Posts Tagged ‘foresight’

EFP Brief No. 249: Measuring Foresight Impact

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

This brief describes a new instrument for measuring the impact of foresight. The foresight impact measurement instru-ment consists of 54 measures covering a wide range of foresight activities and potential policy and other impacts. This instrument, developed primarily by Ron Johnston and the author, is the result of several sessions with leaders of many of the most active national foresight programmes and includes a variety of types of measurement categories – notably those that align with the policy cycle in terms of positioning foresight for future impacts on policies as they emerge or are developed. It also has been pilot-tested on two Canadian foresight programs – in both cases achieving strong participation rates, high frequency of written comments and positive assessments of most of the measures and very strong endorsements of several key measures. One of the cases, a national foresight project on animal health and food security is described in this brief. Essentially the instrument provides a baseline for interim evaluation – while the experience is still vibrant – and in so doing it can (1) provide a unique mix of qualitative and quantitative feedback for stakeholders, participants and sponsors; (2) be immediately applied if required to making the case for continuity, future foresight funding or new projects; (3) form a credible baseline against which more formal evaluation can be structured later; and (4) help create a key international benchmark data base entry and case example of public sector foresight impact measurements – and thus position the EFP well for the future.

The Impact-Value Challenge

A key recurring challenge for foresight initiatives – projects, programmes and pilots – has been how to actually demonstrate the value of foresight investments for government sponsors and stakeholders – who are mindful of accountability, are asked to justify the value of foresight investments for government mandates and are requested to provide cost-efficiency and cost-effectiveness analysis so that foresight can be compared with other prospective applications of limited government funds.

The methodology elaborated below is a response to this challenge, prepared by Professor Jack E. Smith with input from senior international foresight leaders from the US, Europe (UK, FR, NL, FN) Australia and Asia ( TH, CH, KR, SP). The methodology draws upon discussion papers presented by the author and Professors Jon Calof and Ron Johnston at five international meetings. The challenge was to assess how to effectively measure impacts of foresight for government sponsors, operating in the short to medium term of 1-3 years when ideally these foresight impacts occur over a (mid to long term) five- to fifteen-year time horizon.

Case Study on Animal Health and Food Security in Canada

In September 2011, the Fore-Can Project on Animal Health and Food Security completed a three year foresight-based assessment of major challenges and opportunities associated with the future management of animal health and food security systems in Canada. The project was well received, involved a wide range of stakeholders and effectively engaged key policy advisors and industry leaders. As with many foresight projects, questions of immediate and enduring impact were raised as the end of the project drew closer. Fortunately this timing has coincided with the development of a new series of long and short format impact measurement instruments as part of an international forum of foresight best practices (more below on this).

Accordingly, the Fore-Can management team decided to be the first project to apply the new instruments. The logic for starting to measure impact now is as follows:

  • Impact is a relatively imprecise and general term, which inspires almost as many distinct answers as there are participants – so having a new and fairly comprehensive instrument that can add precision and shape stakeholder thinking while they are still involved is both innovative and appropriate in addressing the diversity of interests.
  • Impact happens at all stages of a project, i.e., during, immediately after and beyond completion, especially if there is a follow-up of projects – often until much later: so a time-flexible and adjustable instrument- linked to current and recent activities and also designed to accommodate later impacts is needed.
  • The approach adopted uses a single instrument – as a long form where commentary plus scoring is solicited and as a short form where numbers of respondents will be larger; the narrative and the quantitative aspects are complementary.
  • It has been designed to apply upon completion when memories are fresh and the knowledge still current; it can also be applied at any point in the future or re-applied as a comparative measure of time dependent impacts.
  • In this way it can be applied today as a current measure of impact and simultaneously as a measure of positioning for future prospective impacts – as assessed by those most involved.
  • This is why it is described as a preliminary baseline impact measurement tool that captures expectations as well as examples.
  • Impact analysis is not the same as an evaluation but may provide needed input especially if baseline data has been collected during or just after completion since most evaluations occur much later.

The Impact Measurement Instruments

The deployment was quite straight forward as follows:

TFCI described the development process and demonstrated the two forms of the impact measurement instrument to the CFIA-led Fore-Can team. The project leader first sent the long form to 54 potential participants – of whom four declined to participate and four responded with many comments plus scoring. The short form was then sent to all, and ten more responses were received – mostly just with scoring of the 50+ variables; based upon the short notice and lack of solicitation before emails were sent, it is positive that 14 responses in total were received out of 50 potential ones. With more advance preparation, this rate of 28% could easily be doubled. TFCI then managed a dual analysis – combining the quantitative and the qualitative responses.

