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In this paper, we discuss key issues in harnessing horizon scanning to shape systemic policies, particularly in the light of the foresight exercise ‘Facing the future: Time for the EU to meet global challenges’ which was carried out for the Bureau of European Policy Advisors. This exercise illustrates how horizon scanning can enable collective sense-making processes which assist in the identification of emerging signals and policy issues; the synthesis of such issues into encompassing clusters; and the interpretation of resulting clusters as an important step towards the coordinated development of joint policy measures. In order to achieve such objectives, horizon scanning can benefit from methods of multi-criteria decision-making and network analysis for prioritizing, clustering and combining issues. Furthermore, these methods provide support for traceability, which in turn contributes to the enhanced transparency and legitimacy of foresight.
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Facing the future: Scanning,
synthesizing and sense-making
in horizon scanning
Totti Ko
¨
nno
¨
la
¨
1,
*, Ahti Salo
2
, Cristiano Cagnin
3
, Vicente Carabias
4
and
Eeva Vilkkumaa
2
1
Impetu Solutions,
´
ctor Andre
´
s Belaunde, 36-4C, 28016 Madrid, Spain
2
Aalto University School of Science, Department of Mathematics and Systems Analysis,
PO Box 11100, 00076 Aalto, Finland
3
EU DG JRC-IPTS, Seville, Spain; and Center for Strategic Studies and Management (CGEE),
SCN Qd 2, Bl. A, Ed. Corporate Financial Center, Sl. 1112, 70712-900, Brası
´
lia-DF, Brasil
4
EU DG JRC-IPTS, Seville, Spain; and ZHAW Zurich University of Applied Sciences, Institute of
Sustainable Development, Postfach 805, CH-8401 Winterthur, Switzerland
*Corresponding author. Email: totti.konnola@impetusolutions.com.
In this paper, we discuss key issues in harnessing horizon scanning to shape systemic policies,
particularly in the light of the foresight exercise ‘Facing the future: Time for the EU to meet global
challenges’ which was carried out for the Bureau of European Policy Advisors. This exercise
illustrates how horizon scanning can enable collective sense-making processes which assist in
the identification of emerging signals and policy issues; the synthesis of such issues into encom-
passing clusters; and the interpretation of resulting clusters as an important step towards the
coordinated development of joint policy measures. In order to achieve such objectives, horizon
scanning can benefit from methods of multi-criteria decision-making and network analysis for
prioritizing, clustering and combining issues. Furthermore, these methods provide support for
traceability, which in turn contributes to the enhanced transparency and legitimacy of foresight.
Keywords: horizon scanning; foresight; grand challenges; policy coordination; futures.
1. Introduction
In future-oriented technology analysis (FTA), the system-
atic exploration of divergent views on future developments
has tended to receive less attention than approaches that
foster consensus seeking (Ko
¨
nno
¨
la
¨
et al. 2011; Martin and
Johnston 1999; Georghiou and Cassingena Harper 2011).
At present, however, various forms of horizon scanning
are gaining in popularity, as evidenced by the considerable
interest that practitioners and policy-makers have
expressed in exploring alternative and even conflicting
interpretations of the future (Kuosa 2010; Rossel 2011;
Saritas and Smith 2011).
While the intellectual origins of ‘horizon scanning’ can
be traced to the celebrated work by Ansoff (1975) on the
recognition of weak signals, the term was popularized and
institutionalized in the UK after the millennium (Schultz
2006). For example, the Department for Environment,
Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) defined horizon
scanning in 2002 as:
...the systematic examination of potential threats,
opportunities and likely future developments which are at
the margins of current thinking and planning’ and, continuing,
horizon scanning ‘may explore novel and unexpected issues, as
well as persistent problems or trends.
1
At present, various forms of horizon scanning are quite
widespread (Amanatidou et al. 2012), even to the point
where it is not easy to take stock of those activities that
do not readily fit under any single label. Despite this vari-
ability, horizon scanning offers tested approaches for col-
lecting signals which:
. Articulate credible observations about current or
imminent changes (either sudden, gradual, or between
these poles).
Science and Public Policy 39 (2012) pp. 222–231 doi:10.1093/scipol/scs021
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. Are felt to be potential indications of new emerging
issues that may have received insufficient attention.
