Archive for the ‘Finland’ Category

EFP Brief No. 258: Perspectives on Use of Expertise in Futures Studies

Monday, December 21st, 2015

Numerous foresight activities rely on gathering expert knowledge, using e.g., the Delphi method. A crucial question for the quality of the exercise is who the relevant experts are. The question is particularly difficult when studying so-called wicked problems, which elude exact definition. Inclusive definition of expertise is called for in this brief, particularly because of the social power experts have. This brief tackles the complex issues of characterising expertise and taking full use of it in expert-based futures projects. Transparency of the chosen expertise must often be combined with upholding anonymity.

Facing Complex “Wicked” Problems with Methods Using Expert Knowledge

Numerous foresight methods are based on expert information, such as Delphi studies. In practical applications of these methods, the researchers have to make judgements on who is an appropriate expert.

This is particularly difficult in the case of the so-called wicked problems (Rittel and Webber 1973). Such problems are very complex with many definitions, and each definition seems to carry a presupposition of a solution. The solutions are based on a variety of theories, assumptions and values. Therefore, in many foresight applications an interdisciplinary approach is chosen, and experts are invited from different domains. In this way, both knowledge about different facets of a problem (such as technological, economic, and societal) is represented, and the different theories and concepts behind them are included.

For example, if climate change is seen primarily as a technological problem resulting from fossil energy use, the responses are likely to be expressed in technological or economic terms. If the problem is seen to result fundamentally from global inequalities, the results focus on international agreements and funding mechanisms. If the problem is seen to result from population growth and modern lifestyles, the answers are to be found in the cultural and social spheres. No single framework could encompass the ecological, economic, social, cultural and technological dimensions of climate change.

Obviously in futures research, a temporal aspect further complicates the issue. It is not enough to know what the state of the problem is; we would also need to know how the situation may change.

If we want to know how things are right now, or how they will be in the near future, often it makes sense to ask those who can be defined to be on the top of their field. This approach often means asking middle-aged or older people with long work histories. However, the aims of foresight processes are often about opening new visions, finding new trends or unexpected turn points, considering trends and changes on long time scales, and finding ways to reach futures we define as desirable. Then, narrowly defined expertise may not be an optimal solution.

 

Objective

In this brief I will outline certain definitions for expertise, and discuss their implications for the use of experts in futures studies. The aim is not to provide definite answers, but rather to inspire discussion and make foresight processes more sensitive to alternative forms of expertise.

Defining Expertise

  1. Expertise as cognitive property and a social construction

Expertise can be seen as both cognitive property and a social construction. From a cognitive perspective, expertise refers to knowledge and skills of a domain of activity. It can be acquired through education, experience or any other form of cognitive refinement. However, it is not necessarily linked to the social status of an expert. The social status often follows from formal degrees, higher professions and leading organisational positions. These properties are considered to indicate expertise, but they do not guarantee it, and similarly, a person without a socially acknowledged expert status may possess similar skills to an authorised expert.

Defining the content of expertise, i.e. the appropriate cognitive resources, or skills that matter in a domain of practice, is a social process (Turner 2001). The content of valid expertise changes over time and cultures. For example, medicinal practices that were considered valid in the 16th century Europe are very far removed from those practiced today in the western world, and different from traditional Chinese medicine. The content also depends on the definition of the problem at hand. With wicked problems that elude definition, it becomes increasingly difficult to determine what kinds of expertise should be included in a futures project.

 

  1. Different types of knowledge

Bogner and Menz (2009) distinguish between three different types of knowledge. First, there is technical knowledge, which we typically gain through education. Then, there is process knowledge, which is close to tacit knowledge. It is knowledge that is gained through working in a field, and consists of knowledge regarding the practices and modes of operation within a field, such as patterns of interaction and organisations.

The third type of knowledge Bogner and Menz (2009) call interpretative knowledge and it means a person’s subjective assumptions, views, interpretations, rules, etc. The key idea here is that all we learn through education or practice is interpreted and assimilated through our previous knowledge, values, and experiences. Therefore even identical education and work history could not produce two identical experts.

Such subjectivity has often been considered a problem that detracts from expertise, which is commonly thought to be objective. It is, however, quite impossible to avoid. Selinger and Crease (2002: 245) note that expertise is built upon the person, and the “prejudices, ideologies, hidden agendas, or other forms of cultural embeddedness that person might have” do not disappear during the process of becoming an expert.

More importantly, subjectivity may not even be a problem. It is through subjectivity that many important aspects of expertise emerge into foresight processes, such as ethical consideration, empathy, and sense of responsibility. They all derive from experts’ ability to personally engage with problems and their solutions.

If we accept that expertise itself is affected by the person, and reflects the social environment in which it has been accumulated, it becomes important to search for variety not only in terms of multidisciplinarity but also, for example, in terms of gender, age, and ethnicity.

 

  1. Why does the definition of expertise matter?

Defining someone as an expert gives him/her social power to define problems and suggest their solutions. Experts are therefore important actors in society. Expert knowledge is a vehicle for maintaining or changing the existing patterns of thought and action. While experts do not alone determine the future, they are powerful in defining what is real and possible in a society. In addition, expert knowledge is not entirely transparent, and there is limited possibility to hold experts accountable for their power.

In sustainability discourse, in particular, the widening of the definition of expertise has been called for. There may be a need to look at “counter-expertise” i.e. expertise beyond the establishment (e.g. non-governmental organisations). It is not only a matter of democracy; different backgrounds also produce different expertise.

Because expertise is not dependent in a straightforward way on formal degrees or titles, it can be argued that there is no such thing as a “lay expert”. A person may either have relevant expertise or not, regardless of the status as a layperson. However, it may make sense to describe where the expertise springs from.

Using Exertise in Futures Studies

Why is expertise useful in futures studies? It is not just that experts know a lot. Information might be found through other means. Instead, in futures projects, such as Delphi studies, it is often important to make intuitive and quick estimates about future possibilities, and about the impact of changing drivers on the topic in question. Intuitive judgement has even been considered a central ability of an expert (Dreyfus and Dreyfus 2005). Careful consideration does not replace but improves the expert’s intuition.

  1. The expertise matrix

The wide definition of expertise that was discussed above poses a new challenge to the expert selection. If we assume that various types of expertise need to be included in the panel, there need to be tools for keeping track of the variety. Expert matrix (introduced by Kuusi et al. 2006) is a simple tool for both ensuring the variety and for making it more transparent for the audience of a foresight exercise.

In the matrix, the desired variety is detailed, and during the assembly of the panel, the expertise of the panellists is marked in it. For example, in a research project regarding renewable energy growth, we listed various energy sources and forms on one hand, and various roles within a value chain on the other hand. Then we searched for e.g., an expert being familiar with biogas and energy transfer (Varho et al. forthcoming).

It is also possible to make a longer list of expertise characteristics. In another project, we wanted to have variation in terms of topics affecting the future of transport (such as fuels, engine technology, land use, and behaviour), transport modes, field of education, level of education, background organisation, age, and gender. These were listed in a table, in which each expert was characterised (Varho and Tapio 2013).

It is not necessary to have perfect cover in a matrix. Finding different people for all combinations of our transport project expert table, for example, would have meant thousands of experts. However, we were able to get significant variation, and the table also increased the transparency of the process considerably.

 

  1. Facilitating expert deliberation

As we all, also experts may get too focused on conventional wisdom and current or past situation. As we discuss the future possibilities, there is often a need for people who think “out of the box”. Some people are more able to do this, but it is possible to encourage this type of thinking in the whole panel.

One way to do so is to ask experts to describe both a probable and a preferable future (Amara 1981). This approach does not only accept but embraces the subjectivity of experts. It helps the experts to recognise their preferences (in preferred future) and also to aim for objectivity (in probable future). Even if total objectivity is impossible, it is an ideal that many experts strive for, and they may feel more comfortable when they have these two views to distinguish between.

Different methods for gathering data from experts may encourage the expression of new views. For example, the use of expert interviews allows new ideas and interpretations to be incorporated into the futures project. Usually in e.g. Delphi studies it is the research team that formulates the questions. New or alternative interpretations of the problem at hand may not emerge during questionnaire rounds. In addition, some experts may not feel comfortable giving numerical estimates of the future development. The combined use of numerical, visual, and verbal answers can encourage different types of experts to express their views (Varho and Tapio 2013).

