Foresight in Governments – findings from ESPAS survey

Iana Dreyer and Gerald Stang from the European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS) have published initial findings from a survey of foresight activities across 22 countries including Australia, Brazil, China, Indonesia, Russia, Sweden and US. The authors highlight their findings in a short report that looks at how foresight programmes are structured, and how they are integrated with policy-making.

After a brief, historical survey of contemporary foresight, the study explores how different countries approach foresight. They find that developing countries are more likely to produce “centralised planning documents linked to a vision for the future”, closely aligned with a government agenda. Developed countries, meanwhile, are more likely to undertake foresight analysis that is initially disconnected from a particular policy focus in an effort to ensure that the exercise is not biased by any one policy goal. Short-termism among political leaders and the electoral cycle emerges as an important issue but does not in itself to prevent foresight programmes from being established, although the authors’ note that few countries have open-ended global scenario foresight programmes (see NIC Global Trends).

The authors note that there is often a disconnect between policy communities and foresight experts, and that military foresight is often disconnected from civilian foresight. High turnover staff was also seen to be an issue, resulting in a loss of foresight knowledge and experience in military settings in particular.

A general positive theme emerges in the report through increased professionalism among governments, with the standardisation of methods and better application of foresight to specific policy problems. Effective communication with policy audiences being key for the success of foresight initiatives.

For the full findings read the report

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