A Foresight exercise usually produces both formal or tangible and informal or intangible outcomes. While formal outcomes are incorporated into products and deliverables, informal outcomes derive from the Foresight process itself.
Formal or tangible outcomes
A formal or tangible outcome or product, is an outcome which has tangible form, for example because it been formalised in one or more documents or (less frequently in the case of Foresight in the public sector) items to be delivered to the client (or sponsor).
A Foresight exercise can produce a wide variety of formal outcomes. Typical tangible “products” are reports, web sites or other types of documents such as films or posters. These outcomes are the result of a systematic process of reasoning about future developments involving a large number of people from different sectors of society. Thus they draw on a wide range of knowledge sources and reflect the diverse reasoning processes of different stakeholders. In many cases, the formal outcome includes recommendations to policy-makers or corporate executives. These kinds of products can be widely disseminated and used as a source for decision making and strategy building by policy organisations or individual citizens.
Formal outcomes from a Foresight exercise typically contain the following elements:
• Scenario descriptions
• Survey results
• Sectoral analyses
• Critical technology lists
• Technology priority lists
• Technology Roadmaps
• Panel documents
• Policy recommendations
• Guiding vision description
Informal or intangible outcomes
An informal or intangible outcome is an effect or result that adds value but which emerge over the course of the Foresight process and cannot be formalised as deliverables. They include:
• Networking, i.e. creating, expanding, mobilising and maintaining networks. In the specific case of Foresight these are normally social and business networks. The emphasis on the role of networking varies between Foresight exercises. It is often considered to be equally important as formal outcomes (if not more) such as reports or recommendations.
• Consensus on future challenges and a shared sense of commitment to certain visions of a desirable future established jointly and shared by people from different sectors and institutions.
• A common understanding of future challenges ensuring a collective awareness of them.
• Development of a Foresight culture by people and organisations. It could even result in new forms of decision-making processes emerging in these organisations; for instance companies might start developing scenarios for their investment projects.
• Changed attitudes and mind sets: Bringing groups of people together to share insights about long-term developments helps to orient people’s thinking towards longer-term issues. They can enrich their own views of desirable and feasible options – and of futures to avoid – by interaction with others.
• The indirect integration of Foresight results into the projects, programmes, strategies and policies of national authorities, regional organisations or companies.
The following table gives an overview of various outcomes which can be expected:
Intangible outcomes are by definition more difficult to identify than formal ones but they are considered of equal or sometimes even greater values than formal products. They can be identified in the course of the evaluation (e.g. identifying “success stories” or “good examples”) which can serve as examples to inspire others to undertake or act on Foresight activities, and which can be useful benchmarking aids to help identify good practice and encourage its widespread use.