Anonymity of expert panels is usually sought for. It is useful, among other things, for encouraging also those with less obvious (social) expert status to express their views. However, face-to-face meetings such as workshops can be introduced at some point of a project, for more thorough communication and co-learning.

Discussing the Use of Expertise

In this brief I have outlined some perspectives on experts and the use of expertise in futures projects. Some questions arise from these, although definitive conclusions cannot perhaps be drawn.

 

  1. What are experts good for?

Using expert views is often valuable in futures projects. It can be an “economical” approach, as experts are able to give estimates regarding complex systems. When the futures project aims more at estimating how the future unfolds than at creating new visions, conventional expertise is naturally important. But the further we look into the future, the less the existing knowledge may be relevant. Do we really need experts, or more specifically, those we define as experts?

In a recent project (see Tuominen et al. 2014) we asked both transport experts and high-school students to describe the future of Finnish transport. It was interesting to see that the students were able to describe in their essays very diverse futures that, in most part, reflected the alternative future visions of the experts. However, they were not able to give plausible numerical estimates that would have reflected the qualitative visions. It seems that expertise on a subject is valuable – at the very least – because experts are more able to give numerical estimates. Numbers, in turn, are often very useful for distinguishing the future views apart and for comparing them with existing or targeted levels. In addition, transport was a subject that all students have some experience on. A more esoteric subject might not have gained equally valuable answers from them.

 

  1. Are experts “experts” at all?

Given the subjectivity of experts that was discussed in this paper we need to ask if they should be defined as experts, or are they e.g., stakeholders. There may not be a conclusive answer to this question. It is likely, however, that when people are invited into the futures project as experts they aim more at objectivity than when they are defined as stakeholders. In the stakeholder position, they may even feel obligated to defend the interest of those they are invited to represent.

It is possible to include in an expert panel people who would not define themselves as experts. For example, we have included a high-school student in a project that otherwise addressed experienced professionals (Varho and Tapio 2013), because we believed that she would have valuable experiences and viewpoints to share from the perspective of today’s youth. This was considered valid, in particular, because the timeline of the futures project extended several decades into the future.

Collins (2013) has discussed three dimensions of expertise, namely “esotericity”, “accomplishment”, and “exposure to tacit knowledge of a domain”. Being a teenager is hardly expertise according to the first two dimensions, but to some extent it does fulfil the third dimension. Being immersed in a subculture gives a person the ability to see and interpret the world in ways that are not obvious to others.

  1. Is an expertise matrix useful?

An expertise matrix or another equivalent tool is important for finding appropriate experts for a futures project. In addition, participating experts should be described to increase the transparency and internal validity of the project (Kuusi et al. 2015), even when anonymity is maintained.

 

Authors: Vilja Varho        vilja.varho@luke.fi; vilja.varho@fidea.fi
Sponsors: n.a.
Type: Methodological discussion
Organizer: Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) www.luke.fi
Duration: n.a.
Budget: n.a.
Time Horizon: n.a.
Date of Brief: October 2015

Download EFP Brief No. 258: Perspectives on Use of Expertise

Sources and References

This brief is based on the following article, in which the findings are discussed in more detail:

Varho, V., Huutoniemi, K. 2014. Envisioning solutions – Expert deliberation on environmental futures. In: Huutoniemi, K., Tapio, P. (eds.) Transdisciplinary Sustainability Studies: A Heuristic Approach. Routledge, London & New York. pp. 140-157.

References

 

Amara, R. (1981) ‘The futures field. Searching for definitions and boundaries’, The Futurist, 15(1): 25–29

Bogner, A. and Menz, W. (2009) ‘The theory-generating expert interview: epistemological interest, forms of knowledge, interaction’, in: Bogner, A., Littig, B. and Menz, W. (eds.) Interviewing Experts. Palgrave Macmillan, Houndmills, UK. pp. 43–80.

Dreyfus, H.L. and Dreyfus, S.E. (2005) ‘Expertise in real world contexts’, Organization Studies 26(5): 779–792

Kuusi, O., Kinnunen, J., Ryynänen, O.-P., Myllykangas, M. and Lammintakanen, J. (2006) ‘Suomen Terveydenhuollon tulevaisuudet’, in: Terveydenhuollon tulevaisuus, Eduskunnan kanslian julkaisu 3/2006.

Kuusi, O., Cuhls, K. and Steinmüller, K. (2015) Quality Criteria for Scientific Futures Research. Futura 1/2015: 60-77.

Rittel, H.W.J. and Webber, M.M. (1973) ‘Dilemmas in a general theory of planning’, Policy Sciences, 4(2): 155–69.

Selinger, E.M. and Crease, R.P. (2002) ‘Dreyfus on expertise: The limits of phenomenological analysis’, Continental Philosophy Review 35: 245–279.

Tuominen, A., Tapio, P., Varho, V., Järvi, T. and Banister, D. 2014. Pluralistic backcasting: Integrating multiple visions with policy packages for transport climate policy. Futures, 60: 41-58.

Turner, S. (2001) ‘What is the Problem with Experts?’ Social Studies of Science 31(1): 123–149.

Varho, V. and Tapio, P. (2013) ‘Combining the qualitative and quantitative with the Q2 scenario technique – the case of transport and climate’, Technological Forecasting & Social Change 80(4): 611–630.

Varho, V., Rikkonen, P., Rasi, S. (forthc.) Futures of distributed small-scale renewable energy in Finland – A Delphi study of the opportunities and obstacles up to 2025. Under review in Technological Forecasting & Social Change.

EFP Brief No. 256: F212.org Online Platform. Imagining the Future through Social Media as a Tool for Social Innovation

Friday, December 6th, 2013

F212.org is a virtual think tank of university students interested in sharing ideas on how to face main future challenges. It describes the results of a comparative study about the images of the future found among young students from Haaga Helia University of Applied Science (Finland) Tamkang University (Taiwan); and University of Alicante (Spain).

The Study of Images of the Future

The studies focused on images of the future date back to the second half of the twentieth century and have their origins in the fields of sociology and psychology. After the growing interest in this area which arose during the early 1990s, the study about images of the future –and more specifically about images of the future among young people– has consolidated within the framework of social sciences in general and, particularly, in the context of Sociology during the late 1990s and the first years of the twenty-first century.

According to Polak’s definition, “an image of the future is made of associated memories and expectations. It is a set of long-range goals which stress the infinite possibilities open to a person. Thus, an image of the future can be defined as a mental construction dealing with possible states. It is composed of a mixture of conceptions, beliefs, and desires, as well as observations and knowledge about the present. This affects a person’s choice both consciously and unconsciously and is derived from both reality and from imagination. It ultimately steers one’s decision-making and actions”. Therefore, the reflection about the expected impact of these images on the determination of our present actions and our attitude towards the future allows us to see the need for a systematic approach to study such images.

Nevertheless, the research into such images carried out during last century tended to be relatively sporadic and never had a predominant role in the context of futures research. As far as Sociology in particular is concerned, many works which attempt to identify and explain the concerns most commonly found among this population segment basically seek to answer the following question: how do young people expect their future to be?

However, it is far from easy to find studies where the approach consists in trying to find an answer to the question: what do young people want for their future? Therefore, there is arguably a lack of new approaches which can integrate aspirational parameters and enable a greater involvement of youths in the process of defining alternatives for the future.

For this reason, public and private institutions are now apparently taking a greater interest in identifying and understanding citizens’ expectations and wishes, which has led them to promote actions in line with the new paradigms of Social Innovation and Open Innovation that provide a more active, direct and continuous citizenship in governance, close to the concept of participatory democracy. In fact, this is something which currently seems much more feasible than not so long ago thanks to aspects such as technology development, the spreading of internet access and the increasingly high popularity of social online networks.

Therefore it is perfectly feasible to complement the descriptive approach to a ‘diagnosis of the future’ with images of the future and creative proposals directly defined and developed by young people, giving voice and prominence to them thanks to:

  1. the proliferation of communication channels that allow for immediate and continuous feedback (2.0 platforms, social networks) with the user/citizen; and
  2. the development of ‘participatory’ foresight methodologies in both institutional and private sectors.

