Foundations

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The development of foresight has been fuelled by trends within three disciplines

1. Policy development

Decision-makers have started to recognize the need to broaden the sources of input to policy development. This is partly a reflection of the desire for greater democracy and increased legitimacy for political processes. It also reflects the recognition that knowledge and expertise is diffused more widely and that the world is growing ever more complex, and, therefore, narrow planning cannot be effective.

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2. Strategic planning

There has been increasing dissatisfaction with “rational” planning methods, which are based on the assumption of steady progress in a fairly stable and predictable world. For anyone looking more than a few years ahead, a planning style that acknowledges high levels of uncertainty is essential.

3. Futures studies

There have been a number of important developments in the methods of futures studies. One is a shift from emphasis on predictive approaches to explorative ones. Another is the recognition that “visions” developed in isolation by futures experts have limited impact on decision-makers. If futures studies are to be effective, decision-makers must take part in the process of developing these visions. Drawing on the skills, perspectives and methods of these three broad disciplines, foresight can be used as a powerful decision-shaper.