The Measures

The actual measurement, distributed amongst several different lenses (or measure groupings), consists of a total of 54 measures. The first lens or level of impact interest is in terms of general role effectiveness: wherein foresight is seen as generally playing or performing as many as five roles to differing degrees;

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The second set of impact measures, lens or grouping, consists of several general benefits, as perceived main-ly by those directly involved. As the impact data base and diversity of cases grows, differing patterns of pro-tagonist and stakeholder appreciation may emerge.

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A third set of measures is obtained by using a success factor lens, which is especially relevant for foresight process designers and planners:
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A fourth set of lenses consists of seeing foresight main-ly as a macro or meta process, focused on foresight as essentially a learning process and that each foresight project educates someone, and usually all participants. Here the evaluation team collected testimonials, anec-dotes, personal stories etc. In the category “training & skills development” the evaluators acknowledged that foresight is often motivated by sponsors wanting to strengthen readiness, resilience and preparedness skills.
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These categories also give credit to the notion that fore-sight is a key tool for risk assessment and the man-agement of uncertainty.

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And finally, foresight is closely aligned with design and planning. Accordingly, the participants of the evaluation had the opportunity to give account of the changes induced by the foresight exercise such if their organisa-tion achieved new strengths, there was any evidence of foresight in adopted priorities or of new directions with foresight-derived origins.

Alignment with Policy Cycle

Further, in the impact design, three groups of measures were developed – related to successive stages of the policy cycle: pre-policy; policy implementation and post policy. Here the participants had to give a score (# score represents average out of 5 including all scores other than no response).

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The Response

Overall, these preliminary impact results indicate that the project had both a significant impact on participants from a present time vantage point and a well-positioned potential for future impact as expressed by the clear and consistent trend in the results toward impact endorsement in most of the variables examined. The conclusion to be drawn is not only that the project was quite successful in operational terms, but also that its full impact may only be known some years hence, given the strong prospects for future impact that were cited by most respondents.

The lists of the top and bottom five impact elements provide a snapshot both of domains where there is strength or weakness but also reflect a high degree of alignment amongst the respondents. Also of note is that 2/5 of the highest and lowest impacts are from the critical success factors elements (questions # 6-13), and this suggests that the CSF list is a key differentiator of impact – as was intended by Calof and Smith when they undertook their study in 2007.

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Room for Improvements

The findings and the comments together present a consistent picture of a project that was both successful in achieving its intended near-term objectives and is well positioned for future impact and development opportunities. The ratings questions worked well to elicit stakeholder differentiation, which is normally regarded as indicative of a good engagement process, and many of the excellent comments reinforce this.

Because of the clear and generally enthusiastic responses, prospects for continued support from the participants for follow-up activities appear positive.

The combination of a long form and short form for impact assessment was viable, but both formats could be improved. The long format should be tailored to interviews, with some additional guidance provided. While it worked very well to elicit substantive commentary, it clearly was too daunting in terms of the time commitment required for most, particularly in that the impact analysis was an unanticipated additional time commitment for all stakeholders. Given the generally responsive attitudes, it is reasonable to assume that with more lead time, improved instruments, structured impact discussions built into the last meeting and a clear link to next stage development ideas, a response rate of over 60% can be anticipated – double what was received with almost no advance notice and no context preparation. The short format worked very well but likely missed a relatively easy opportunity to obtain short commentary on each of the eight sections of enquiry – thus enabling participants to elaborate the basis for their scores. The next version of the impact instruments will embody these improvements.

Overall, the post project preliminary impact baseline measurement has been very productive: baseline data and a set of premises for future development and evaluation/assessment have been established, and much of the impact experience has been captured in comments and scores that validate the benefits of the project – notably while still vivid and current.

Key Issues Raised Relevant to Policymaking

The main implication is that policy authorities can now have access to a reliable interim foresight impact measurement instrument aligned with stages of the policy cycle – and as experience accumulates with its application, governments can begin to benchmark their foresight project impacts against other projects, nations, fields etc.

Finally, the measures used for examining foresight impacts could be equally applied to most policy staging – so that at least the perception of potential impacts of policies could be measured during the development process rather than waiting for full implementation – when it is likely too late to adjust them.

Authors: Jack Smith, TFCI Canada Inc. and Telfer School of Management, University of Ottawa, Canada. (JESMITH@TELFER.UOTTAWA.CA)
Sponsors: Canadian Food Inspection Agency
Type: FORE-Can: national foresight project on animal health and food security – measurement phase
Organizer: Dr. Shane Renwick (CFIA SHANE.RENWICK@INSPECTION.GC.)
Duration: 2011
Budget: € 10,000
Time Horizon: 2011
Date of Brief: July 2012

Download EFP Brief 249_Measuring Impact of Foresights

Sources and References

Jonathan Calof, Jack E. Smith, (2012) “Foresight impacts from around the world: a special issue”, foresight, Vol. 14 Iss: 1, pp.5 – 14

EFP Brief No. 248: Drivers, Trends and Grand Challenges in Security

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

This brief gives an overview of the recent trends, drivers and ‘grand challenges’ in the area of security as they were iden-tified in the mapping and analysis of the 2nd EFP Mapping Report on Security Futures (Amanatidou et al., 2012). These findings were compiled from 16 different forward-looking activities (FLA), representing four types of FLA, namely: fore-sight, impact assessment, horizon scanning and forecasting. The selected FLA offer an interesting and complementary mix of national views and European perspectives.