The conceptual basis behind this approach leads participants to consider themselves as key actors in the task of defining their own future –through an active participation in the construction of shared images of the future. It could consequently prove much more motivating for young people to interact within these processes if participants are given some space to share and create.

Tool Set for the Future

The project presented here is based on a previous study (Guillo, 2013) which involved a total of 56 university students from the Haaga Helia University of Applied Science (Helsinki, Finland) and the University of Alicante (Alicante, Spain).

Based on the overall results and on the feedback provided not only by participants but also by the students and teachers involved, it was possible to highlight the following 4 points with the aim of achieving an improvement in subsequent studies:

  • Hard-to-understand / answer questionnaires: the students found the process hard to complete (too many categories and questions) and sometimes even confusing.
  • Lack of interaction: the platform suffered from a lack of technological tools, which always make it easier for users to interact with one another.
  • Overlap between groups: the selected categories proved useful to organise the responses to some extent but participants found numerous overlaps between the topics discussed in every category.
  • Hard to analyse: the scenario format gave us (as researchers) very valuable material to analyse. Nevertheless, a more precise way to express expectations, fears and wishes about the future is badly needed to improve interaction.

Taking into account the 4 points mentioned above, a new study was designed which included three significant changes with respect to the previous one, all of them oriented to improve users’ experience within www.f212.org:

Removing the division into categories: the categories from the previous study (economy, culture, politics, ecosystem, security) were abandoned in order to build an easy-to-complete questionnaire. Since the information-collecting tool was going to be an online survey (embedded in the platform), it became essential to provide a short, clear and quick-to-answer questionnaire.

Changing narrative scenarios by keywords: In this case, the change also had to do with the difficulty found by participants when completing the process. Therefore, a decision was made to replace the initial idea of describing a future scenario (150 words) with the choice of keywords to describe their future scenario (10 words). This would additionally allow us not only to process participants’ responses much faster –almost in real time– but also to update the tag clouds inserted in the platform, which could largely improve the level of interaction within the platform too.

Using a clearer language: the feedback received from the previous study led us to modify the instructions given for the completion of the different questionnaires –using a more straightforward language. Various levels of information were offered, including more detailed information (tutorials and FAQs) in case users needed a higher degree of detail.

Thus, the design of our new study started by restructuring the platform in the following sections:

  1. RATINGSFeelings about the future in 2030. Participants were asked the question “are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future?” in this section. This allowed them to position themselves in terms of pessimism/optimism, on a scale from 10 (totally optimistic) to 0 (totally pessimistic). Three different dimensions were taking into account: World (global level), Country (national level) and Myself (personal level).

 

  1. FORECASTS – Probable future in 10 words.Participants had to write a maximum of 10 words about the main features which, in their opinion, will characterise the world in 2030.

 

  1. SKILLS – Self-evaluate your references about the future in 2030.The ratings and forecasts given by participants were subjected to self-evaluation through these three questions (to be answered on a scale from 0,  the worst,  to 10, the best):
    • Are you concerned about the future?
    • To what extent are you prepared to face the future?
    • What is your level of knowledge about global change processes?

    Participants were additionally asked to complement their self-evaluations by naming some of the sources (books, webpages, magazines, journals, etc.) that they usually consult and on which their visions of the future are based.

  1. WISHES – Future you want in 10 words.In this section, participants had to write a maximum of 10 words about the main features that, in their opinion, should characterise the world in 2030.

 

  1. IDEAS – Open Discussions.This section was included as a meeting place to share creative ideas on how to face future challenges.A total of 378 university students (between 20 and 32 years old) took part in this study by accessing the open platform.

Images of the Future of Spanish, Taiwanese and Finnish Students

RATINGS – How do you feel about the future in 2030?

A remarkable difference exists in the images of the future found at a national level among the participants from Spain (median 4), Taiwan (6) and Finland (7). In the case of Spain, the differences become even more evident when comparing the three levels considered: global (7), national (4) and personal (7). However, such results should actually “come as no surprise” within the current context of social and economic crisis in Spain, which also shows a high degree of inconsistency as far as images of the future are concerned. Another interesting finding is the widespread high degree of optimism with regard to the personal level (7).

FORECASTS – The probable future in 10 words: Females show more optimism

Seeking to make the platform as interactive as possible, tag clouds were generated with the participants’ responses in this section. These tag clouds – including the 50 words with the highest repetition frequency among respondents- were available online, and a allowed us to draw some general conclusions:

− High consensus on the key factors that define the probable future by 2030. The words which show a higher repetition frequency were technology, globalisation, competitiveness, artificial, connected, energy, ecology and war. These words can be regarded as part of the main speech about the future, presented in the general, mass media as part of a globally shared image of the probable future.

− Females show more optimism than males. A marked difference could be perceived in the degree of optimism shown by females and males among participants from Spain and Taiwan (and also among those from Finland, though to a lesser extent). That is why participants from Spain and Taiwan show a higher repetition frequency in words such as opportunities, hope and ecology.

SKILLS – Self-evaluate your references about the future in 2030_ Homogeneous use of TV as information source

The results in this section show a high level of preparation and knowledge, along with a lack of diversity in the sources considered (mainly TV and general-information newspapers). On the whole, participants from Spain, Taiwan and Finland see themselves as ‘experts’ in the topics under discussion: the median is 5 or higher in every case. Nevertheless, when asked about the kind of sources that they usually resort to, only a few of them mention access to specialised journals, reports, databases, etc. Information availability also helps us understand the aforementioned conclusion about the globally shared image of the probable future.

One important finding when comparing across countries is that participants from Finland showed the worst self-evaluations, a point below self-evaluations of participants from Spain. These results contrast with the overall Education results observed in both countries during the last years.

WISHES – The future you want in 10 words: Different perceptions on ‘Love’ and ‘Community’

Significant differences regarding how they describe their probable futures. Words like technology, global and connected, which had a strong weight in Forecasts, are now losing repetition frequency. This can be interpreted as reflecting an attitude of rejection towards today’s ‘hyper-connected’ world (a shared vision for the probable future). On the contrary, words like opportunities or work have a stronger weight in these desired futures, which can be explained by young people’s professional aspirations.

A lack of specific, creative terms to describe the desired future. On the whole, no breaking ideas are found in the words given by the students. Thus, the most often repeated words within this section are equality, peace, respect, ecology or freedom, which, in our opinion, form part of what can be described as a utopian and very broad vision about the society of the future. This lack of specific and breaking ideas can also be related to the fact that young people find it hard to visualise all the possibilities ahead of them.

Few differences between males and females. The biggest visible difference between males and females refers to the word love (whereas no males mention this word as part of their desired future, it stands out as one of the words with the most weight among females).

Few differences between countries. The most interesting finding in this respect is the word communal, only present among Finnish respondents. In the cases of Spain and Taiwan, despite the appearance of words such as equality or peace –which clearly suggest an idea of cooperation with one another in their meaning– the complete absence of this specific word seems very meaningful to us, and could be interpreted as a weak signal regarding social life in the countries represented.

Online Participatory Foresight Processes

The comparison between the results obtained in this study and those from the previous experience (Guillo, 2013) leads us to highlight the findings below:

  • Simplicity encourages participation. A decision was made to remove the division into categories in our study this time, which made it easier and faster for respondents to complete the whole process. This resulted in a much higher participation: 378 respondents (as opposed to 56 in the previous study).
  • More interaction means enriching our own images of the future. Respondents consider the possibility of exchanging ideas about the future with young people who have different cultural backgrounds very interesting. Thus, the international connection with other students from different parts of the worlds was seen as an extremely positive factor. Moreover, the integration of the section Ideas makes it possible for them to directly interact with other correspondents, which was also highlighted as a very positive point (more than 300 replies were registered in the open discussions started in this section).
  • Motivation is a key point. Two different mechanisms were designed for the purpose of involving people in the platform. One of them was the development of future workshops, where students received explanations on the basics of futures thinking and were encouraged to participate in the process. The other mechanism was the creation of a brief presentation, available on the platform and easy to use for e-mail communications. In this sense, a higher degree of participation was found among the students who took part in futures workshops and were personally motivated to sign up for the platform.
  • A more straightforward language and better design elements help understand large amounts of data. Technologically speaking, tag clouds were the best way available for us to show the results from Forecasts and Wishes to respondents. These graphs allowed users to have a slight –but also very clear– idea about the image of the future generally shown by respondents. The same approach was applied to other aspects of the platform, such as the design of the slide presentation and the presentation dossier or the instructions contained in every section of the platform, among other things.

