Shared visions, common research futures
A great deal of experience on Foresight has been collected over the last 10-20 years. There is a small but highly active community of researchers and practitioners continuously learning from experience and advancing the approach. However, newcomers embarking on Foresight or thinking of launching Foresight find it difficult to access the required knowledge as there has been little systematic attempt to collect and write up experience.
The FOR-LEARN learning cycle
The FOR-LEARN project is part of the second element of the European Science and Technology Foresight Knowledge Sharing Platform activities. It aims at facilitating mutual learning between Foresight practitioners, users and newcomers. It is developed by the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS) of the Joint Research Centre (DG JRC) on a mandate from DG Research (DG RTD-K2) to:
- Consolidate European expertise on Foresight;
- Improve access to existing Foresight knowledge, know-how and experience;
- Provide support to practitioners undertaking Foresight exercise, being it local, regional, sectoral, national or trans-national;
- Promote mutual learning among foresight practitioners and users;
- Address current research issues in Foresight.
FOR-LEARN THREE MAIN COMPONENTS:
- An interactive Foresight guide for newcomers in Foresight (codification, assessment, dissemination of the existing Foresight knowledge and know-how (on the web).
- A web-based service to provide support to practitioners planning to start a Foresight exercise or already running one.
- Mutual learning workshops to reinforce the learning cycle among Foresight professionals
FOR-LEARN online foresight guide
The Online Foresight Guide provides general information about various aspects of Foresight such as “what it is” and “what it can or can’t do for you” …. It also provides users with clear guidelines on the various stages and necessary steps to design and carry out a Foresight exercise (including aspects such as managing time, enrolling participants, costs and funding, communication strategy…) and a first level support to practitioners.
The guide builds on knowledge collected through literature screening and interviews with Foresight experts. The editorial choice combines a presentation of robust methodological developments that are illustrated through various case studies. The information is given in a clear easy-to-understand language. Most of the aspects are illustrated by real case examples at different territorial and sectoral levels that emphasising practical information. Although the guide is mainly targeting newcomers on Foresight, it also provides hints on the more academic discussion and references to deepen the subject. On several points supporting documents are provided to download. The guide is a dynamic tool that will be periodically updated until the end of the FOR-LEARN Project.
FOR-LEARN query system
The Online Query System provides individual and targeted support to Foresight practitioners, users or managers who can contact the FOR-LEARN team with any Foresight-related question. It functions as support to the development of the ‘mutual learning pool’ by enabling the identification of Foresight’s current needs and knowledge gaps to be tackled further on through targeted workshops. The team will be answering the queries either through a direct answer or by providing other sources or contacts. The Query System has been active for the last three months.
FOR-LEARN mutual learning workshop
The FOR-LEARN mutual learning workshops are addressing the impact of Foresight exercises and the trade-off between the roles of Foresight as informing policy-makers and as building networks among stakeholders. Three mutual learning workshops have taken place so far in the framework of the FOR-LEARN project:
- “Impact of Regional Foresight”, Brussels, 20th October 2005
- “Support to the Romanian national foresight exercise”, Bucharest, 1st July 2005
- “Foresight in the policy-making system ‘policy facilitating’ vs. ‘policy informing’ – Inherent tension or two sides of the coin?”, Sevilla, 2nd of December 2005
In 2006 four workshops are foreseen.
At each event, an issue of “knowledge gap” is identified either through the query system itself or through interviews among Foresight practitioners and users. These issues can be related to the rationale, the design, the running and/or the follow up of a Foresight exercise. The Mutual Learning Workshops can also be designed to deal with the needs of specific teams.
SUPPORT TO THE ROMANIAN NATIONAL FORESIGHT EXERCISE
This first FOR-LEARN Mutual Learning workshop was considered as a pilot exercise to test the approach for future bridging services between newcomers in need of support and more experienced managers/practitioners/experts.
What has been learnt so far?
- The usefulness of the workshop was much less in transmitting targeted information than in providing a space for the team members to discuss their different perceptions of the project.
- Like in Foresight itself the benefit of the process lies more in mutual learning rather than in the exchange of explicit information
- For a country like Romania where a huge transition effort involving many changes at the same time is envisaged, Foresight is an extremely important instrument to ensure stakeholder commitment to policy decisions. There is a real need to deliver anticipatory intelligence for many factors at once.
- While Foresight is bound to come up with policy recommendations, the development of actual policy instruments is slightly out of scope for Foresight. It should be reflected within the Foresight community how such a task could be linked to Foresight e.g. by linking up with policy planning processes.
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