. Can be meaningfully shared, elaborated and assessed
by the participants.
Arguably, the growing interest in horizon scanning and
further on the apparently greater empirical reliance of
horizon scanning over scenario planning reflect the
increasing complexity of modern societies which are con-
tinually shaped by so many uncertainties especially in the
social and political spheres. This indicates that FTA
approaches based on linear extrapolation or causal
modelling do not suffice (Linstone 1999).
In this setting, where policy-makers are almost bound to
be taken by surprise, horizon scanning can serve as a sys-
tematic approach to support the early identification and
collective exploration of emerging issues. This can be seen
as a step towards the timely implementation of appropriate
policy actions. Here, the need for horizon scanning is ef-
fectively intensified by the long lead times for bringing
about desired policy impacts (cf. climate change mitiga-
tion). Taking this remark further, horizon scanning may
offer major benefits especially when there are long delays
in policy implementation and when the issues evolve
through an incipient phase that is initially only observed
by some individuals. While individual sense-making has
been aptly recognized as a key determinant of what signals
are ‘relevant’, the collective sense-making processes
coupled with the interpretation of signals have received
less attention, particularly with regard to the recognition
of interconnections among the signals or the derivation of
their policy implications (Dervin 1998). These collective
processes are also important because they underlie key
scoping decisions and thus shape both implicit and
explicit expectations that influence scanners and their be-
haviour. In this paper, we elucidate these processes in
the light of the horizon scanning exercise ‘Facing the
future: Time for the EU to meet global challenges’,
which was carried out in 2009 by the Joint Research
Centre - Institute for Prospective Technological Studies
(JRC-IPTS) for the Bureau of European Policy Advisors
(BEPA) of the European Commission (EC). It should be
noted that this exercise was not limited to the scanning of
signals: rather, it sought to achieve greater visibility and
coherence by synthesizing signals into cross-cutting chal-
lenges whose policy implications were then explored in a
workshop. By building on the encouraging experiences of
this exercise, we outline methodological steps in support
of comparable scanning processes which facilitate the
incremental development of cross-cutting challenges so
that traceable links between these challenges and their
underlying signals and sources are established. Finally,
we argue that these types of scanning processes can
be viewed as an instrument that prepares ground for
cross-cutting policy coordination and the attainment of
systemic policy objectives.
2. Sense-making in horizon scanning
Because the objective of horizon scanning is to create
knowledge on the emergence of issues that, by definition,
lie beyond current horizons, there is often only scarce
and scattered evidence to sup port the collection of
signals and the assessment of their significance. It there-
fore follows that sca nners need to leverage tacit know-
ledge (Nonaka 1994) which reflects their experiences and
interpretations of perceived reality (Scharmer 2000). On
this point, Weick (1995) argues that sen se-making is not
mere interpretation: in fact, it is less about discovery and
more about invention. In a similar tone, Mo
¨
ller (2010)
states that:
...before something, an idea or object, can be sensed, it has to
be constructed.
This construction is essentially a collective activity of
knowledge creation. Against this backdrop, we regard
horizon scanning as: a creative process of collective
sense-making by way of collecting and synthesizing obser-
vations that hold potential for the elaboration of pertinent
future developments and the derivation of actionable im-
plications for decision-making.
At the individual level, sense-making builds on the
actor’s ability to perceive, interpret and construct the
meaning of the emerging landscape (du Toit 2003;
Nelson 2010; Weick 1995). Yet the broa der significance
of this individual sense-making is built collectively, for
instan ce when observations are evaluated or aggregated
into more encompassing clusters or when their interrela-
tionships with other notions, such as trends, are
explored.
2.1 Scoping the scanning exercise
Early on, the scoping of a scanning exercise necessitates
fundamental methodological decisions that partly demar-
cate which signals are likely to appear relevant. Some ex-
ercises have sought to scan across a truly comprehensive
spectrum (Glenn et al. 2010; Saritas and Smith 2011), while
others have focused on specific fields such as telemedicine
(Blackburn et al. 2010), security (Botterhuis et al. 2010),
environmental conservation (Sutherland et al. 2011), or
energy, health and cognitive enhancement (Amanatidou
et al. 2012). Dedicated centres have been established to
provide horizontal support for government departments
(e.g. Horizon Scanning Centres in the UK and
Singapore; the National Intelligence Council in the USA;
and the OECD Futures Programme). Methodological
advances have been pursued, for instance, in the
Framework Programme 7 Blue Sky Foresight projects on
emerging issues that shape European science and technol-
ogy (Amanatidou et al. 2012).
