Stewardship of the Future

In her discussion paper “Stewardship of the Future – Using Foresight in 21st Century Governance” SOIF co-founder, Cat Tully, argues for that governments must become ‘systems stewards’ and embrace Strategic Foresight to meet 21st Century challenges – challenges that are increasingly complex, spanning traditional domestic and foreign policy domains, including climate change, migration and resource constraints.

Written for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Global Center for Public Service Excellence (GPCSE) the paper explores the need for strategic foresight in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Cat highlights key causes of diminishing political effectiveness: technological progress exacerbating concerns about legitimacy and accountability; an inability for government apparatus to address complex networked problems; and a failure to side-step short-term electoral cycles and political structures. Problems that can only be solved through systemic, emergent and participatory approaches to governance.

Strategic foresight contributes to these three pillars by:

  • Risk assessment and management – developing mitigation and response plans, building resilience;
  • Wind tunnelling – testing effectiveness of suggested policy measures;
  • Helping choose between alternative policies to achieve a desired future;
  • Strategic navigation within an organization, e.g. identifying early warning signs;
  • Horizon scanning – identifying new and emerging issues and trends that are likely to become important;
  • Accessing different views from actors outside of government bodies;
  • Breaking out of groupthink or old frameworks to develop new creative ideas and responses around approaches, partnerships, tools and measures;
  • Promoting collaboration and exchange by getting different organizations or parts of government to discuss their views of the future.

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