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Strategic foresight

There are many ways to think about the future – but some are more productive than others. Horoscopes, prophecies and ancient dream interpretations, for instance, are not exactly useful: whereas horoscopes and dreams are too vague, prophecies are too doomsday-like to give a clear idea of what can be done to shape the future. This is what foresight is really about: choice, decision and action – and not prediction, as is often assumed. It is an intellectual and creative exercise designed to help decision-makers develop and make choices, challenge long-held beliefs and/or orthodoxies, focus their resources and attention, and prevent and anticipate certain developments.

Strategic foresight, while conducted for decision-making, is mainly done by entities slightly removed from the running of day-to-day business. After all, its role is precisely to challenge the assumptions of institutions, to search for and detect weak signals, to inspect the outer contours of events, and to investigate areas which do not necessarily feature in the headlines. The EUISS is one of those bodies built for such an enterprise.

As with other actors involved in foresight, the EUISS uses a host of methods to think about the future in a constructive fashion. In the past, we have consulted experts (called the Delphi method), produced trend-impact analysis, and developed various types of scenarios. More often than not, we use two or more methods consecutively. And there are many more techniques to be explored, ranging from crowdsourcing to surveys, visioning and simulations.

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    07 April 2016

    This Report is the outcome of an EUISS Task Force that convened throughout the autumn and winter of 2015 to develop scenarios for Russia’s future. The publication is divided into two parts: one dedicated to the domestic arena – focusing on the economic, military and political dimensions, and the other dealing with future Russian relations with the US, the Middle East, China, the post-Soviet space and the EU.

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    17 February 2015

    This report, the outcome of a series of meetings of the Arab Foresight Group, an initiative undertaken by the EUISS, presents three alternative scenarios for the Arab world in 2025. These take into account those ‘megatrends’ which are unlikely to change, and outline three different ways in which policymakers can respond to the crises that currently beset the Middle East and North Africa.

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    30 January 2014

    The countries of Central Asia face a multitude of security challenges ranging from rising ethnic tensions to widespread corruption. This alert provides an overview of the major trends in a vital region which is all too often overlooked.

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    30 January 2014

    What does 2014 have in store for the EU’s eastern neighbourhood? This alert provides a succinct overview of the major political events and developments likely to shape the agenda this year.

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    24 January 2014

    The first in a series of alerts scanning what key political events are on the horizon in 2014, this alert highlights the challenges facing the Middle East and North Africa.

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    24 January 2014

    This alert provides an overview of the key events and potential political crises that are likely to occur in selected countries in sub-Saharan Africa in the coming year.

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    20 February 2013

    With various political and institutional initiatives across the Union indicating a growing interest in the analysis of trends and factors that may affect Europe’s position in the years and decades to come, the EUISS Director digs deeper into the nature, practice and record of strategic foresight.

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