In effect, scoping involves more or less conscious
sense-making processes of which future developments are
Facing the future: Horizon scanning
.
223
potentially significant and thus worth scanning. Here,
there may be bias to align scanning exercises along
well-established fields or to follow path-dependent institu-
tional structures (Ko
¨
nno
¨
la
¨
and Unruh 2007) that reflect,
for instance, the mandate of the client or sponsor, or the
expected uses of results. But even if the scope of scanning is
left rather open, other design issues, such as available re-
sources or the duration of the exercise, may impose com-
parable bounds.
2.2 Sense-making: Inseparable from scanning
Defining ‘what’ specifically is to be scanned is just as im-
portant as demarcating the scope of the scanning activity.
Saritas and Smith (2011), for instance, consider trends,
drivers of change, wild cards/shocks, discontinuities, and
weak signals as meaningful units to be scanned. Kuosa
(2010) notes that the widely used, but somewhat imprecise,
concept of weak signals ‘seems to be everything and
anything that is related to substantial potential change’
before he elaborates an alternative scanning framework
that embodies concepts such as weak signals, drivers and
trends. On a somewhat different note, Ko
¨
nno
¨
la
¨
et al.
(2007) argue that the collection of weak signals tends to
produce relatively unstructured pools of signals and
propose the use of narrower ‘units of analysis’ that are
more amenable to subsequent analyses. All in all, it is im-
portant to realize that decisions about the definition of
units do guide what future-relevant observations will be
submitted (Hiltunen 2008; Mendonc¸ a et al. 2004).
Especially in the case of weak signals and wild cards,
sense-making builds on the scanners’ creative and heuristic
capabilities to detect meaningful observations in the
presence of scattered or no historical evidence (Dervin
1998). But even if there is historical evidence to support
the seemingly straightforward extrapolation of trends, as-
sessing such trends in relation to individual signals still
permits alternative interpretations that can be reached
only through sense-making. Moreover, the most interest-
ing emerging issues may be ambiguous, characterized by
nebulous cause-and-effect relationships between existing
and emergent knowledge. Seen from this perspective,
sense-making can be partly supported by defining units
of analysis that facilitate the collection of individual ob-
servations and, moreover, the creative combination thereof
to permit the creation of new entities and meanings
(Nonaka 1994).
Scanning systems may comprise quantitative methods
such as bibliometrics, cybermetrics and patent analysis,
which may also convey patterns of emerging issues. The
deployment of these methods and the interpretation of
their results in terms of requisite actions builds on individ-
ual and collective sense-making activities. Thus, it appears
that whatever the methodological basis of scanning is,
sense-making lies at the heart of providing well-founded
support for policy-making.
2.3 Stakeholders: Crucial for scanning and
synthesizing
The strong reliance on scanners in soliciting signals raises
questions about who are legitimate ‘scanners’ and how
the different and even contradictory submissions of
these scanners can be synthesized? The consultation of
recognized experts in scanning may lend credibility to the
exercise and its results. But one can also argue that
the very remit of horizon scanning is to challenge the
mindsets of esteemed incumbents whose perceptions may
reflect well-established evidence rather than surprising in-
terpretations of incipient developments (Taleb 2007).
Here, we argue that horizon scanning should seek to
engage diverse stakeholders (Ko
¨
nno
¨
la
¨
et al. 2007). Such
diversity can be operationalized by formulating explicit
criteria such as: the coverage of different fields of expertise,
types of affiliations, cultural backgrounds, organizational
functions or personal values. Furthermore, engaging
diverse stakeholders may result in a richer set of initial
observations, after which the stakeholders can be
engaged further by assessing the significance of these ob-
servations in view of interdependencies which, for instance
may allow new meanings (Nonaka 1994) to be synthesized
through the shared development of cross-cutting chal-
lenges. From a methodological perspective, internet-based
tools for continuous idea generation (Graefe et al. 2010),
idea management and surveys (Haegeman et al. 2011;
McKinsey & Company 2009; Saritas and Smith 2011),
for instance, can be effective in collecting and assessing
observations as well as in synthesizing these inputs
(Ko
¨
nno
¨
la
¨
et al. 2007; Salo et al. 2009) in preparation for
subsequent face-to-face stakeholder workshops.