Key global and European Security Issues

The concept of security has changed fundamentally over the last 25 years. The end of the cold war accompanied by a shift in global power distribution, failing states due to corruption, crime and religious fanaticism, risk of climate change and the interconnectedness of global hotspots giving rise to cyber-crime make the range of security challenges we are facing today and in the near future.

However, there is no clear separation between drivers, trends and ‘grand challenges’. The analysis of the original sources is not of a generic type but focuses on the security perspective. Some issues are mentioned in more than one group (as both trend and challenge, for instance) while some clustering would also make sense. This is attempted in this brief.

Globalisation is a major driver of evolutions with significant implications for security. Globalisation is likely to raise the level of interdependence between states and individuals within the globalised economy. Resources, trade, capital and intellectual property rely on complex networks of physical and virtual infrastructure that are likely to be vulnerable to physical disruption or cyber-attacks by multiple actors. Consequently, increasing dependency on this infrastructure, and the global supply chains that underpin globalisation, will leave the global economy vulnerable to disruption (DCDC 2010).

One of the main trends mentioned in the security FLAs is the emergence of new centres of power and the consequent redistribution of global power (EU-GRASP, NIC 2008). Associated to this is the shift of power to Asia as a major trend. In particular, the world of 2030 will be diffusely multipolar and polycentric. Polycentrism will be accompanied by an economic power shift toward Asia where over half of the world’s population will be concentrated by 2030. China is projected to be the largest economic power, and India will continue to rise. Both countries will face major structural challenges, however. Brazil may become a successful example of sustainable development during the next two decades. Russia and Japan will lose the great power status they enjoyed in the twentieth century (ESPAS 2012).

A constellation of rising middle powers, including Indonesia, Turkey and South Africa, will become ever more prominent (NIC 2008). The international system that is likely to emerge as a result of all these shifts will probably mix balance-of-power politics and multilateralism, with states making issue-by-issue shifts and alliances. This will generate a higher level of unpredictability in international relations and make it harder to attain a broad consensus even on matters requiring urgent global action (ESPAS 2012). This shift of global power is likely to result in a period of instability in international relations, accompanied by the possibility of intense competition between major powers as there will be several states and institutions competing for regional and global influence, cooperating and competing within the international community (DCDC 2010).

The grand challenges addressed in the security FLAs are climate change, scarcities, global inequalities, changing demographics and migration.

Climate change has a central position in the analysis of trends and challenges. Temperature increases are likely to lead to significant environmental change that may, for example, include desertification in the Saharan margins and changes to rainfall distribution patterns within the monsoon belt of the Arabian Sea and South Asia. The frequency and intensity of extreme weather events will change, possibly with severe impact on low-lying coastal regions. Rapid glacial melt, particularly in the Himalayas, may exacerbate water management problems in China, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Disease carriers, such as malarial mosquitoes, are likely to spread into previously temperate zones (DCDC 2010).

Special reference is being made to the consequences of climate change affecting living standards and public safety by exacerbating water and food scarcity with environmental degradation expected to continue to provoke humanitarian disasters, including desertification and floods of increasing magnitude. The severest impact will be felt in China, South Asia and the Sahel where millions of people will be displaced; but no region of the world will be spared (ESPAS 2012).

Scarcity in energy, food and fresh water resources is also separately addressed in relation to the social unrest and conflicts they may cause. The frequency, scale and duration of humanitarian crises are likely to increase. Many states, including China and India, are likely to become more dependent on food imports to feed their large and increasingly affluent populations. A shift in agricultural patterns and the distribution of grain growing areas, coupled with the rise in animal and plant diseases, is likely to disrupt food production, resulting in increased migration. However, improvements and efficiencies in agricultural production are likely to meet much of the increased demand, given likely scientific advances that develop high-yield, disease resistant crop strains, combined with better land usage and improved irrigation. Humanitarian crises due to water scarcity and related food and health emergencies may become recurrent, particularly in some parts of Africa. Competition for resources is likely to exacerbate tensions and trigger conflicts. Energy crises will heighten the sense that the world is entering an ‘age of scarcity’, putting the prevailing model of development into question (ESPAS 2012).

Inequalities of opportunities is another grand challenge due to globalisation and increased access to more readily and cheaply available telecommunications. This type of inequality is likely to be a significant source of grievance, possibly resulting in an increased incidence of conflict. However, states that experience lower birth rates and increased longevity are likely to benefit from a growing workforce and a falling dependency ratio. The result is a ‘demographic dividend’, which can produce a virtuous cycle of growth (DCDC 2010).