As a general conclusion, it could be stated that improving interaction tools, designing better communication elements and opening the platform to an international university-student context have all had a strong positive impact on this study. Thus, the results collected in www.f212.org helped us achieve a better understanding of the mechanisms behind social media involvement.

 

 

Authors: Mario Guillo (PhD Candidate)    mario.guillo@ua.es

Dr. Enric Bas                           bas@ua.es

Sponsors: FUTURLAB – University of Alicante

FECYT – Spanish Foundation for Science & Technology

Type: International think tank
Organizer: FUTURLAB – University of Alicante, Mario Guillo, mario.guillo@ua.es www.futurlab.es
Duration: 2011-2012
Budget: n.a.
Time Horizon: 2030
Date of Brief: October 2013

Download EFP Brief No. 256_F212.org Online Platform

Sources and References

  • Guillo, Futures, Communication and Social Innovation: Using Participatory Foresight and Social Media Platforms as tools for evaluating images of the future among young people, Eur J Futures Res (2013) 15:17. DOI 10.1007/s40309-013-0017-2
  • Reinhardt, (ed.) United Dreams of Europe, Primus Verlag, Darmsdat, 2011.
  • Bas, Future Visions of the Spanish Society, in: U. Reinhardt, G. Roos, (eds.) Future Expectations for Europe, Primus Verlag, Darmsdat, (2008) 214-231.
  • Ono, Learning from young people’s image of the future: a case study in Taiwan and the US, Futures, 35 (7) (2003) 737-758.
  • Rubin, The images of the future of young Finnish people, Sarja/Series, Turku, 1998.

EFP Brief No. 237: Creative Foresight Space (CFS) for Enhanced Work Milieux

Friday, December 21st, 2012

This brief presents the concept of Creative Foresight Space (CFS), which is an alternative workspace as well as a foresight methods-based processing platform for a new kind of proactive and innovative working culture. CFS is a concept to stimulate both creativity and futures thinking. It combines physical, digital, virtual and peer-to-peer collaborative approaches for innovative and social futuring in organisations. It is designed especially to meet the challenges posed by the transition from information society to a meanings society. CFSs also provide a diverse platform for special futures workshops – called Futures Cliniques. CFSs enhance work milieus, augment work motivation as well as strengthen futures thinking and foresight competence.

Linking Innovation to Foresight in Corporations and Organizations

Innovations are born where there is enough encouraging space for creativity. Companies and organisations striving for innovation are increasingly interested in creating workplaces and workspaces that promote interaction, creativity and innovation. Companies and organisations have an immense unused potential to develop creative and innovative work environments. Such development can be linked to the attraction of regions or towns.

As the operational environment of companies and organisations has changed, foresight has gained more ground in their operations. Companies should link foresight both to their strategy work and innovation processes. In order to bring systematic foresight and innovation processes into a company, the whole organisation needs to be committed to a new way of thinking. This, in turn, requires a new culture of managing as a part of a whole new working culture. Such new culture of managing may flourish if new kind of work milieus are enabled.

Creative Foresight Space (CFS) will provide a new type of work milieu as integrated into ordinary offices. CFS links innovation processes (creative thinking) to foresight processes (futures thinking).

The project on Creative Foresight Space was initiated to find out the possibilities of developing better work environments. This was sought for by supporting the processes of organisational change through a Creative Foresight Space that encourages creativity and futures thinking. In addition to developing the concept of creative foresight space, the project included a wider foresight process that concentrated on the knowledge and expertise needed in the future.

Enhancing Creative Work Milieux for Future Thinking and Well-being

The theoretical objective of the study was to develop a concept of an innovative and experimental working space to stimulate at the same time creativity, futures thinking and wellbeing at work.

The concrete aims of the study were to design visually stimulating Creative Foresight Space (CFS) 1) to host participatory foresight sessions, especially Futures Cliniques, 2) to provide a space for self-organised futures exploration, 3) to demonstrate and apply several methods developed in futures research for futures sense-making and innovative problem solving for companies, public institutions, regions and citizens. CFS and Futures Cliniques were designed as a structured process, employing user-friendly multisensory instruments for open futures learning.

Part of the study was to probe possible futures for societal development and for the future of work. This was conducted through literature surveys, interviews (https://sites.google.com/site/futuremediac/videos–presentations) and participatory foresight sessions held in two regional CFS pilots.

The ultimate purpose of CFS was to help decision-makers by opening up vistas and even unexpected prospects for future developments at a longer and broader perspective than standard strategy.

Futures Wheel, Table, and Window

Creative Foresight Space (CFS) is a methodological umbrella concept, developed at Finland Futures Research Centre (FFRC) within the project. It manifests itself as a futures gallery or social futures learning hub, to enhance working milieus in all kind of organisations. It also acts as a platform for participatory, co-creative foresight sessions. Such sessions were structured as special Futures Cliniques. In Futures Cliniques several foresight methods are used to probe futures for the subjects selected.

The methods demonstrated and applied in all Futures Cliniques included for example the Futures Wheel, which is an easily applicable and discussion-oriented tool, and the Futures Table. In particular, the Futures Window was used, which is a visual presentation of weak signals, stimulating the futures work to follow watching it (Heinonen & Hiltunen 2012).

On average, at least five different foresight methods are always being demonstrated and used within a Futures Clinique. The Futures Research Methodology CD Version 3.0 (Glenn & Gordon 2009) produced by the Millennium Project (http://www.millennium-project.org/) was also frequently employed. In addition, material from the iKnow project (Ravetz et al. 2011; http://community.iknowfutures.eu/) was used and further elaborated. Besides foresight methods, also several innovation techniques were being applied in Futures Cliniques, e.g. the method of de Bono’s (1985) Six Thinking Hats. The participants were not required to be familiar with any of the methods beforehand. Instead the idea was to enable futures learning – both content-wise and methods-wise.

The visual design and mood of the Creative Foresight Space is a method in itself, aiming at multi-sensory futures exploration. In some of the sessions, emphasis was laid on visualisation and visual material from cartoons to pieces of art were experimentally used to nourish the participants’ imagination (Heinonen & Kurki 2011).

Two concrete cases of CFS were installed for a certain period of time (ca. six months) for experimenting. During the experiments, all the results were carefully identified and documented. One of the cases was CFS set up in Helsinki City Library in 2010 (in Finland). The other case was implemented inside a technology Centre Innopark in Hämeenlinna region (in Finland).

The concept of CFS can be implemented in two separate modes: the Stimulus version or the Slow version. The Stimulus version aims to excite and explode imagination and through such stimulation enhance creativity. The Slow version, on the other hand, enhances creativity through elements soothing the visitor and letting time and space for new ideas or understanding to emerge. This kind of futures learning (Heinonen, Kurki & Ruotsalainen 2012) can be achieved through slow motion digital walls, or by providing niches for silence and solitary futures exploration.

Shift Toward Meaning Society

The most important socio-economic trend identified during the project was the shift from the information society towards the meanings society.

Applying this shift to work, the central findings were the need for new organization models, radical mixing of different industries and branches, as well as utilizing prosumerism (producers + consumers) in a new work paradigm.

Adding to these a set of new competences and skills were identified. The diamond of seven competences that are critical for future work life in 2020 was presented.

The future of work in ubiquitous interaction

The future of work and the future economy will be shaped especially by changes in two intermingling areas: the technologies used and people’s ways of life.

The guiding technology for the future will, quite unsurprisingly, be the Internet with its different applications and services. The Net will affect our culture deeply.   The values and norms of web 2.0 will spread to the entire society – and the workplace. Digital natives will take participation, bottom-up approaches, collaboration and sharing for granted. They are intrinsically motivated rather than extrinsically influenced.

Adding to this, people strive more and more for a life that is personally and individually meaningful. The source of meaningful experiences can be anything, be it consumption, work, arts, or social relationships.