2.4 Building ground for cross-cutting policy
coordination
At best, participatory workshop activities offer policy-
makers an inspiring environment where they can openly
discuss the implications of alternative future developments
for policy-making in general as well as for their own
responsibilities in particular. Such workshops may also
aspire to support vision-building and priority-setting and
engage policy-makers and other stakeholders in creative
networking that facilitates the implementation of later
action plans (Brummer et al. 2008; Fuerth 2009).
From the process perspective, this type of direct engage-
ment in workshops helps expose policy-makers to the
diversity of issues at stake. However, when attempting to
take issues forward in policy formulation, it is often neces-
sary to synthesize them into meaningful clusters that
exhibit a logical structure and are linked to existing
decision-making structures (Georghiou and Csaaingena
Harper 2011). This is because the mere listing of
issues appears so fragmented that it does not lead to the
development of overarching policy agendas, expressed as
coherent and cross-cutting challenges that can be
224
.
T. Ko
¨
nno
¨
la
¨
et al.
addressed with systemic policies that span several areas of
administrative responsibility. This suggests that horizon
scanning can benefit from methods that provide explicit
support for the synthesis of relevant combinations (e.g.
by using multi-criteria models in the assessment of issues
or network models in the analysis of interrelationships),
whereby the role of such methods is to foster sense-making
(but not to overrule it). Such methods can also support
traceability, which contributes to transparency and the le-
gitimacy of the exercise.
Overall, the collaborative development of cross-cutting
challenges may help reframe the ‘bigger picture’ whose
exploration paves way for policy coordination and the at-
tainment of systemic policy objectives (Schoen et al. 2011).
This is likely to be true especially in policy contexts where
the issues are not yet prominent on the agenda and where
they evolve interdependently in a problem context
where policy actions need to be coordinated and imple-
mented early on to ensure success. There are also
opportunities for mutual learning, because different
departments and agencies may be faced with shared chal-
lenges which can be addressed through responses that
exhibit similarities or synergies. Thus, horizon scanning
can facilitate cross-cutting coordination and, by doing
so, foster the development of joint policy measures
without necessitating potentially time-consuming and
cumbersame changes in existing organizational structures
and practices (Anderson 2005).
3. Case: Facing the future
In 2008–9, the BEPA of the EC organized a series of fore-
sight activities (European Communities 2009; Boden et al.
2010) which focused on long-term developments and
their policy implications on EU policy-making, as a
means of preparing for the development of the Europe
2020 strategy and related policy initiatives such as the
EC Communication on the Innovation Union.
In this context, JRC-IPTS and BEPA started collabora-
tive horizon scanning efforts which evolved gradually from
initial exchanges of relevant foresight studies to more sys-
tematic, comprehensive scanning and detailed analysis
of reports, with the aim of identifying future trends and
disruptive events that could have major implications on
EU policy-making by 2025 (cf. Fig. 1). Furthermore,
JRC-IPTS proposed that a robust portfolio modelling
(RPM) screening process (Ko
¨
nno
¨
la
¨
et al. 2007; Brummer
et al. 2008, 2011) would be conducted to engage a wider
community of experts in the assessment of key findings
from these reports towards the identification of most per-
tinent issues. Finally, a stakeholder workshop was
organized in order to take stock of these issues and, spe-
cifically, to make sense of them in terms of cross-cutting
challenges and policy implications.
3.1 Identification of Issues
BEPA and JRC-IPTS initiated the analysis in six broad
areas following the structure of previous work that had
been delivered to BEPA by other EC services. JRC-IPTS
and BEPA refined these areas through close interaction to
accommodate a more comprehensive analysis across all
economic sectors and responsibilities of BEPA. The final
six areas analysed were:
. demography, migration and health
. economy, trade and financial flows
. environment, energy, climate change and agriculture
. research, innovation and (e)-education
. (e)-governance and (e)-social cohesion
. defence and security
It was then agreed that in each area JRC-IPTS experts
would analyse about 20–25 forward-looking reports which
had been recently published by international organizations
or the business sector; covered more than one of six areas
being analysed; exhibited global scope; and had been
Figure 1. Timeline and phases of foresight exercise ‘Facing the future’ (Boden et al. 2010).
