This page has beta status

ISCH COST Action A22
Foresight Methodologies - Exploring new ways to explore the future

Foresight is a broad term that covers different ways to think about the future. Foresight practice refers to a systematic, future-intelligence-gathering and vision-building process aimed at enabling present-day decisions. The Action’s Memorandum of Understanding described the foresight activities in Europe as fragmented. An imbalance was noticed between the widespread popularity of foresight exercises and the low level of research and development of foresight methodology. Within the Action, 23 signatory countries represented a broad variety of research domains in technology assessment, governance, strategic management (SMEs and international companies), environmental science and policy, social and cultural sciences and military science and strategy. Previously unconnected communities established three cross-domain workgroups on methodological difficulties, namely sensing change (Identifying Seeds of Change), the commensurability of inter-disciplinary models (Integrating Narratives and Numbers) and the interactions between researchers, decision makers, and the public. A further integrating group surfaced the underlying concepts and theories. Foresight is a professional practice that supports significant decisions; as such it needs to be more assured of its claims to knowledge (methodology). Essential in the work done was the critical reflection on ways in which the processes of knowledge creation within Foresight exercises have produced particular outcomes or influenced particular behaviour. Society frames the inherent uncertainties of unpredictable systems and human choices in particular and incomplete models of reality. From this fallible point the sensing and interpretation of surprise, risk, uncertainty and ignorance is largely related to the way that particular groups or cultures construct meaning. Sensing futures should be motivated by the idea of capacity building, not the hope of predictability. Even predictive numeric models are embedded in dialogues between people that guide how such models are created and how numbers are interpreted and used. The Action enabled a close examination of the way in which such knowledge is created by the multiple stakeholders involved, with differing degrees of power and influence, stakes and languages. The key methodological development was to begin to build explicit reflexivity into foresight methodologies. That is, greater transparency and identification of how and by whom futures knowledge is produced and enacted and with what effect; because the observations or actions of observers in social systems affect the very situations they are observing. Most common foresight methods include processes that are opaque, or subject to political imperatives, or assume an external objectivity. The Action concluded that such fallibility can be explicitly recognised in professional practice with appropriate methodologies. Two workshops a year were held, providing a close interaction between researchers and practitioners to foster cross-disciplinary communication and boundary-spanning co-operation to improve the professional design and use of foresight methods. A final dissemination conference took place over 3 days in Athens in July 2007 with over one hundred delegates. At the conference, the characterisation of a social constructionist approach was the aphorism, “from oracles to dialogue”, indicating a move from 'given' expert-predicted futures to one in which futures are nurtured through the dialogue between “stakeholders”, i.e. those with a stake in the future of the particular issue under study. Publications include over 70 written articles, one special edition of a refereed journal (Futures) already published and three more in production (Futures Journal, Technology Forecasting and Social Change and Technology Analysis & Strategic Management). One book Dialogues in Foresight Processes has been agreed with publishers (Edwin Elgar)and a further book is in negotiation. Other networks and cooperation have been established and augmented from the membership of COST A22 to sustain this valuable dialogue.

(Descriptions are provided by the Actions directly via e-COST.)


General Information*

Chair of the Action:

Prof Ted FULLER (UK)

Vice Chair of the Action:

Mr Peter DE SMEDT (BE)

Science officer of the Action:

Dr Luule MIZERA

Administrative officer of the Action:

Mr Leo GUILFOYLE

Downloads*

Action Fact Sheet

Download AFS as .RTF

Memorandum of Understanding

Download MoU as PDF

Progress Report

Download Progress Report as PDF

Final Report

Download Final Report as PDF

Websites*

Action website:

http://www.costa22.org

* content provided by e-COST.
Data is synchronised once per night.

Tools

Last updated: 02 May 2011 top of page