Although many foresighted technologies have realised, foresight is not mechanistic tool giving answers for future challenges. Participation and learning are part of the foresight procedure. Future is co-created and constructed together. Foresight processes are not only influenced by future uncertainties or possibilities but also generate uncertainties or possibilities. Foresight is a tool to manage with uncertainties and possibilities of the future in a systematic and diverse manner.
- Supports strategic choices of alternative technological development paths
- Promotes networking of experts
- Contributes to insights and shared visions of future developments and consequent consensus of and commitment to future investments
- Supports prioritization and R&D resource allocation
Foresight is often undertaken when a country, region or organisation faces a specific challenge or wants to explore new possibilities. It implements a process of systematic reasoning to develop “visions”, understood as possible future states of affairs that can be reached (or avoided) through action in the present. Each Foresight excercise will be based on its own specific premises and will have a number of tangible and intangible outputs and outcomes.
Three main rationales for Foresight activities are to:
- Inform policymaking and other strategic and planning procedures, so that decisions taken by key actors in the commissioning body are more aware of longer-term developments and how these are liable to interact with current policy decisions. Often a Foresight exercise will be stimulated by the need to take a particular decision, admittedly. But the knowledge developed, and the Foresight capabilities that have hopefully been embedded in the organisation, should have a wider significance.
“In what direction should we go?”
- Help build networks among the people centrally involved with shaping the future of a particular topic. They will be brought together to work on their visions and assessments of the future. The purpose of this is to help them become better able collectively to understand the challenges and opportunities that they are liable to confront, and the strategies and objectives that others might pursue.
“With whom could we cooperate?”
- Develop capabilities widely throughout a region, to facilitate the development of a “Foresight culture”. The aim of this is for people of various kinds to be able to define and embark upon their own Foresight activities, to forge their own Foresight networks. This is probably the one rationale that has been slowest to be recognised as a practical goal – but it is often very relevant at regional level.
“What does the future mean for me and us?”
In practice a mixture of these three reasons is often in play. In practice, too, there may be other goals that stimulate regional interest in Foresight. It may be kicked off by a national exercise, or an effort to make the region’s voice heard within the context of such an exercise.
To achieve its objectives Foresight facilitates a process of systematic collective reflection on the long-term future. This process of reflection can have several outcomes and benefits. The results of Foresight are generally fed into public decision making, but they also help participants themselves to develop or adjust their strategies. Thus Foresight functions as an alternative policy instrument suitable for addressing the challenges and opportunities of governance within complex systems.