What is strategic foresight

Foresight is the discipline of exploring, anticipating and shaping the future to help building and using collective intelligence in a structured, systematic and systemic way to anticipate developments. Strategic foresight, on the other hand, seeks to embed foresight into European Union policy-making.

Strategic Foresight will:

  • anticipate trends, emerging issues, and their potential implications and opportunities in order to draw useful insights for strategic planning, policy-making and preparedness;
  • inform the design of new initiatives and the review of existing ones in line with the revamped Commission Better Regulation toolbox;
  • build collective intelligence in a structured and systematic way to better develop possible transition pathways, prepare the EU to withstand shocks and shape the future we want.

Strategic Foresight is not about predicting the future; it explores different possible futures, alongside the opportunities and challenges they might present. Ultimately, it will help us act in the present to shape the future we want.

Key actors

Vice-President Šefčovič chairs the Commissioners’ Project Group on Better Regulation and Foresight, which provides political steer to the implementation of the strategic foresight mandate in the European Commission. The Secretariat-General and the Joint Research Centre lead the implementation of the mandate (the latter drawing on its internal foresight capacities). The Commission’s Strategic Foresight Network ensures long-term policy coordination between all Directorates-General. The Commission will build close foresight cooperation and alliances with other EU institutions, notably in the context of the European Strategy and Policy Analysis System (ESPAS), reaching out to international partners and launching an EU-wide foresight network to develop partnerships that draw on Member States’ public foresight capabilities, think tanks, academia and civil society. .

Supporting EU policy-making

Strategic Foresight helps improve policy design, develop future-proof strategies and ensure that short-term actions are coherent with long-term objectives by using a number of different techniques, including:

landscape

Horizon scanning: a systematic scan and collection of events and trends, the output being a future-scape or visual mapping of new signals of change

megatrends

Megatrends analysis: analysis and discussion of pattern shifts and interacting trends, the output being a story of the future (singular) and a plan of action

frames

Scenario planning: interactive and iterative process, involving interviews, analysis and modelling, the output being a set of stories of plausible futures, whether we like them or not, and how these might come about

objective

Visioning: identification of a preferred direction, the output being a shared understanding and explicit description of the preferred future and a medium term roadmap detailing specific actions for making progress towards the vision

Strategic foresight will guide the Commission in achieving President von der Leyen’s six headline ambitions by:

  • conducting foresight exercises on forward-looking issues to explore ways to achieve the aspirations outlined in the Commission’s political priorities, analyse key trends and emerging issues and define topics of critical interest for the EU. These exercises will include the publication of an Annual Strategic Foresight Report. Starting from 2021, its preparation will be based on full foresight cycles, which are aimed at guiding the priorities of the annual State of the Union addresses, subsequent Commission Work Programmes and multi-annual programming
  • supporting the Commission’s Work Programme as part of the revised Better Regulation Agenda. Major policy initiatives should be informed by strategic foresight, ensuring that EU policies draw on a clear understanding of future trends and emerging issues, possible scenarios and related challenges and opportunities
  • strengthening the Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme, which identifies opportunities to reduce Europe’s regulatory burden, and informs the assessment of whether existing EU laws remain ‘fit for the future’

Report on Strategic Foresight

This is the first of the Commission’s annual Strategic Foresight Reports. In its Communication ‘Strategic Foresight – Charting the course towards a more resilient Europe’, the Commission presents its strategy to embed strategic foresight into EU policy-making. It discusses first structural lessons learnt from the COVID-19 crisis, and explains how foresight can help strengthen Europe’s long-term resilience in an era of fundamental and rapid change. It does so by analysing the EU’s resilience across four dimensions: social and economic, geopolitical, green and digital.

2020 Strategic Foresight Report

Next steps

  • The annual European Strategy and Political Analysis System (ESPAS) conference
  • Further development of resilience dashboards
  • 2021 Annual Strategic Foresight Report
  • Implementation of a Strategic Foresight Agenda

Contact

For any enquiries, please contact us at SG-FORESIGHT@ec.europa.eu; JRC-FORESIGHT@ec.europa.eu

Documents

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