Foresight cannot solve all a region’s social, economic or political problems and it should not be looked upon as a “quick fix”.
Foresight sets out to generate visions, which will be driven by an understanding of relevant social changes and/or technological developments. Some national and regional exercises have succeeded in achieving quite widespread consensus on these visions. However, the consensus is difficult to achieve in practice and Foresight is not a magic wand able to impose consensus where there are profound underlying disagreements.
A Foresight exercise may provide the information needed (e.g. a list of priorities) for a particular policy to be implemented. But the sorts of longer-term analysis that Foresight involves, and the new networks and capabilities that it can forge, cannot be expected to achieve results overnight. Often the process of interacting around ideas of what opportunities might be seized, how particular challenges might be confronted, etc. will take a long time to produce widely accepted notions of the way forward. The problems the exercise addresses have often matured over many years – effecting significant change is often going to require lengthy preparation and considerable groundwork.
When might Foresight not be the best approach?
• When appropriate key stakeholders cannot be actively engaged with the project.
• When there is no champion in key implementing organisations.
• When there are inadequate resources to complete the project.
• When no clear, precise and agreed scope can be established.
• When there is no possibility of acting on the results.
(Although exploring possible future developments may be very interesting even if there are no concrete links to action, a fully-fledged Foresight exercise is not suitable in this context. Nevertheless, some of the methods described here may still be applicable.)
After deciding that Foresight is the right approach, the next step is a feasibility analysis.