Demographic trends are also mentioned among the grand challenges as possible causes of tensions. Demographic trends may fuel instability especially in the Middle East, Central Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. The developing world will account for most of the growth, remaining relatively youthful, in contrast to the developed world and China, which will experience little population growth and undergo significant increases in median age. In the West, however, ageing is likely to lead to policies to employ the ‘younger old’. This cultural shift may yield a second demographic dividend leading to a lower demand for migrant workers and decreasing the social welfare burden. (DCDC 2010) The populations of several youth-bulge states are projected to remain on rapid growth trajectories. Unless employment conditions change dramatically in parlous youth-bulge states, such as Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan and Yemen, these countries will remain ripe for continued instability and state failure (NIC 2008).

Nevertheless, populations in many affluent societies are likely to decline, encouraging economic migration from less wealthy regions. Environmental pressures, economic incentives and political instability will continue to drive population movement from afflicted regions. Conflict and crises will also continue to displace large numbers of people. Such movement is likely to occur in regions of sub-Saharan Africa and Asia (DCDC 2010).

In terms of responses to humanitarian crises, we will witness a world characterised by the diffusion of power. Meeting the challenges of human development will depend increasingly on non-state actors, be they private companies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), or philanthropic institutions. Non-state actors, in particular national and transnational civil society networks and private corporations, will play a critical role in the coming decades. Their power and influence will be greater than that of many states and may lead to new forms of governance and civic action. But not all contributions by private actors will be positive: extremist non-state actors are likely to present a threat to the well-being of human communities (ESPAS 2012).

The rising power of non-state actors vis-à-vis the state is a central theme examined from several perspectives. Concurrent with the shift in power among nation-states, the relative power of various non-state actors—including businesses, tribes, religious organisations and criminal networks—is increasing. The global political coalition of non-state actors plays a crucial role in securing a new worldwide climate change agreement. In this new connected world of digital communications, growing middle classes and transnational interest groups, politics is no longer local and domestic, and international agendas become increasingly interchangeable (NIC 2008).

The impacts from the empowerment of individual and non-state actors are addressed. In democratic societies, new forms of protest and anti-establishment politics may emerge in response to a growing expectations gap, deepening income disparities and the power shifts that are limiting the action of countries that have been used to acting as major global players. From the security perspective, it is expected that over the next two decades the cyber sphere is likely to become an arena of conflict and tension between states of all political stripes and also between individuals or private companies.

The examination of the role of the individual in future societies goes even further, indicating that the citizens of 2030 will be much more aware of being part of a single human community in a highly interconnected world. This may signal the rise of a new ‘age of convergence.’ Democratic aspirations will tend to be perceived as compatible with, even as facilitating, a greater awareness of national and sub-national cultural identities (ESPAS 2012).

The role of women is also examined. Over the next 20 years, the increased entry and retention of women in the workplace may continue to mitigate the economic impacts of global aging. Examples as disparate as Sweden and Rwanda indicate that countries with relatively large numbers of politically active women place greater importance on societal issues such as healthcare, the environment and economic development. If this trend continues over the next 15-20 years, as is likely, an increasing number of countries could favour social programs over military ones. Better governance also could be a spinoff benefit, as a high number of women in parliament or senior government positions correlates with lower corruption (NIC 2008).

The current economic crisis is referred to as a driver that may reverse the trend of decreasing inequalities due to the emergence of a middle class in Asia, Latin America and also Africa. Overall, however, inequality will tend to increase and poverty and social exclusion will still affect a significant proportion of the world population (DCDC 2010). At the same time, increasing social and economic pressures may undermine liberal institutions and the long-term prospects for greater democratisation (NIC 2008).

The proliferation of modern weapons’ technologies will generate instability and shift the military balance of power in various regions. Nuclear weapons are likely to proliferate. Terrorist groups are likely to acquire and use chemical, biological and radiological or nuclear (CBRN) weapons possibly through organised crime groups (DCDC 2010), but a major conflagration involving CBRN weapons is not likely to happen over the next two decades (ESPAS 2012, NIC 2008).

The possibility of inter-state conflict cannot be discounted entirely. Looking ahead to 2030, the border tensions between China and India over water resources have the greatest potential to disrupt international peace. Conflicts are also foreseen due to current tensions between Algeria and Morocco over the Western Sahara, the problems emerging as a result of the possible collapse of North Korea, and unresolved conflicts in Eastern Europe. Tensions over raw materials may also cause conflict and require new forms of crisis management. Intra-African and trans-regional forced migration due to economic factors, conflicts and environmental degradation will tend to grow. Wars fuelled by nationalism and extremist identity politics, and the associated dangers of mass murder and genocide, will be among the core security challenges of the coming decades (ESPAS 2012).

