universities must understand their role within the larger innovation system to fulfil the potential of economic development and by extension, their third mission.
Scenarios are a major outcome of Foresight programmes and activities. The process of developing future scenarios can build bridges across various stakeholders, whereas the outcome, as such, can be the focus of conversation and possible collaborations. Thus, the analysis of scenario implications based on various stakeholders’ perspectives is an important area to focus on. This is the subject of the third contribution by Scippl titled “Assessing the desirability and feasibility of scenarios on eco-efficient transport: a heuristic for efficient stakeholder involvement in Foresight processes”. The paper aims at illustrating and discussing how the stakeholder assessment of scenarios can be used to trigger a structured and efficient debate among stakeholders about the future options to achieve a more eco-efficient transport system in Europe. The paper explores the extent to which the differentiation between the desirability and the feasibility of a potential future development can help make such debates more rational and transparent. The overall goal is to provide participatory tools for a transparent involvement of stakeholders in the assessment and design of policy options through the scenario approach.
The forth contribution also deals with the development of scenarios and another related issue of importance, i.e. the degree of conservatism in developing diverse scenarios. This paper by Carlsen titled “Systematic exploration of scenario spaces” argues that usually scenarios are close to a perceived business-as-usual trajectory and lack balance in the sense of arbitrarily mixing some conservative and some extreme scenarios. The purpose of this paper is to address these shortcomings by proposing a methodology for generating sets of scenarios which are in a mathematical sense maximally diverse. The suggested methodology – Scenario Diversity Analysis (SDA) – addresses the problems of broad span vs conservatism and imbalance. SDA generates scenario sets where the scenarios are in a quantifiable sense maximally different and, therefore, best span the whole set of feasible scenarios. The usefulness of the methodology is exemplified by applying it to sets of storylines of the emissions scenarios of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Last, but certainly not least, communication of Foresight findings, results and outcomes of Foresight is essential in attracting the interest of various audiences and visualisation of Foresight processes and findings is an important element in this process. The fifth contribution by Müllera and Schwarz titled “Assessing the functions and dimensions of visualizations in Foresight” deals with this particular issue of visualisation in communicating the derived results effectively, especially when relevant stakeholders cannot be part of the participatory Foresight process itself. This paper presents a framework for using visualisations in Foresight and illustrates its application in a case study. The argument is made that by using a dimensional framework the effects of visualisation can be leveraged for communicating Foresight results and creating stronger buy-in.
We are very grateful to the Editor-in-Chief of Foresight, Dr Ozcan Saritas, who agreed to host this special issue. Special thanks are also due to the reviewers whose comments were geared towards achieving high-quality contributions, as well as the authors who responded with the highest standards of professionalism. Finally, we would also like to acknowledge the Emerald team who supported us throughout the submission, reviewing and production process.
Effie Amanatidou - based at Manchester Institute of Innovation Research, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK.
About the author
Effie Amanatidou, is a Research Fellow at Manchester Institute of Innovation Research/University of Manchester (UK). Effie has around 20 years of experience in research and innovation policy analysis including, in particular, European research and innovation policies, social innovation, Foresight studies and evaluation/impact assessment of research and innovation. Effie Amanatidou can be contacted at: mailto:email@example.com