The Internet and other key technologies and services (e.g. cloud computing, mobile devices, application services) together with the strengthening ethos of self-expression are leading away from the information society to a new societal form, the meanings society. This transition will have a significant impact on how we work and on the organizations in which we work.

Despite automation work will not disappear. People are simply doing what gadgets are not capable of – taking care of creative, non-routine and un-linear tasks. Nevertheless, by 2050, work can transform in such a deep way that one can declare the end of work as we know it. We might see a return to the roots of work, to the time before the institution of paid work.

Work per se is an act of creativity, which aims at satisfying our material and immaterial needs. People enjoy working, because it manifests their best qualities: creating, solving problems, using ones skills and crafts, developing one self. Working creates the experience of autonomy as well as binds people to each other through the division of labour. Work is an act of individualism as it is that of collectivism.

Instead of the institution of paid work under an employee, in the future self-organizing peer-to-peer production and prosumerism could form the basic framework for work institution. In the future, the ideal worker may not be a diligent toiler with narrow expertise, but an enthusiastic and ingenious amateur (Heinonen & Ruotsalainen 2012). Workers know well their field of expertise, but are curious and interested in a myriad of things. Engineers cherish the ideal of the Renaissance Man. Of the general work competences especially time competence, systems competence and meanings competence are needed.

Meaning Competence as a New Skill

Especially meanings competence can be of most crucial importance in the future. Production in the creative economy is in essence cultural meanings. Communication is carried out through meanings. Production aims more and more at products and services which aid in identity production and constructing a personally meaningful way of life. This is not solely a concern of the creative class, but all industries have to take into account this change in society and consumer demand.

Meanings competence is the ability to create and interpret meanings, construct and communicate social reality. Workers need meanings competence not only as tool, but also as a skill to construct one’s work as comprehensible, fulfilling and meaningful. Jobs will be less and less clearly defined, and workers must learn to “define” their jobs for themselves. Creating meanings competence is a social process, which calls for interaction competence: culture is by definition social, shared. Creativity, stories and innovations can only be created in socially livable environments, in which the interaction between individuals is fluid. Socially lively work means also taking consumers along in the production process: it is the best way to ensure that the products and services will be deeply meaningful. Essentially, meanings competence is not only a matter of work life, but people will increasingly strive at creating their life meaningful and purposeful.

Danger of Work Becoming too Big

The most important trend identified considering working life was not only the mixing together of different industries but different spheres, values and procedures: consumers becoming producers (and producers consumer-like), work becoming leisure-like (and vice versa).

This development has several benefits, as it helps making work more meaningful and products more demand-matching. However, it contains serious threats: instead of work becoming more meaningful and fulfilling, it can attain too big a role in our lives. Furthermore, these issues are linked with the emerging theme of the changes between public and private spheres.

Perhaps not by 2020, but most probably by 2050 technology has melted to become an inseparable part of our environment, but also of ourselves. Our thinking, communication, work and leisure are intermediated, supported and enhanced by technology. One of the most prominent effects of technologies is the dramatic fertilization of communication. Vivid communication promotes openness, which on its part promotes innovation. We are increasingly living a life of ubiquitousness and transparency. It is a matter of further investigation what are the pros and cons of this development.

Testing New Techniques, Products and Processes

Examples of the main topics that were dealt with in Futures Cliniques are:

  • Future Concepts of Urban Housing and Sustainable Multi-Locality
  • Radical Innovations on Combating Climate Change
  • The Future of Library
  • The Future of Technology Centres
  • The Intertwining Futures of Work and the Internet
  • The Utilization of 3D Worlds
  • Emerging Digital Culture
  • Meaning and Time Competence as Future Work Skills

Clients for recent Futures Cliniques conducted by Finland Futures Research Centre include for example the Finnish Ministry of the Environment, the Finnish Innovation Fund, Technology Centre Innopark and Helsinki City Library.

For each Futures Clinique the participants were selected to represent different industries, branches and fields. The heterogeneity of the participants and co-creative methods used resulted in various progressive and future oriented ideas. For example, the Futures Cliniques considering the futures of libraries helped in redesigning of the activities of Helsinki city library “Kohtaamispaikka” (Meeting Point).

The participating case organisations profited from the project in the form of new ideas for future development. In addition to the core concept (CFS), it was possible to test some of the tentative ideas, as well as the new techniques, products, services and processes of the participating organisations in the workshops. The participants also received all the material created in the project and in the Futures Cliniques conducted within the CFS.

The results of the project were also presented in the media, which both disseminated information and made the project more influential on local and even regional level, thus giving the participating organisations a means for marketing. The project also added to the wellbeing of the participating organisations’ employees. Visiting the Creative Foresight Space and attending Futures Cliniques were often regarded as legitimate out-of-official-role behaviour and relaxation with futures-oriented intellectual stimulation. Concrete input for regular work was provided by the ideas and innovation germs picked up from CFS, together with adoption of a more holistic and longer-term looking ahead.

Democracy and Participation to Profit from Creative Public Spaces

The project implicated the untapped possibilities of collaborative, co-creative and peer-to-peer foresight activities. Participatory foresight or planning methods could be used considerably more in policy and decision making processes. In government, each Ministry could have its own Creative Foresight Space. Large companies and organisations could have their own Creative Foresight Space, while smaller enterprises could share a common CFS, located e.g. inside a technology park, science hub or conference centre.

Another central issue is the planning and designing of public spaces. The concept of CFS could be implemented not only in corporations, but in public spaces and public enterprises too. This would not only improve work-related wellbeing but benefit democracy and participation. For citizens, libraries and educational institutes would be ideal places for futures learning through Creative Foresight Spaces.

Ubiquitous digital technologies and Internet-platformed solutions have a huge potential to provide for creative processes as well as participatory policy planning and democratic decision making. The potential of Internet-based technologies and services should be further examined especially in conducting virtual foresight workshops, cross-fertilised with face-to-face Futures Cliniques.

The project on Creative Foresight Space with the introduction of this hybrid concept for futures learning, and with its documentation of the results from two experimental cases is the first step. The second step is to disseminate the experiences of these cases to make a concrete call for further action. The concept of Creative Foresight Space and of Futures Cliniques could be revisited for involving policy-makers more directly in the foresight processes. These tools can be utilised to enable decision-makers, experts/researchers, planners, and citizens to collaborate − crowdsourcing the futures, “learning” the futures.

Authors: Sirkka Heinonen          sirkka.heinonen@utu.fi

Juho Ruotsalainen      juho.ruotsalainen@utu.fi

Sofi Kurki                       sofi.kurki@utu.fi

Sponsors: European Regional Development Fund, City of Helsinki, Technology Park Innopark
Type: single issue
Organizer: Finland Futures Research Centre, University of Turku, Future of Media and Communications Research Group, Sirkka Heinonen, sirkka.heinonen@utu.fi
Duration: 2009-2011 Budget: N/A Time Horizon: 2020 Date of Brief: 7.7.2012  

Download EFP Brief No. 237_Creative Foresight Space for Enhanced Work Milieux.

References

de Bono, Edward (1985). Six Thinking Hats.

Glenn, Jerome & Gordon, Theodore (ed.) (2009). Futures Research Methodology version 3.0. CD. Millennium Project. Washington D.C.

Heinonen, Sirkka & Hiltunen Elina (2011). Creative Foresight Space and the Futures Window: Using

visual weak signals to enhance anticipation and innovation. Futures vol 44, 248-256.

Heinonen, Sirkka & Kurki, Sofi (2011). Transmedial Futuring in Creative Foresight Space. In publication: Wagner, Cynthia G. (ed.) (2011). Moving from Vision to Action. Essays published in conjunction with the World Future Society’s annual meeting. pp. 119-128. World Future Society, Maryland.

Heinonen, Sirkka, Kurki, Sofi & Ruotsalainen, Juho (2012). Futures Learning for Future Work. From Know How to Know Why. Manuscript. Forthcoming.

Heinonen, Sirkka & Ruotsalainen, Juho (2012). Towards the age of neo-entrepreneurs. World Future Review, Journal of Strategic Foresight.

