The Future of Foresight: Bringing Horizon-Scanning Back

In August, Alun Rhydderch’s article, ‘Horizon Scanning: Why Forward Plans are Back in Fashion’ was published in the Guardian online. Alun’s article highlighted the re-emergence of horizon scanning in government halls and the obstacles that still need to be overcome for it to be truly effective.

In 2005, the Horizon Scanning Centre was established in order to persuade civil servants of the benefits a comprehensive scenario-building and horizon scanning process could provide to Whitehall: by exploring future issues and the risks associated with them, policies could be better informed. Alun outlined that while budget cuts initially threatened the success of strategic futures thinking, the value of horizon scanning in government has recently resurfaced. There has been a significant evaluation of the importance of the process and a new horizon scanning programme has been created, overseen by the cabinet secretary and including permanent secretaries from all of the major government departments. However, there are still questions about how this system will work. Alun’s article highlights how the lack of willingness of policy teams to commission and use horizon scanning remains one of the primary barriers to the effective use of horizon scanning in government.

The theme of the School of International Futures retreat in August was ‘anticipatory governance’: participants sought advice on how to integrate horizon scanning and foresight into policy development from experienced policy makers and foresight experts. We will be feeding the lessons from this exercise and our other research into the Select Committee Inquiry into the effectiveness of horizon scanning in government, which opened in July.

Read Alun’s full article here.

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