Facing the future: Horizon scanning
.
225
developed using a participatory approach. BEPA
emphasized that policy relevance was a crucial criterion
in the selection of these reports. Thus, a few policy docu-
ments that had been developed on the basis of a partici-
patory approach and subjected to an open consultation
were also included.
A total of 129 such reports were reviewed by JRC-IPTS
and external experts
2
following common guidelines con-
cerning the identification and refinement of issues from
the reports in two phases:
. Issue recognition by individuals consisted of the iden-
tification and codification of specific issues which
included both evidence-based and new emerging
trends, wild cards and even brief descriptions of
anticipated impacts and prospective policy recommen-
dations. Here, the reviewers were requested to rely on
their own individual judgement when selecting issues
and outlining them for further analysis.
. Bilateral and collective discussions between experts and
JRC-IPTS helped to synthesize relevant issues into an
interim report. In particular, these creative construc-
tions allowed individual experts to codify their tacit
knowledge about possible interlinkages among trends
and wild cards as well as related policy recommenda-
tions.
These reviews resulted in the jointly authored
area descriptions and the identification of 370 codified
and traceable issues. These issues were complemented
with additional issues from the FTA 2008 conference
survey.
3
3.2 Assessment of issues
The formulated issues were assessed in an online survey by
some 270 external experts who represented foresight prac-
titioners, EC officials, researchers, non-governmental or-
ganizations and business representatives from all the
thematic areas that were represented. Specifically, these
experts were requested to generate additional issues and
to assess all the issues using three criteria:
. relevance to EU policy-making
. novelty in comparison with earlier policy debates
. probability of occurrence by 2025
In total, 381 issues were evaluated on a seven-point
Likert-scale which extended from one (issues that are
totally lacking in relevance/novelty/probability) to seven
(issues that exhibit a very high degree of relevance/
novelty/probability).
4
3.3 Analysis of issues
In order to support the identification of most pertinent
issues, the expert assessments were synthesized with the
RPM tool (Liesio
¨
et al. 2007; Ko
¨
nno
¨
la
¨
et al. 2007).
In the RPM framework, the criterion-specific scores v
j
i
for each issue j =1,..., m are aggregated using the
weighted sum:
V
j
ðwÞ¼w
1
v
j
1
+w
2
v
j
2
+w
3
v
j
3
In contrast to conventional multi-criteria methods,
RPM admits incomplete weight information expressed
through linear inequalities like w
1
> w
2
> w
3
, which, for
instance, indicates that the first criterion is the most im-
portant, followed by the second and then the third.
Specifically, based on a comparative analysis of the
overall values V
j
ðwÞ for different criterion weights, the
RPM analysis helps identify
. Core issues which belong to all non-dominated port-
folios, defined (in an approximate sense) as those col-
lections of issues for which no other portfolio would
yield a higher overall value for all stated weight
information.
. Exterior issues that belong to no such portfolios.
. Borderline issues which are in some but not all
non-dominated portfolios.
Three different analyses were conducted to highlight
different aspects of relevance: mean-oriented analysis,
variance-oriented analysis and rare event-oriented
analysis. In each analysis, attention was given particularly
to the top-10 issues with the highest core index values
among all issues in a given area (there were 42–90 issues
in the areas).
3.3.1 Mean-oriented analysis. Mean-oriented analysis
helped identify issues that were considered relevant,
novel and probable by the majority respondents,
whereby the criterion-specific scores v
j
i
were obtained by
taking the means of the respondents’ assessments. Then,
the overall value V
j
ðwÞ was then computed for each
issue such that relevance was seen as the most important
criterion, followed by novelty and probability, i.e.,
w
1
> w
2
> w
3
. Because the relevance criterion had the
highest weighting, the core issues identified in this
analysis seemed to be the most relevant for EU
policy-making.