Despite the emergence of a possible ‘age of convergence’, ideologically driven conflicts are another form that continues to exist. The social tensions caused by intrusive global culture are likely to be most acute amongst those who seek to maintain their indigenous and traditional customs and beliefs, and feel threatened by changes. This is likely to lead to an increasing number of individuals and groups forming around single issues that differentiate them from wider society and becoming marginalised and possibly radicalised. When such conditions exist, particularly when exacerbated by high levels of marginalisation and social exclusion, sections of the populace will develop grievances that may lead to extremism (DCDC 2010).

Urbanisation is also seen as an important trend. By 2040, around 65%, or 6 billion, of the world’s population will live in urban areas, attracted by access to jobs, resources and security. The greatest increases in urbanisation will occur in Africa and Asia. As up to 2 billion people may live in slums, these areas are likely to become centres of criminality and disaffection and may also be focal points for extremist ideologies. Rapid urbanisation is likely to lead to an increased probability of urban, rather than rural, insurgency (DCDC 2010).

In addition, megacities are also highlighted as possible sources of conflicts as well as important future players. By 2030, the fifty greatest megacities in the world will concentrate more resources than most small and middle-income states, and they will demand more autonomy and exert greater power, even taking on a more prominent international role. Preserving humane living conditions in the world’s megacities will be the major challenge facing some states. Cities will also absorb most national security resources (ESPAS 2012).

Trends in innovation and technology are also being examined especially for solutions to the major trends and challenges mentioned above. Technology will provide partial solutions for both adapting to and mitigating the effects of climate change. However, it is unlikely that, by 2040, technology will have produced low emission energy sources capable of providing the majority of the energy demanded. Nevertheless, advances in carbon capture technology are likely to be significant, allowing fossil fuel usage to continue in a limited emission regime using more coal. Despite this, resource competition, carbon pricing, increased energy demand and the limitations imposed by climate change are likely to increase the cost of fossil fuels, stimulating the development of cleaner, renewable energy solutions and nuclear power (DCDC 2010).

However, from a security perspective, technology will also facilitate the organisation of protests and high impact terrorist attacks. The future global environment will be defined by physical, social and virtual networks. The physical system will consist of complex interconnections, including extensive resource pipelines, communication cables, satellites and travel routes. The virtual networks will consist of communications servers linking individuals and objects, many of which will be networked through individual Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. Avenues for protest and opportunities for new and old forms of crime will emerge and may allow hostile groups to form and rapidly create effect (DCDC 2010).

In terms of defence technologies, many states are likely to develop ballistic and cruise missiles capable of delivering CBRN weapons as well as conventional payloads (DCDC 2010). The majority of the technological breakthroughs are likely to be driven by the commercial sector, although technological adaptation in defence will continue at a rapid pace. Nonlethal, directed energy weapons (DEW), space and cyber technologies will be available to a wide variety of actors, both state and non-state (DCDC 2010).

Finally, there is growing demand for multilateral policies in the global and regional arenas for an increasing number of issues from the fight against climate change to disease control. There is, therefore, need for more multilateralism and, arguably, for a larger European role (EU-GRASP).

The Way Forward in European Security Research

In several studies, recommendations address a number of grand challenges from a security perspective, for instance, in the field of energy, the environment or migration. FORESEC, for example, recommends developing a common EU energy security strategy – energy policy is still driven by national-level approaches. FORESEC also recommends a dialogue with the security and intelligence services across the EU as useful input in formulating counter-terrorism legislation at the EU level.

EU-GRASP places special emphasis on the role of the EU in a multi-polar world and recommends that the EU adapt to changing global multilateralism. The EU must be steady in promoting multilateralism as an ideal but extremely flexible in its multilateral practice; it must find ways to engage with legitimate sub-national, multinational and transnational non-state actors and their networks.

In its recommendations, the NATO Security Jam study (Dowdall 2012) focuses on security issues of global concern, managing relations with emerging powers such as establishing a NATO-China Council (NCC) similar to the NATO-Russia Council.

SANDERA produced a long list of suggestions for further research. One suggestion regards the analysis of the portfolio of policy instruments at the EU level in view of defining the potential for strengthening European synergy in defence research.

FORESEC repeats the importance of researching certain definitional and analytical aspects of security (i.e. on societal aspects of security, unintentional threats, external dimension of security and its link to internal security, cultural aspects of terrorism, societal resilience and cultural and social identity). In addition, it suggests assessing impacts of certain challenges on security, i.e. vulnerability of societies in the EU, migration and demographic shifts and security, climate change and security, urbanisation and security.

EFP Mapping Results represent a major step forward in the successful implementation of a new mapping framework (SMART Futures Jigsaw) capable of providing customised forward-looking research and innovation policy intelligence on a wide range of sectors, such as security. Both the Mapping Environment (a web-based platform available online at www.mappingforesight.eu) and our mapping work (1st, 2nd and 3rd EFP Mapping Reports) demonstrate the commitment of EFP to the mapping of FLA practices, players and outcomes. Thus, our FLA mapping work will almost certainly continue beyond EFP.

Authors: Effie Amanatidou         effie.amanatidou@mbs.ac.uk                   Rafael Popper             rafael.popper@mbs.ac.uk                         Thomas Teichler thomas.teichler@technopolis-group.com
Sponsors: n.a.
Type: Thematic overview on security
Organizer: MIoIR/MBS, University of Manchester
Duration: n.a.
Budget: n.a.
Time Horizon: 2020-2050
Date of Brief: December 2012

Download EPF Brief No. 248_Drivers, Trends and Grand Challenges in Security

Sources and References

Amanatidou et al. (2012): 2nd EFP Mapping Report on Security Futures. Towards a Fully-Fledged Futures Mapping: Results of Mapping 16 FLA on Security, available for download at http://www.foresight-platform.eu/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Deliverable_2-4_2nd_EFP_Mapping_Report_Security_Futures.pdf

DCDC – Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre (2010): Global Strategic Trends – Out to 2040, available for download at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/33717/GST4_v9_Feb10.pdf

Dowdall, Jonathan (2012): The new global security landscape. 10 Recommendations from the 2012 Security Jam, available for download at http://www.securitydefenceagenda.org

ESPAS – European Strategy and Policy Analysis System (2012): Global Trends 2030 – Citizens in an interconnected and polycentric world, available for download at http://www.espas.europa.eu/home/

EU-GRASP, http://www.eugrasp.eu/, last access 15 January 2013

NIC – National Intelligence Council (2008): Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World, available for download at http://www.dni.gov/files/documents/Newsroom/Reports%20and%20Pubs/2025_Global_Trends_Final_Report.pdf

EFP Brief No. 240: BMBF Foresight

Friday, December 21st, 2012

The aim of the BMBF Foresight process that ran from 2007-2009 was to identify long-term priorities for German research and innovation policy with an emphasis on crosscutting systemic perspectives. The foresight process was meant to complement the German High-Tech Strategy, which had defined mission-oriented priority fields with a medium-term horizon. After the finalisation of the foresight process in 2009, an implementation phase with several interacting activities was launched in order to feed the results into other strategic processes. As a next step, BMBF set up an embedded, continuously learning foresight system with dedicated phases that will be repeated by all subsequent processes. Within this framework, the second foresight cycle was launched in early 2012.

Complementing the High-Tech Strategy

Before the first cycle of BMBF Foresight started in 2007, the German High-Tech Strategy (BMBF 2012a) had established a number of priority fields for research and innovation policy with a time horizon of 5-10 years. The foresight process was launched by the BMBF strategy department with the following main objectives:

· complement the High-Tech Strategy with a longer-term perspective on emerging technologies and potential priorities,

· identify emerging issues across established research and innovation fields,

· explore in which areas strategic partnerships might be required.

At this point in time, BMBF had not carried out any overarching foresight process since the FUTUR process (Giesecke 2005), which had been finalised in 2005. As some actors within BMBF had a rather critical view of FUTUR, an important additional objective of the new foresight process was to (re-)establish trust and confidence in foresight within the ministry. Accordingly, high emphasis was placed on communication within the ministry and early-on involvement of all BMBF departments that were potentially affected by the foresight outcomes. The foresight process was accompanied by a process and impact evaluation carried out by the Institut für Technologie und Arbeit (ITA).

Adopting a Technology Push Approach

As described in detail by Kerstin Cuhls in the preceding brief No.174 and in recent publications (Cuhls et al. 2009a), the methodology of the foresight process combined several elements. The most prominent approaches were

· environmental scanning including a literature survey and bibliometric analysis and

· expert interaction through interviews, workshops and a national online survey.

In parallel, a monitoring panel composed of international top experts was interviewed twice in the course of the process.

As requested by the ministry, the foresight process adopted a ‘technology push’ approach. In the first phase in particular, the process concentrated on identifying emerging technologies with long-term relevance to the German economy and society within the established realms of research and innovation. The criteria to assess ‘relevance’ were established in interaction with the ministry.

In the second phase, the emphasis of the foresight process was placed on a second set of objectives: the identification of key issues emerging across these established technology fields. For this purpose, the results emerging from the technology push analysis were systematically reviewed and mirrored against major societal challenges such as sustainability and health. In this way, the seven ‘new future fields’ were developed as described in the previous brief. These fields are characterised by a highly dynamic development at the interface of emerging solutions and societal demand.

