The SOIF Learning Journey

The SOIF learning journey is designed around a four-stage foresight process and takes a policy-focused approach to strategic foresight.

Every journey is different but they each involves following key stages:

  • Scoping
  • Ordering
  • Implementation
  • Integrating Foresight

To give you an idea of how the SOIF process can work please read our sample journey or watch the video form our 2012 Retreat.

Sample SOIF Learning Journey

Day 1

To set the scene, we hear from the leader of a major private-sector sponsored foresight project involving 1500 organisations and spanning 25 countries. What did this exercise achieve, and what are its lessons for public policy foresight?

We are then introduced to our ‘client’ and hear about the Live challenge. We‘ll be looking at the relationship between energy and geopolitics out to 2030-2040 in Eurasia: an important foreign policy question – but how can this issue be formulated in a way that captures the attention of the policy lead, and makes it addressable by a foresight exercise?

A senior policy planner and current ambassador concludes the day by sharing his thoughts on networked governance and building the capability to listen around foresight to conversations held outside of government.

By the end of day one, we are starting to see the world in a longer-term context. The challenges of today are still daunting – including the Live challenge! – but we want to learn how to get beyond them and build a positive future.

Day 2

Scoping to ordering: What the policy-maker needs – how foresight can meet that need – principles of futures thinking and drivers of change – participants’ experiences

The day starts with an look at the needs of the head of policy or management board – the ‘policy client’.  What help does she need running her business. What kind of long-term view is useful, and how should it be presented? What is the role of strategy in her organisation, and is foresight a part of strategy, or a seen as challenge to strategy?

Embarking on Stage one of the Journey, we use the Scoping exercise to seek to understand how to address our Live challenge. How can the challenge be framed? What types of evidence and argument are needed to raise its profile? How can the challenge be communicated so that other groups can be enlisted to work on it?

A SOIF lecturer explains why the long-term view is not a nice-to-have but an essential capability. There are knowables in the future that are not visible through a short-term lens. There are trends and cycles and patterns: we need to recognise them. And there is uncertainty: we need to know how to deal with it.

We then move on to Stage two, Ordering – using a simple analytical tool to understand the drivers of change that have a bearing on the Live challenge question.

The day concludes with participants sharing their own experiences of foresight work. And a BBQ.

By the end of day two, we’ve heard the needs of decision-makers in different organisations, and of our own client. We’ve been introduced to the basics of the futures tool-kit, and enjoyed briefings on what other participants are doing. We are keen to start using these tools – but need a little more guidance – tomorrow!

Day 3

Ordering to Implementation: Introduction to scenarios – Global trends and scenarios – scenario development – technology and foresight

We continue with Stage two of the Learning journey: Ordering uncertainty and using scenarios.

Five experienced practitioners explain their approaches to applying scenarios to policy. Starting with an introduction to the well-established US Global Trends work, we hear from an international panel on how they develop and use scenarios.

Several sessions are then dedicated to developing scenarios in groups.

Towards the end of the afternoon, we are joined by a representative from a Global Futures Forum project on ‘Eurasian Resource and Economic Trajectories’, which uses a crowd-sourcing, or rather an ‘expert-sourcing’ technique to develop scenarios. We finish the day by hearing about futures, technology and media.

By the end of day three, we have learned the value of scenarios and how to develop them using a workshop approach. We’ve also seen an approach where scenarios are sourced from an online analyst community.

Day 4

Implementation to Integrating Foresight: Building on the scenario analysis to identify implications for policy – Windtunnelling and visioning – application of foresight to policy and political risk – integrating futures techniques back in the office

We have created some scenarios for our client, but the job is not yet done: we now need to work out what these scenarios mean. What new issues do they raise? Do they imply that changes to policy are needed, if so what kind of changes? Is it enough to have a contingency plan, or should policy be fundamentally reviewed? This is Stage three of the process – Understanding implications.  We explore this through two two implementation exercises.

Finally, Stage four: How do we integrate foresight into our day-to-day work?  A panel of four speakers, including Leon Fuerth, author of Anticipatory Governance, debates how to develop the strategic capability of our organisations and governments so that we can better harness foresight in our policy and decision-making processes.

How to embed project insights, build strategic capability and help others be more strategic? Can we integrate the techniques and insights we have learnt over the past week into our working practices? SOIF advisers offer their support to participants.

At the Gala dinner we are reminded by a political risk correspondent  of the challenges we need to be ready for.

By the end of day four, we’ve worked through the implications of our scenarios and developed an understanding of how to use the insights they provoked to shape our immediate plans and strategies. Tomorrow, we’ll take what we’ve learned over the four days back home with us, and start applying it.