Ravetz, Joe, Popper, Rafael & Miles, Ian (2011). iKnow ERA Toolkit. Applications of Wild Cards and Weak Signals to the Grand Challenges & Thematic Priorities of the European Research Area. European Commission. http://community.iknowfutures.eu/pg/file/popper/view/11926/iknow-era-toolkit-2011

Website of the Research Group of the Future of Media and Communications (FMC), University of Turku

https://sites.google.com/site/futuremediac/

EFP Brief No. 223: Analysing Long-term Trends of a Post-industrialised Society: The Case of Finland

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

This study contributes to building FTA capacities for systemic and structural transformations. Increasing scientific and societal concerns have been raised about the adequacy of current measures of economic performance, in particular that of GDP. Current de-growth discussion summarises the implications. We do not propose a concrete vision but emphasise the need to make it a topic of futures discussions in EU development strategy. An empirical Finnish case study attests to the vital need to revise the current statistical evaluations of European welfare and economic growth processes.

The De-growth Scenario:
Policy Implications for the EU

The Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress have been discussing new social welfare evaluation tools. European societies have been locked into socio-economic thought dominated by progressive growth economics. The hegemony of this kind of one-sided thinking has made imaginative thinking outside the box almost impossible. The de-growth topic has become a major international subject of debate, not just within the counter-globalisation movement but throughout the world. The big question is: What are the implications of ‘de-growth’ for the European Union and its policies? Do we need new sustainable macroeconomic policies that go beyond the Lisbon and Europe 2020 strategy?

In traditional mainstream economic policy, GDP (gross domestic product) and GDP per capita are often used as measures of national welfare. Although not originally designed for this task, they have become normative benchmarks of economic and social performance (Easterlein 1974). We have to acknowledge that relying on GDP can lead policymakers to draw wrong policy conclusions in the EU and in the EU member countries.

When Costs of Growth Exceed Benefits

For some time now, economists have been proposing a ‘threshold hypothesis’, the notion being that when macroeconomic systems expand beyond a certain size, the additional cost of economic growth exceeds the flow of additional welfare benefits (Daly & Cobb 1989). In order to support their findings, economists and scientists have developed a number of indexes to measure and compare the benefits and costs of growth (e.g., the index of sustainable economic welfare, ISEW and the genuine progress indicator GPI, etc.). In virtually every instance where an index of this type has been calculated for a particular country, the movement of the index appears to underline the validity of the threshold hypothesis. Philip Lawn (2003) has noted that by adopting a more inclusive concept of income and capital, these alternative new indexes are theoretically sound but require the continuous development of more robust valuation methods to be broadly accepted.

Making Indexes and Statistics Scientifically Sound

There is also ongoing scientific debate about the statistical correlations of gross domestic product (GDP), population, genuine progress indicator (GPI), index of sustainable economic welfare (ISEW), genuine saving (GS) and human development index (HDI) indicators. All these welfare indicators can be used in analysing the welfare and sustainability situation of the EU member countries. An interesting debate on the policy relevance of a set of indicators versus a single index has been going on for quite some time now. Both options have advantages and disadvantages:

  • A set of indicators is more appropriate for expert use, yet hard to communicate to the public and even more difficult to interpret because different indicators usually provide confusing signals.
  • A single index is a highly valuable instrument in political debates and setting targets as well as in communicating such targets to the public.

Nonetheless, the European Union’s macroeconomic planning and strategic decision-making requires active development of new relevant sustainability planning and evaluation tools and indexes. We cannot rely on just one index, GDP, in our welfare policy analyses.

New Approach in Statistical Analysis Needed

If the European Union wants to evaluate long-term sustainability of its macroeconomic development, new kinds of statistical analyses are needed. Our study is based on long-term statistics (years 1960-2009) for three key social welfare indicators; statistical analyses have been conducted for the same period for other variables (GS, HDI, and population) as well (Hoffrén 2001, Kekkonen 2010 and Lemmetyinen 2011). The long-term trends of key indicators have been analysed and a statistical correlation analysis between them has been carried out.

Our results support the validity of the threshold hypothesis, especially for the years following the oil crisis. Figure 1 demonstrates this in the case of Finland.
223_bild1
Figure 1

Novel Sustainability Evaluation Method to Improve Social Welfare Systems in the EU

The idea of the article is to propose a novel sustainability evaluation methodology for the European Commission and EU member countries. This statistical approach is evidence-based and gives new evaluation and planning information about critical sustainability trends in European Union. In our case study, the focus is on Finland and its sustainability trends. A similar kind of indicator-based sustainability evaluation should be done for all EU27 countries to improve the quality of European Union’s long-term sustainability policy and especially its social welfare policy.

De-growth Strategy for the European Union

For some authors, the very idea of sustainable development seems to be a contradiction in terms. It is not a big surprise that practice has shown unequivocally that it is not possible to reconcile economic growth with environmental sustainability. Some parts of the global scientific community, for instance those participating in the UNEP (see IPSRM-UNEP 2010), think that the Western lifestyle is damaging not only its own environment but also that of the poorer countries and the planet as a whole. In this context, the proposal of ‘sustainable de-growth’ has emerged as a strategy that aims to generate new social values and new policies capable of satisfying human requirements whilst reducing the consumption of resources. De-growth is a political, economic, and social movement based on environmentalist, anti-consumerist and anti-capitalist ideas. ‘Sustainable de-growth’ or ‘de-growth’ is not yet a formalised theory but rather a focal point for social movements, academia or politics to rally around (Latouche 2006).

Questioning the Consumption Paradigm

De-growth supporters have advocated the downscaling of production and consumption – the contraction of economies – as overconsumption lies at the root of long-term environmental issues and social inequalities. Key to the concept of de-growth is that reducing consumption does not require individual martyring and a decrease in well-being. Rather, ‘de-growthists’ aim to maximise happiness and well-being through non-consumptive means: sharing work, consuming less while devoting more time to art, music, family, culture and community. De-growth – in contrast to the idea of dematerialisation, which aims at a reduction of resource use while the economy continues to grow – goes further and means that significant reductions of resource use require fundamental changes in the production and consumption system.

The de-growth movement opposes economic growth, which has created many more poor people and has inevitably led to environmental degradation. From this perspective, the de-growth strategy opposes the Europe 2020 policy. In any case, the de-growth movement’s future success will depend on its capacity to generate coherent political responses and empirical results to shore up its proposals. This study contributes to tackling this challenge facing the de-growth movement.

The Finnish Case: Evidence for the Anti-Growth Strategy

In the case of Finland, we observe a negative correlation between GDP and GPI after the oil crisis years. Growth of GDP appears not to be connected with improved GPI development. GDP still correlates positively with GS and HDI. However, the correlation rates are much lower now than before the oil crisis.

When we discuss de-growth policy and its potential content, we must bear in mind that there are various aspects of welfare beyond economic growth alone. In the Finnish case, we can note that the linkage between GDP growth and welfare indicators is not as strong as it was before the oil-crisis period. Yet, we must also remember that the GDP indicator too includes immaterial and qualitative aspects of welfare. If we think of de-growth from this perspective, it is not a rational aim to radically minimise GDP growth. Probably we should try to find a “golden middle of the road solution”, which is a rather unadventurous or inoffensive path that does not go only one way or the other (neither de-growth nor growth mania).

Another policy conclusion from our empirical analysis is that GPI is a critical indicator for the de-growth movement because the GPI indicator provides empirical foundations for the anti-growth movement and its form of welfare thinking. In Figure 1, the trade-off curve of GDP and GPI is plotted for Finland for the years 1960-2009. The turning point of GDP and GNI  (Gross National Income) trends was in 1988. This year can be seen as a benchmark year because in 1988 Finland reached the peak level of welfare as measured by the GPI. Although GDP has grown in Finland, GPI has not increased since. Socially and politically the situation is most problematic.

Dynamics of Economic & Social Development Have Changed Dramatically

In the study, a long time series (years 1960-2009) was initially analysed by Pearson correlation analysis. Subsequently, the time periods before the oil crisis (years 1960-1972) and the time period after the oil crisis (1973-2009) were analysed in the same way. Six welfare indicators were correlated.

