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Why should policymakers care about foresight and strategic planning?

Why should policymakers care about foresight and strategic planning? What methodologies and tools are available to carry out foresight and strategic planning?

Questions such as these guided the development of the GCSP’s newest course on Foresight and Strategic Planning. Held at the GCSP premises from 21-24 September 2015, the course brought together twenty two participants from five different continents and sectors ranging from governments to militaries, international organisations, civil society organisations and the private sector.

Unlike many other courses that focus on examining future trends and developments, this course emphasised the analytic methods available to collect, analyse, and project information. Examples of methodologies covered during the course include horizon scanning, the Delphi Method, Causal Layered Analysis, Scenario Planning, and Backcasting. Beyond an overview of the tools, participants learned the benefits and drawbacks associated with each methodology, and when it might be best applied. Practical examples on how to apply these methodologies, and how to avoid the most common pitfalls, were provided by expert speakers.

To leverage the expertise brought in participants, as well as to strengthen the learning experience, the course included a capstone exercise. During the exercise, participants worked in small teams to design a foresight process and outline which methodologies they would choose to provide a 15-year forward looking outlook on a specific subject area.

The subject areas assigned to the participants were complex, ranging from trends in urbanisation to developments in the multilateral system. The results, which focused on which methodologies would be used to execute a foresight analysis, confirmed participants’ ability to carefully examine the pros and cons of different tools and to select those which might be most applicable to the issue at hand.

“The level of their professional understanding of strategy and of being able to see what is going on in the world was really impressive. You don’t get that when you do this in one company.”

Woody Wade, scenario planning specialist

The participants’ positive learning experience was mirrored by the speakers, who appreciated the participants’ diversity and wide ranging professional backgrounds. In the words of Mr. Woody Wade, who lectured on scenario planning, “the level of their professional understanding of strategy and of being able to see what is going on in the world was really impressive. You don’t get that when you do this in one company.”

With this course behind it, the GCSP looks forward to carrying on additional capacity building activities vis-a-vis foresight and strategic planning – aiming to leverage its location in international Geneva by helping to equip policymakers with the tools needed to comprehensively analyse key global issues.