Sharpening the Research Dimensions

Participants

In line with the science and technology push orientation of the foresight process, the participants were mainly research and technology experts, however, from diverse organisational and professional backgrounds. Along with the numerous national experts, ca. 20 highly renowned international experts from the key science and technology fields under investigation were involved through the international monitoring panel. In one of the conferences that focused on innovation policy instruments, practitioners and researchers in the realm of innovation policy were gathered. In the final phase, when developing the ‘new future fields’, more and more social scientists were involved. So, for instance, in the case of ‘humantechnology interaction’, a workshop with philosophers and sociologists, on the one hand, and engineers and programmers, on the other, was carried out to sharpen the research dimensions (Beckert et al. 2011). Finally, there was intense interaction with actors from various BMBF
departments particularly in the later phases of the process in order to validate and enrich the foresight findings.

Intended Users

The first cycle of the BMBF Foresight process addressed two main user groups. First of all, the process sought to maximise its usefulness to the various departments within BMBF that are responsible for steering the BMBF support to research and innovation in their respective domains. The main benefits envisaged for the departments were the possibility to mirror their own perceptions against the foresight findings, gain an overview of each other’s activities, develop overarching perspectives, and identify potential linkages and possible blind spots. Secondly, the foresight was meant to serve the wider innovation system by providing long-term anticipatory intelligence for orienting strategy building within and among diverse organisations.

Crosscutting New Future Fields

The tangible output of the foresight process consisted of two core reports (Cuhls et al. 2009b and c). One report listed the selected themes with high long-term relevance in fourteen established research and innovation fields. The other report spelled out the seven crosscutting ‘new future fields’ and provided an analysis of key actors in the German innovation system as well as recommendations for policy action within these fields.

Dissemination

The reports were first disseminated within the BMBF and later widely throughout the innovation system starting with a large public conference. Within the ministry, the uptake of the findings was actively supported through dedicated workshops where the project team members presented the findings and discussed the implications with the departments.

Implementing Strategic Dialogues

In order to further facilitate the uptake, two follow-up projects were launched: The first was the ‘strategic dialogues’ where innovation system actors who had been identified in the foresight report jointly discussed options for implementing the findings. In one case (Production-Consumption 2.0), several other ministries, such as the ones dealing with the environment or food and agriculture, were involved in this debate. In a one-day workshop with more than 30 participants, diverse stakeholders debated the transdisciplinary research around the transition towards sustainable production and consumption that had been proposed by the foresight process. Secondly, the ‘monitoring system’ was set up in order to keep track of the evolution of the new future fields and inform the ministry in case further action was needed.

Direct Impact

Within the ministry, the uptake of the foresight results differed according to the type of outcome. In case of the future topics in the established fields, there was initial reluctance within the ministry’s departments as these findings seemed to trespass on their own domains of activity. In several cases, however, the departments perceived the availability of findings from an independent process as a mirror for their own strategic thinking as useful. Several of the topics proposed by the foresight
process were taken up by subsequent BMBF funding initiatives.

In the case of the ‘new future fields’, there was a general appreciation of the ‘bird’s eye view’ across established domains of ministerial activity that the process provided. Several attempts were made to take up the proposed perspectives. As the new fields did not match the existing organisational structures of BMBF, the implementation was not straightforward. This, however, was seen as an asset rather than a problem by the strategic department as the crosscutting perspectives were viewed as long-term guidance for strategic thinking within the ministry rather than an agenda for immediate implementation.

In case of the future field ‘human-machine cooperation’, a new department was created in order to pursue the transdisciplinary perspective proposed by the foresight process. For ‘ProductionConsumption 2.0’, a few smaller seed projects were launched to explore some of the core issues. In both cases, several aspects inspired the BMBF programmes in domains such as production,
environment, security and ICT. Finally, several of the core findings of the foresight process were fed into the strategic debate around the renewal of the High-Tech Strategy, which was taking place in parallel.

In addition, several of the foresight’s suggestions entered the strategic debates in the wider German innovation system. The project team received numerous requests from the governments of the Länder (German states), research institutes and companies to discuss the implications of the ‘new future fields’ on their own strategies.

At the European level, the ‘new future fields’ were recognised with interest as well. At the time, the European Union was seeking to orient its research and innovation activities towards the grand challenges of our time in a systemic manner. In a special event that was organised by the Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) foresight group, findings from several foresight processes that sought to connect key technologies and grand challenges in a systemic manner were reviewed, among them the German case (EC 2011). In the context of an EU expert group on the future of Europe 2030/2050, suggestions for such systemic priorities from several countries were compared (Warnke 2012). The review revealed that the German ‘new future fields’ were among the most far-reaching suggestions for integrating technological and societal dynamics into systemic ‘transformative priorities’. At the same time, it was noted that exercises in other countries, such as the ‘Netherlands Horizon
Scan’, had defined some areas that were well in line with some of the ‘new future fields’, such as sustainable living spaces and human-technology cooperation. Nevertheless, the analysis suggested that there are no ‘onesize-fits-all’ systemic priorities as each cultural contextrequires its own specific framing of the issues at stake.

