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Foresight (futures studies)

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Foresight (futures studies)

In futures studies, especially in Europe, the term "foresight" has become widely used to describe activities such as:

In the last decade, scenario methods, for example, have become widely used in some European countries in policy-making.[1] The FORSOCIETY network brings together national Foresight teams from most European countries, and the European Foresight Monitoring Project is collating material on Foresight activities around the world. In addition, foresight methods are being used more and more in regional planning and decision –making (“regional foresight”).

At the same time, the use of foresight for companies (“corporate foresight”) is becoming more professional and widespread [2][3][4][5] Corporate foresight is used to support strategic management, identify new business fields[6][7] and increase the innovation capacity of a firm.[8]

Foresight is not the same as futures research or strategic planning. It encompasses a range of approaches that combine the three components mentioned above, which may be recast as:

  • futures (forecasting, forward thinking, prospectives),
  • planning (strategic analysis, priority setting), and
  • networking (participatory, dialogic) tools and orientations.

Much futures research has been rather

Many of the methods that are commonly associated with Foresight - Delphi surveys, scenario workshops, etc. - derive from the futures field. So does the fact that Foresight is concerned with:

  • The longer-term - futures that are usually at least 10 years away(though there are some exceptions to this, especially in its use in private business). Since Foresight is action-oriented (the planning link) it will rarely be oriented to perspectives beyond a few decades out (though where decisions like aircraft design, power station construction or other major infrastructural decisions are concerned, then the planning horizon may well be half a century).
  • Alternative futures: it is helpful to examine alternative paths of development, not just what is currently believed to be most likely or business as usual. Often Foresight will construct multiple scenarios. These may be an interim step on the way to creating what may be known as positive visions, success scenarios, aspirational futures. Sometimes alternative scenarios will be a major part of the output of Foresight work, with the decision about what future to build being left to other mechanisms.


  • See also 1
  • References 2
  • Further reading 3
  • External links 4

See also


  1. ^ van Steenbergen, Bart: Scenarios As a Powerful Tool for Public Policy. As presented at the Prague Workshop on Futures Studies Methodology, October 2005, To be published in the proceedings.
  2. ^ Ratcliffe, John: Challenges for Corporate Foresight: Towards Strategic Prospective Through Scenario Thinking (presented at the conference “Foresight Management in Corporations and Public Organizations”, Helsinki 2005
  3. ^ C. Daheim and G. Uerz, "Corporate foresight in Europe: from trend based logics to open foresight," Technology Analysis & Strategic Management, vol. 20, pp. 321-336, 2008)
  4. ^ Schwarz, J.-O. (2008) Assessing the future of futures studies in management, Futures, Vol. 40, Iss. 3, 237-246.
  5. ^ A. Hines & J. Gold, “An organizational futurist role for integrating foresight into corporations,” Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Available online 2 May 2014.
  6. ^ Rohrbeck, Rene (2010) Corporate Foresight: Towards a Maturity Model for the Future Orientation of a Firm, Springer Series: Contributions to Management Science, Heidelberg and New York, ISBN 978-3-7908-2625-8
  7. ^ Rohrbeck, R., S. Mahdjour, S. Knab, T. Frese (2009) Benchmarking Report - Strategic Foresight in Multinational Companies Report of the European Corporate Foresight Group: Berlin, Germany
  8. ^ Rohrbeck, R. H.G. Gemuenden (2011) Corporate Foresight: Its Three Roles in Enhancing the Innovation Capacity of a Firm" Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 78(2), 231–243.

Further reading

There are numerous journals that deal with research on foresight:

  • The highest ranking journal is Technological Forecasting and Social Change
  • Its smaller brother is foresight
  • Research focussing more on the combination of foresight and national R&D policy can be found in International Journal of Foresight and Innovation Policy

External links

  • GLOGO - Global Governance System for strategic foresight at think tank Gold Mercury International
  • Blog on foresight in companies
  • The FORLEARN Online Guide developed by the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies of the European Commission
  • The Foresight Programme of UNIDO, the Investment and Technology Promotion Branch of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, offers a Training programme, a Manual on Technology Foresight, a foresight textbook, global forum events like TF Summit 2007 and other useful information
  • Handbook of Knowledge Society Foresight published by the European Foundation, Dublin
  • The UK Foresight programme is managed by the Office of Science and Technology. It brings together key people, knowledge and ideas to envisage future society and technology.
  • Public Scenarios developed issues from healthcare and banking, aviation founded by the DTN
  • Institute for Alternative Futures
  • Houston Foresight Program -- Offers an MS in Foresight as well as certificate programs in foresight
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