One key observation of this indicator study is that the dynamics of economic and social development in Finland have changed dramatically. We can expect similar structural changes to also have occurred elsewhere in the European Union. The GDP indicator was correlated in a different way before and after the oil crisis. The changes in the correlation tables are considerable, indicating substantial structural changes. We find support for the following analytical conclusions:

  • In the long run, the GDP correlates positively with five other indexes of the Finnish case study.
  • Before the oil crisis, positive correlations were strong between the GDP index and the other indices analysed.
  • After the oil crisis, however, our statistical analysis clearly supports the threshold hypothesis in the Finnish case. Especially the correlation between GDP and GPI has shifted dramatically in Finland after the peak year 1988.
  • A single aggregate index, such as GDP, is certainly a valuable means of communication for policy purposes. At the expert level, however, a set of indicators is a more appropriate toolbox, even though it may be harder to communicate and more difficult to interpret because of different and sometimes opposing signals. As this case study shows, a single aggregate index can lead to very problematic policy choices in the EU member countries.
  • There is a need to develop a sustainable de-growth strategy that goes beyond the Lisbon and Europe 2020 strategies. Many European governments may face a new situation where welfare indicators are developing in an undesirable direction although the GDP indicator shows economic growth and successful economic performance. This phenomenon was also observed in the Finnish case study.
  • Despite all theoretically and empirically motivated criticism of GDP as a social welfare and progress indicator, the GDP’s role in economics, public policy, politics and society seems to remain influential also in the future.

The European Union’s macroeconomic planning and strategic decision-making urgently calls for new sustainability planning and evaluation tools and indexes. We cannot rely on just one old and much criticised GDP index in our European welfare policy analyses. Relying on inadequate signals in coordinating common EU policies may very well lead member countries to make wrong policy decisions. We now need new macro-aggregates, such as ISEW and GPI, to foster our socio-economic performance and competitiveness.

In evidence-based policy making, the European Union should pay more attention to the underlying motivation of growth policy because what we understand as economic growth today does not necessarily contribute to welfare in any linear fashion. Our study is important because it shows that, if we evaluate welfare by the GPI index, this is precisely what has been happening in Finland: there is no longer any immediate link between economic growth and general social welfare. Especially under the Europe 2020 strategy process we need broader evidence that the political decisions taken are actually leading Europe toward improved welfare. The possibility that the threshold hypothesis adequately describes the reality in the European Union countries should be taken more seriously in various policy fields.

Confirming the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress

In a recent study, the Nobel prize-winning economists and professors Joseph E. Stiglitz, Amartya Sen and Jean-Paul Fitoussi (2009) (SSF report) urge the adoption of new assessment tools that incorporate a broader concern for human welfare than just economic growth. By their reckoning and insights, much of the contemporary economic disaster owes to the misbegotten assumption that policy makers simply had to focus on nurturing economic growth, trusting that this would maximise prosperity for all. The case study of Finland shows that this taken-for-granted assumption is too simplistic. In this light, the policy recommendations of SSF Report are highly policy relevant for the European Commission and EU member countries to achieve greater social welfare to actually improve the lives of their citizens.

Authors: Jukka Hoffrén            jukka.hoffren@stat.fi  Jari Kaivo-oja    jari.kaivo-oja@tse.fi   Samuli Aho            samuli.aho@tse.fi
Sponsors: Finland Futures Research Centre (FFRC), University of Turku, Finland Statistics Finland, Finland
Type: National FTA exercise, Finland
Organizer: Finland Futures Research Centre (FFRC), Electrocity, Tykistönkatu 4 D, 7th Floor, FIN-20520 TURKU
Duration: 2011
Budget: n.a.
Time Horizon: 2020
Date of Brief: October 2012

Download: EFP Brief No. 223: Analysing Long-term Trends of a Post-industrialised Society: The Case of Finland

Sources and References


Aldrich, J. (1995): Correlations genuine and spurious in Pearson and Yule. Statistical Science 10 (4), pp. 364–376.

Daly, H. & Cobb, J. (1989): For the Common Good. Beacon Press, Boston.

Easterlin, R. (1974): Does economic growth improve the human lot? In: David, P., Weber, R. (Eds.), Nations and Households in Economic Growth. Academic Press, New York.

Hoffrén, J. (2001): Measuring the Eco-efficiency of Welfare Generation in a National Economy. The Case of Finland. Statistics Finland Research Reports 233. Helsinki. And update by Hoffrén (2011).

Kekkonen, E. (2010): Hyvinvoinnin ja edistymisen kuvaaminen yhdistelmäindikaattorilla: Suomen kestävän yhteiskunnan indeksin laskenta. Master’s Thesis. University of Helsinki. Department of Economics. Helsinki.

Latouche, S. (2006): Le Pari de la Décroissance. Fayard. Paris.

Lawn, P.A. (2003): A theoretical foundation to support the Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare (ISEW), Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI), and other related indexes. Ecological Economics 44 (2003), pp. 105-118.

Lemmetyinen, I (2011): Genuine Savings – indikaattori Suomelle. Master Thesis. Aalto University. Helsinki School of Economics. Helsinki.

Rättö, H. (2008): Hyvinvointi ja hyvinvoinnin mittaamisen kehittäminen. Statistics Finland. Research Reports 250. And update version by Hoffrén (2011). Helsinki.

Stiglitz, J.E., Sen, A. & Fitoussi, J.-P. (2009): Report by the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress. Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress. France.

EFP Brief No. 181: Technologies for EU Minerals Supply

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

This exercise was part of an EU FP7 Blue Skies Project aimed at piloting, developing and testing in real situations a foresight methodology designed to bring together key stakeholders for the purpose of exploring longer term challenges and building a shared vision that could guide the development of the relevant European research agenda. This approach was applied to the theme of “Breakthrough technologies for the security of supply of critical minerals and metals in the EU economy”.

The Minerals Challenge

Minerals and metals are essential to almost every aspect of modern life and every economic sector. Aerospace, agriculture, culture, defence, energy, environmental protection, health, housing, transport and water supply are all highly dependent upon them. Plans for economic recovery and the development of new industries also depend on their availability – for example “green” energy production from solar cells and wind turbines, the green car of tomorrow and many more all require a range of rare minerals and metals for their production.

Although essential to our economies, development of this sector has been neglected in Western Europe during the past 25 years. This was mainly because of the very low price of these commodities – a consequence of abundant reserves discovered in the 1970s. As a result, the mining and metallurgical industry as well as related research and education almost disappeared from the present European Union, making our economies totally dependent upon imports.

Demand for these minerals and metals is likely to increase dramatically. Much of this new demand will come from rapidly growing, highly populated emerging countries, such as China, which have attracted large parts of the world industrial production due to cheap labour, regardless of raw minerals and energy issues. Already strong competition for access to natural resources, including mineral resources vital to any economy, is likely to accelerate further in the coming years with possible severe environmental and social impacts. The EU economy is more than any other exposed to these developments, as it produces very little of the minerals it consumes and almost none of the critical minerals it needs to develop its green technologies.

Against this background, the creation of a new research and innovation context in Europe has become essential, not only to reduce the EU’s dependence on imported minerals and metals but also to chart the road ahead, to develop a win-win cooperation with developing countries and to stimulate the competitiveness of EU technology, products and service providers to the global economy.

However, these solutions can take a long time to be implemented, and it is important to identify today’s priorities for knowledge generation and innovation so that action can begin. This in turn creates a need for a foresight approach that brings together the knowledge and interests of the main stakeholders. It is in this context that the FarHorizon project invited leading experts in the area from government agencies, industry and academia to take part in a success scenario workshop. The aims of the exercise were

  • to identify the key challenges for raw materials supply in Europe;
  • to identify breakthrough technologies or other innovations that could transform the picture, including substitution, new sources, ways to change demand and new applications; and
  • to define in broad terms the research and innovation strategies needed to develop and make use of such technologies.

Success Scenario Approach

The “Success Scenario Approach” is an action-based approach where senior stakeholders develop a shared vision of what success in the area would look like, together with appropriate goals and indicators, which provide the starting point for developing a roadmap to get there. The purpose of having such a vision of success is to set a ‘stretch target’ for all the stakeholders. The discussion and debate forming an integral part of the process leads to developing a mutual understanding and a common platform of knowledge that helps to align the actors for action.