Furthermore, the foresight process attracted considerable international attention, partly due to the fact that there had been substantial involvement of international experts through the monitoring panel and two conferences with international participation. After the process was finished, several countries around the world expressed their interest in both content and methodology.

Finally, within the academic community concerned with the governance of research and innovation and forward-looking activities, the German foresight experience was widely published and presented. In particular, the challenge of generating truly systemic sociotechnical perspectives and feeding such perspectives into governance structures, which are organised according
to their own rationale, created wide interest and debate (cf. e.g. Warnke 2010).

Indirect Impact

As outlined above, paving the ground for embedding foresight into BMBF strategy building was an important objective of the process. The evaluation report confirmed the substantial progress made in this respect. Several actors in the ministry felt that they had benefitted from the foresight process and expressed their renewed openness and positive attitude towards foresight approaches.

Follow-up: Embedding Foresight

As a consequence of the perceived success of the first foresight process and in following up on the recommendations of the evaluation team, the ministry decided to establish foresight within the ministry as a continuous anticipatory learning process.
For this purpose, a ‘foresight system’ was designed and implemented (BMBF 2012 c). This system cyclically evolves through the following phases: scanning, analysis, implementation and preparation of the next cycle. The previous foresight process was considered a pilot for the first cycle.

Furthermore, it was decided that the second cycle should focus on the demand side of research and innovation and therefore primarily explore relevant societal changes that could then be linked to the technological trajectories suggested by the first cycle.

Based on this framework, a call for proposals for the second foresight cycle was launched. A consortium of the VDI Technologiezentrum and Fraunhofer ISI was selected to carry out the project, which started in May 2012 with a new ‘search phase’. Again, the project is being accompanied by an evaluation process conducted by ITA to keep track of lessons learned and to optimise the communication processes. This time, a board comprised of actors from key organisations of the German
innovation system has been set up to accompany the foresight process. From the beginning, the approach and findings are discussed with the BMBF departments on a regular basis. A separate EFP brief will be issued in order to describe this new process in detail.

Download EFP Brief No. 240_BMBF Foresight.

Sources and References

Beckert, Bernd; Gransche, Bruno; Warnke, Philine and Blümel, Clemens (2011): Mensch-Technik-Grenzverschiebung Perspektiven für ein neues Forschungsfeld. Ergebnisse des Workshops am 27. Mai 2009 in Karlsruhe im Rahmen des BMBF-Foresight Prozesses ISI-Schriftenreihe Innovationspotenziale. Karlsruhe

BMBF (2012a) http://www.hightech-strategie.de/en/350.php (accessed 15 November 2012)

BMBF (2012b) http://www.bmbf.de/en/18384.php (Foresight Cycle 1) (accessed 15 November 2012)

BMBF (2012c) http://www.bmbf.de/en/18378.php (Foresight System) (accessed 15 November 2012)

BMBF (2012d) http://www.bmbf.de/en/18380.php (Foresight Cycle 2) (accessed 15 November 2012)

Cuhls, Kerstin; Beyer-Kutzner, Amina; Bode, Otto; Ganz, Walter and Warnke, Philine (2009a): The BMBF Foresight Process, in Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 76, p. 1187–1197

Cuhls, Kerstin; Ganz, Walter and Warnke, Philine (eds.) (2009b): Foresight-Prozess im Auftrag des BMBF. Zukunftsfelder neuen Zuschnitts, IRB Verlag, Karlsruhe/ Stuttgart. http://www.bmbf.de/en/18384.php

Cuhls, Kerstin; Ganz, Walter and Warnke, Philine (eds.) (2009c): Foresight-Prozess im Auftrag des BMBF. Etablierte Zukunftsfelder und ihre Zukunftsthemen, IRB Verlag, Karlsruhe/ Stuttgart.

European Commission (2011): EUR 24796–European forward-looking activities: Building the future of ‘Innovation Union’ and ERA. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union http://ec.europa.eu/research/socialsciences/books50_en.html

Giesecke, Susanne (2005) Futur – The German Research Dialogue. EFMN Foresight Brief No. 1.

Warnke, Philine (2012): EFP Brief No. 211: Towards Transformative Innovation Priorities, http://www.foresightplatform.eu/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/EFP-Brief-No.-211_Towards-Transformative-Innovation-Priorities.pdf (accessed 15 November 2012)

Warnke, Philine (2010): Foresight as tentative governance instrument-evidence from Germany. In: International Conference ‘Tentative Governance in Emerging Science and Technology – Actor Constellations, Institutional Arrangements & Strategies’, 28/29 October 2010, Conference Booklet, p. 113.