With all the futurist events planned around the world this summer, we have been thinking about the state of global foresight programs in general. Some countries have formal foresight processes and policies in place, and others do not. We became interested in what goes into a national foresight program, who uses them and which countries are known for their foresight presence. In the process of our research we’ve uncovered a number of historical and current examples. What we enjoyed about this research most is how all the different national foresight issues feed into a much bigger picture of a better world for all.
The following short quiz highlights some of the more interesting facts revealed in our inventory of national foresight programs. See how much you know!
1. Which country’s 2050 vision includes “Development of strong moral obligation” of the populace?
b. Papua New Guinea
d. None of the above
2. Which country’s foresight efforts began in the 1970’s using a series of Delphi surveys?
3. Which country implemented scenario planning for the first time in 2013?
4. Which country can credit the foresight method known as “Backcasting” for its rise to regional prominence as an emerging African nation?
d. none of the above
5. Which country is the subject of scenarios that symbolize an example for how alternative futures workshops can become “a way for people to work with complex problematic situations that they want to transform but cannot transform unilaterally or directly.”
a. South Africa
6. An environmentally-focused foresight program in ____________ working on a 100 year time horizon formed four scenarios: National Enterprise, World Markets, Global Sustainability and Local Stewardship.
b. South Korea
c. United Kingdom
7. Which country, though it lacks a formal office of foresight, utilizes public and independent organisations, “ad-hoc committees and scientific councils who report directly to the ministries”?
8. Which South American country implemented a 2020 vision during the 1990’s but the desired outcome is jeopardized by a failure to address extreme social inequality and widespread corruption?
Bonus Question: Which country recently unveiled a Museum of the Future?
1. The answer is b.Papua New Guinea. The small country set out on a 40 year plan in 2010 to achieve note as an emerging developing country. The vision statement included several other key outcomes. Since then, low crime rates in Papua New Guinea have opened the door for the government to consider abandoning the death penalty; could it be interpreted as a potential “sign post” along the way to a morally evolved society by 2050?
2. The answer is c.Japan. The fifth and most recent Delphi survey rounds held in 2010 look out at 2025. The Japan Delphi surveys offer over 30 years of foresight practice, providing a fertile source of data to understand established foresight programs. According to an article in Technology Analysis & Strategic Management, Japan’s forecast of the fax machine is a key example of successful foresight.
3. The answer is a.India. In July 2013, India’s Planning Commission with the Center for Study of Science, Technology and Policy produced a report with three scenarios called ‘Scenarios: Shaping India’s Future.’ The scenarios are meant to engage citizens and policymakers in conversations about India’s future.
4. The answer is c.Botswana. An African country with low corruption and human rights violations, the nation seems to be achieving its Vision 2016, which was developed in 1997 through a Backcasting exercise that UNDP describes as “Working backwards from a national vision for the year 2016, the document informed decision and policymaking by identifying major challenges and roadblocks, and the strategies required to deal with them.” A nice testament to the effectiveness of foresight tools!
5. The answer is a.South Africa, referring to the Mont Fleur scenarios which were transformative because, “the scenario process enabled participants to create common ground and contributed to establishing mutual understanding,” even post-apartheid South Africa, showing how successful scenarios can be even with opposing sides at the table.
6. The answer is c.United Kingdom. In 2004, the Foresight Flood and Coastal Defense project launched a project looking 30 to 100 years into the future. The outcomes of the project and its resulting report led to changes in environmental policy in the UK. The scenarios are a great example of long-term futures, and how generous time horizons can expand the imagination as well as impact policy.
7. The answer is d.Germany. Germany is an example that “Where less formal or institutionalised regional foresighting is being conducted, research and practice continues to be carried out by independent organisations, academics, practitioners and global communities,” (UNDP).
8. The answer is c.Brazil. Brazil 2020 identified recommendations across 17 areas (education and basic social services, redistribution and poverty-fighting policies, employment policies, regional development and environmental quality, etc.). According to a recent article in Foresight Russia, “Foresight in Brazil is still marked by a dichotomy between discontinuity and the institutionalization of activities that can become embedded explicitly in decision-making and planning processes.” Brazil is yet another valuable case study.
Bonus Question Answer: UAE. The museum is housed in a 3D printed structure and opened in Dubai during 2017.
One noticeable similarity across our national examples is that countries with foresight programs tend to share a common vision that speaks to the need to preserve natural resources, provide effective governance and address technological change, among other societal concerns (education, healthcare, climate, etc.). The examples exhibit considerable crossover in terms of themes for protecting humanity, which affirms that what we care about surpasses national identity—foresight is such a universal phenomenon.
We hope you enjoyed the quiz, and we encourage you to send us information about other national foresight examples that you have worked on or think we should know about.
By Alexandra Whittington, Senior Foresight Researcher