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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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    29September 2021
    A survey conducted among young people in the Middle East early in 2021 probed how this generation feels about the future. The results belie the perception that young people in the region are pessimistic or fatalistic, instead highlighting a relative optimism, and concerns over issues that they feel will be of particular importance in their future, such as healthcare and political representation.
  • 09July 2021

    In three episodes, Florence Gaub and her guests discuss what strategy is and how the EU has become more strategic but also the Strategic Compass and strategic foresight in EU defence.

  • 23June 2021

    On 23 June 2021, El Grand Continent hosted a live virtual event in Spanish looking at how the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) can make the African continent more integrated, resilient and prosperous.

  • EU Flag blowing in the wind © EUNAVFOR Atalanta, 2013
    11June 2021

    From 7-11 June 2021, EUISS co-organised module 4 of the 16th High-Level Course on the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).

  • Backdrop of online COAFR meeting indicating date and topic
    29April 2021

    On 29 April 2021, the EUISS and the Africa Working Party of the Council of the EU (COAFR) held their eleventh meeting to discuss the future of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

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    21April 2021
    Since Islamic State lost its territory in Iraq and Syria, it has adapted its future script according to its circumstances. This Brief explores how the organisation invests in and manipulates an end-of-times narrative that exerts strong appeal for its followers, and will influence its next steps.
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    06April 2021

    This paper tackles one of the wickedest of questions: how should the EU cooperate with partner governments which collude with criminals?

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    31March 2021
    The third in our series of Briefs on this theme looks at the role of foresight in policymaking in the United States.
  • 26March 2021

    In this new miniseries we look at past expectations that turned out to be untrue and try to learn from past mistakes.

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    11March 2021
    The second in our series of Foresight Briefs shows how the function of strategic foresight has not been conceptualised in China to the same degree as in the West. However, the notions of disruptive ‘black swan’ and ‘grey rhino’ events have gained currency among Chinese analysts in recent years.