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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.

  • Conference room with panel 1 of EUISS #EUforesight event
    24January 2020

    The EUISS held its yearly foresight event in Brussels and launched its most recent collective Chaillot Paper.

  • Photo of EUISS podcast recording studio
    09January 2020

    The EUISS ‘What if’ podcast is a foreign policy foresight conversation: it looks at fictional scenarios that could happen between now and the end of 2021.

  • 13December 2019

    The main objective of this Task Force, launched in Paris in November 2019, was to explore trends affecting the future of Africa in the next ten years, emphasising challenges and opportunities for policymaking.

  • Wolrd Bank conference room
    14November 2019

    The EUISS launched its African Futures Task Force at an event co-organised with the World Bank in Paris.

  • Florence Gaub presents her paper at the lectern
    28October 2019

    On 28 of October 2019, the EUISS organised the Middle East Foresight Forum to discuss the key challenges ahead for the region.

  • Daniel Fiott opens event in meeting room
    24October 2019

    The EUISS, the Finnish Presidency of the Council of the EU and the General Secretariat of the Council of the EU organised an informal meeting.

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    19September 2019

    At first glance, the MENA appears particularly unsuited to conducting foresight exercises due to its many disruptive and surprising developments. But it is precisely because the region features so many sudden events that foresight here is crucial. This Chaillot Paper opens with three scenarios which lay out the regional state of affairs in 2030, with the catalysts or agents of change elaborated thereafter.

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    03September 2019
    The EU increasingly makes use of crisis scenarios to forecast the future and identify capability gaps. This Brief shows how simulations and exercises can only add value to preparedness efforts when they are but one element of a wider crisis response architecture.
  • 23July 2019

    On 23-24 July 2019, the EUISS convened in Brussels the first, preparatory meeting of a new task force on African Futures 2030.

  • 06May 2019

    On 6 May, Florence Gaub presented the key findings of the Global Trends to 2030 report to the staff of the General Secretariat of the European Council.

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    17February 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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    30January 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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    30January 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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    24January 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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    24January 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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    20February 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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