Important outcomes of these workshops are the insights they provide in terms of the level of maturity in policy design and development and the viability and robustness of long-term policy scenarios to guide policy-making. The workshops also provide indications on whether there is a need for further discussion to refine thinking and policy design and/or to bring additional stakeholders into the discussion.

The theme was developed in partnership with the French geosciences institution BRGM. The workshop brought together twenty representatives of scientific organisations, industry and government agencies to identify the role of technology in addressing the socioeconomic and political challenges facing Europe in this sector. Briefs on key issues were prepared before the workshop, and participants took part in an exercise to identify key drivers using the STEEPV framework (social, technological, environmental, economic, political and values). Common themes were increasing demand and growing sustainability requirements. Geopolitical themes were also touched upon.

The basic structure was to identify the key challenges facing the sector and then to explore the potential role of breakthrough technologies in addressing those challenges. A third main session examined the key elements needed for a sectoral strategy for innovation.

The figure below gives an outline of the methodology:

Challenges in Three Dimensions

Informed by the drivers, participants were tasked to identify the key challenges for raw materials supply in Europe and to prioritise these. If these challenges can be met, we can expect to achieve a situation as defined by the successful vision for the sector in 2030 and realise its benefits to Europe. Three dimensions of the challenge were addressed:

Geology and Minerals Intelligence

  1. Access to data on mining, production and geology
  2. Knowledge of deeper resources
  3. Better knowledge due to improved models of how deposits are produced
  4. Better exploration
  5. Systematic data sharing
  6. Exploitation of ‘exhausted’ mines

Mining, Ore Processing and Metallurgy

  1. Exploiting deeper deposits
  2. Accessing seabed deposits
  3. Better health and safety; prediction of seismic events and natural or man-made hazards
  4. Using less water and energy
  5. Reducing CO2 footprint
  6. By-product handling
  7. Social and business organisation

Sustainable Use, Efficiency, Recycling and Re-use

  1. Downstream resource efficiency
  2. Better citizens’ understanding/attitude
  3. Building capabilities and providing training
  4. Transforming waste into mines/urban mining
  5. More systemic view of different critical minerals
  6. Better use of other resources, e.g. water and energy
  7. Global governance of new extractive activities

Against these challenges, breakthroughs were sought in four areas: new applications, substitution, new sources of materials and rare metals, and changes in demand.

Four Key Actions toward a Comprehensive Policy for Securing Raw Materials Supply

Policy recommendations geared toward securing the supply of raw materials in Europe were summarised in terms of four necessary key actions:

Key Action 1: Establish an integrated strategy for raw materials supply and support it by providing continuous funding.

Research in the area of raw materials supply needs to be clearly linked to creating the right conditions for successful innovation. There is some concern that the European Commission has no competence in minerals as such but rather in matters of environmental protection, trade or economic competitiveness. This limits the development of a holistic, complementary approach needed to tackle the various issues related to securing Europe’s mineral resources supply within the sustainable development context. The sector needs a more horizontal approach – otherwise we may do research, but there is no innovation behind it. An innovation-friendly market can be created by developing stringent environmental and recycling regulations. Europe is at the forefront of a number of technologies in these areas. Regulators need to understand that part of their job is to stimulate innovation if not for today at least for tomorrow. Engaging them in foresight, along with technologists and users, is important for developing this horizon. There is a 7-8 year challenge to develop a new lead market.

Key Action 2: Move from stop and go to a lasting approach with three central aspects for a research, technology and innovation programme.

Support up to now has been project-based and provided only to a limited extent on a stop and go basis while continuous policies and knowledge development would be necessary.

2.1 There are three broad research priorities:

  • Research dealing with mineral resources intelligence. This is research of a totally different kind, i.e. mainly interdisciplinary. It is needed to keep up with a dynamic situation where even what minerals and metals are critical changes over time.
  • Research leading to new or better technologies with a focus upon whatever is needed by industry. The large scale South Korean national initiatives provide a good example of speed, scale and pragmatism and also represent the competition that Europe has to face. The US investment on rare earths in the Ames laboratory is another example.
  • Research on mitigation and understanding of environmental impacts.

2.2 Adopt a holistic approach to the innovation cycle. Support for research should be long-term and structured so that most publicly funded research is open and shared internationally. The full range of mechanisms is needed: basic R&D, integrated projects or their equivalent and joint technology initiatives. However, 80% of the effort should be in large applied projects and the rest focused on longer term work. Partnership with the US, Japan and possibly South Korea could be meaningful in a number of areas.

2.3 Adopt a joint programming approach. Currently there is little or no coordination between European-level and national research. Some governments are in a position to take the initiative in this area – notably Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Finland and Poland.

Key Action 3: Increase the flow of trained people.

A supply of trained people is a significant constraint. The lack of investment in research and teaching in this area over the past 20 years has depleted the availability of expertise to undertake the necessary research and teaching. Training initiatives are needed and within the European framework a pool of excellence should be developed – a platform that coordinates the supply and demand for education and training in the area with some elements being in competition and some complementary. There is also a need to attract interest from researchers outside the area; many of those doing research in this field have a background in the minerals sector, but breakthroughs may be more likely to come from people currently working in other fields.

Key Action 4: Governance issues are critical.

Securing raw materials is a task that goes beyond the competence and capability of the individual member states and is inherently European. Even current European initiatives in other fields are dependent on action in this sector – rare metals are behind all the EU’s proposed Innovation Partnerships. Collaboration beyond Europe is also necessary, but a collective voice for Europe is more likely to be heard in the international arena. There are also opportunities to exert a positive influence to halt environmentally damaging or politically dangerous approaches in other parts of the world, notably in Africa and parts of the CIS. The momentum from the current EU Raw Materials Initiative, aiming to foster and secure supplies and to promote resource efficiency and recycling, needs to be carried forward into the EU’s Eighth Framework Programme, its innovation policies and also its wider policies including those concerning interaction with the African, Caribbean and Pacific States.

Authors: Luke Georghiou luke.georghiou@mbs.ac.uk, Jacques Varet j.varet@brgm.fr, Philippe Larédo philippe.laredo@enpc.fr
Sponsors: EU Commission
Type: EU-level single issue foresight exercise
Organizer: FP7 FarHorizon Project Coordinator: MIOIR, Luke Georghiou Luke.georghiou@mbs.ac.uk
Duration: Sept 08-Feb11 Budget: N/A Time Horizon: 2030 Date of Brief: Apr 2011

 

Download EFP Brief No. 181_Technologies for EU Minerals Supply

Sources and References

Georghiou, L., Varet, J. and Larédo P. (2011), Breakthrough technologies: For the security of supply of critical minerals and metals in the EU, March 2011, http://farhorizon.portals.mbs.ac.uk

European Commission (2010), “Critical Raw Materials for the EU”, Report of the RMSG Ad Hoc Working Group on defining critical raw materials, June 2010

European Commission (2011), Tackling the Challenges in Commodity Markets and on Raw Materials, Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, Brussels, 02/02/2011 COM(2011) 0025 final

EFP Brief No. 164: FinnSight 2015 – A National Joint Foresight Exercise

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

In 2005, the Finnish government took a decision in principle on the development of a national strategy. This decision spurred the two main funding agencies – the Academy of Finland and the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation (Tekes) – to carry out FinnSight 2015, a joint foresight exercise that would provide inputs to this strategy, foster collaboration between these funding agencies and promote foresight and innovation activities at large. Towards these objectives, FinnSight 2015 engaged ten expert panels to identify key driving forces and characterized focus areas of competences, assisted by extensive deployment of Internet-based tools for collaborative work and intensive deliberations at facilitated workshops.

EFP_Brief_No._164_FinnSight_2015

EFP Brief No. 11: Nordic Hydrogen Energy Foresight 2030

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

The overall aim of the Nordic Hydrogen Energy Foresight was to find long-term promising ways for Nordic stakeholders of exploiting hydrogen in the drive to meet the 3 Es: Energy Security, Economic Growth and Environmental protection. More specifically, the aim was to build a Nordic Research and Innovation Area in hydrogen and fuel cells, contributing with a bottom-up approach to the European Research Area.

EFMN Brief No. 11 – Nordic Hydrogen Energy Foresight 2030