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Through its Strategic Foresight practice, the World Economic Forum provides a unique, impartial platform and a powerful process for multi-stakeholder engagement. The Strategic Foresight team at the Forum engages policy-makers and leaders from business and civil society in strategic dialogues to better understand and address complex and long-term challenges.
Much of the value of Strategic Foresight activities lies in the process. By providing stakeholders with the opportunity to learn together and build shared insights and collaborative relationships, Strategic Foresight methods help them grapple with the complexity and uncertainty of key challenges. Stakeholders broaden their perspectives by examining possible future developments; how these developments are systemically linked; and how others view the developments. This knowledge enriches their decision‑making to shape a better and more sustainable future. The joint-learning process helps create the social capital among stakeholders crucial for implementing these decisions.
The Forum has developed its own world-class methodology using a mixture of tools, including:
- Scenarios – Plausible, coherent stories about the future aimed at making sense of uncertain issues, and clarifying strategic options for decision-makers. Scenarios provide a non-threatening environment for exploring multiple perspectives, creating a shared language and leading to understanding and trust.
- Systems thinking – Frames issues, clarifies interdependencies and causalities between them and leads to the identification of important intervention points for stakeholders to enact change.
- Mapping and challenging paradigms and mental models – Reframes challenges and analyses assumptions about what the actual problem is and what is important. These tools can help decision-makers find new models and solutions, and open up issues for novel transformative insights.
Strategic Foresight processes are powerful when:
- There is little agreement among stakeholders about the nature of the issue
There is a lack of consensus about what has led to the current situation, what is desirable for the future and how to go about exploiting the opportunities and managing the risks of future developments.
- No one is “in charge” of the issue
When issues affect many stakeholders, there is often no obvious leader responsible for taking charge of resolving the problems. This means that a leader needs to be created. By providing a neutral space where all those involved can come together to discuss the problem at hand, the Forum provides this much-needed leadership.
- Traditional thinking about an issue is outmoded
Boundaries have to be redrawn in order to address and push forward these issues. For example, when considering the future of health systems, it becomes clear that a range of players beyond the traditional medical establishment have a role to play in creating healthy outcomes.
Past Projects include the identification of plausible future directions for the sustainable development of industry sectors, such as the mining and metals sector and the digital ecosystem; the future of social-economic issues such as health systems, the international monetary system, governments and the future availability of natural resources; the prospects of economic integration of regions such as the South Caucasus and Central Asia; and the prospects for sustainable economic growth of nations such as Russia, Ukraine and Mongolia.
For more of our reports and scenarios, click here
For more information on the project and to get involved, please contact:
Trudi Lang, Director, Head of Strategic Foresight, Trudi.Lang@weforum.org
Natalie Hatour, Associate Director, Natalie.Hatour@weforum.org
Alex Williams, Project Manager, Alex.Williams@weforum.org
Olivier Woeffray, Senior Associate, Olivier.Woeffray@weforum.org
Diane Davoine, Project Associate, Diane.Davoine@weforum.org
Jonathan Eckart, Project Associate, Jonathan.Eckart@weforum.org
Sandrine Raher, Team Coordinator, Sandrine.Raher@weforum.org
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Strategic Foresight Team Activities: