How to do Foresight?
Foresight exercises are complex and highly interactive processes. As stressed previously in the guide, there is no “one-single” way to organise an exercise. Although each individual exercise will have its own specific characteristics, they should all have in common the following: a good exercise starts with a deep understanding of the context in which it is embedded and a clear set of objectives. This will lead to an adequate selection of the Methods in an iterative Foresight Approach.
In the following we split the process in seven different phases. You should always keep in mind that these are logical, rather than chronological steps and feedback loops are present across all of them. It is also only one way of looking at a Foresight Process.
Feasibility: in this phase the organisers evaluate whether a foresight exercise is appropriate given the context and whether it will be able to yield valuable impacts on the system addressed.
Parameters: once the formal decisions to proceed has been taken, this is -broadly speaking- the design phase of the process, where the main structural decisions are discussed and taken.
Scoping: after the basic decisions are taken, the further development of a coherent and more detailed design is necessary. Two aspects define the scope of a Foresight exercise: the choice of the topics to be dealt with and the perspective to be adopted to investigate these topics.
Organization: managing time, people, participants, communications and most importantly the learning process itself is at the core of the foresight exercise itself.
Methodology: devising the methodology is effectively an element of the broader scoping phase. As methodological choices are crucial and complex they deserve deeper focus and a dedicated section.
Management: Managing a Foresight project means to apply the same rules of good project management as for any other project. Similarly, manage time, people, participants, communications and most importantly the learning process itself are key aspects.
Evaluation: Once the main tasks of the Foresight exercise have been completed, follow-up activities are required to ensure that the results are used effectively and all the knowledge acquired is shared.
There is a variety of methods that can be used in Foresight, each producing different results. The underling ideas of choosing which method, or methods to use was described earlier but the precise choice of the appropriate combination of methods will always be a matter of judgment based on the particular context and nature of the issue being examined.
It is important to emphasise that no one method is a panacea. Each method is best suited to certain specific objectives, context, resources, culture and the mind-set of the team and participants, and will prove inadequate if these conditions are not met.
The Method of choice needs to have the ability to perform, be able to build on existing material, mind the cost, take the participants’ availability into account, manage time and skills of the team and – to s certain degree – also meet the needs of the sponsor.
The following overview on specific Foresight Methods is extensive, but not necessarily comprehensive. The creation of the ForLearn Guide is a continuous process and is shaped by many different experts on Foresight and Future Science.
Due to the fact that this scientific discipline is still in the process of formation and emergence there are also conflicting ideas on how certain methods are described and conducted. One method has many variations and the definition of terms and processes can vary, with regards to the issue, the institution or the epistemological background.
The categorization is a delicate issue as well. The decision was taken to align and structure this guide with the most established, prestigious and serviceable methods in the field of Foresight and to integrate the others accordingly.