3.3.2 Variance-oriented analysis. Variance-oriented
analysis was conducted in order to recognize issues on
which the respondents had different viewpoints. Thus,
the scores v
j
i
were defined by the variances of the re-
spondents’ criterion-specific assessments. The variance of
assessment of novelty was regarded as the most im-
portant criterion, followed by variances of relevance and
probability, i.e. w
1
> w
2
> w
3
. This analysis helped
identify issues that the respondents did see similarly,
which provided interesting inputs for debate in the final
workshop.
226
.
T. Ko
¨
nno
¨
la
¨
et al.
3.3.3 Rare event-oriented analysis. Rare event-
oriented analysis was carried out to identify those issues
that the respondents considered improbable but still novel
and relevant. Here, the scores for relevance and novelty
were similar as in the mean-oriented analysis, but v
j
3
was
defined such that the issues with the lowest occurrence
probabilities received the highest scores, i.e. v
j
3
= 8, being
the average of the probability assessments. Furthermore,
this criterion was assigned the highest weight so that
w
1
> w
2
> w
3
. As a rule, this analysis helped to identify
issues which were deemed unlikely but potentially of high
significance in terms of their consequences.
All in all, the three complementary RPM analyses
helped to highlight issues which were seen to merit atten-
tion from different perspectives and thus paved way for the
formulation of cross-cutting challenges.
3.4 Synthesizing issues
A two-day workshop was organized to group the identified
issues into cross-cutting challenges and to examine their
policy implications for the EU. Apart from participants
from BEPA and JRC-IPTS, there were 22 representatives
from several Directorates-General of the EC, plus 19
experts from around the world who represented the six
thematic areas, including foresight practitioners. All par-
ticipants were requested to prepare for the workshop by
familiarizing themselves with the earlier results and by de-
veloping their own proposals for cross-cutting challenges
through interesting combinations of issues that were high-
lighted in the RPM analysis.
With the help of the RPM web-applet, the workshop
participants could alter criterion weights and immediately
see the impacts of these changes on the results: indeed, one
reason for adopting the RPM approach was that it admits
incomplete information about criterion weights and allows
different interpretations of their plausibility. In addition to
the numerical statistics of the assessments, participants
were provided with information about the core issues
and the borderline issues that had a core index value of
>50% in one or more of the three analyses. For an
example, see Table 1 which shows seven issues out of 42
in the area of defence and security. A major war by 2020,
for instance, was a core issue in the rare event-oriented
analysis, as it was seen as highly improbable but yet im-
portant due to its shattering consequences.
Participants then prepared proposals for cross-cutting
challenges that would combine at least three different
issues into a comprehensive story which would elucidate
how this challenge could become reality and how the EU
could respond to it through adequate policies. At least one
of the three issues had to be among the top-10 core issues
in one of the three different analyses, and the challenges
were required to contain issues from at least two of the six
areas that were analysed. In this way, the RPM analysis
assisted in focusing on the most pertinent issues among
which the workshop participants created novel interlink-
ages by formulating cross-cutting challenges and by envi-
sioning corresponding EU policies and actions in domains
such as: resource allocation; investment; regulation; policy
coordination (horizontal, vertical, Open Method of
Coordination); institutional changes; and the role of EU
in relation to global governance. Table 2 provides an
example of such a cross-cutting challenge that synthesizes
issues from different thematic areas.
The participants generated collectively a set of 22
cross-cutting challenges. These were built on a number of
individual cross-cutting challenges developed prior to the
final workshop by both JRC-IPTS and workshop partici-
pants, such as the one presented in Table 2. These 22
cross-cutting challenges were then prioritized by discussing
them in the light of three solution-oriented criteria related
to their importance at the EU level. This discussion was
the basis for reaching agreement on the final three over-
arching challenges at the end of the workshop. Specifically,
these criteria were:
. Urgency: Is the challenge likely to provoke impacts
that require urgent actions at EU level?
. Tractability: Can solutions to the challenge be
identified and implemented? Does the EU have the
institutional capacity to act on this challenge?
. Impact: Are the actions to be taken by the EU
expected to have a major global positive impact?
A re-consideration of the policy agenda of BEPA,
together with a collective analysis of all issues
and cross-cutting challenges, made it possible to group
Table 1. Core/borderline status of selected issues in area of defence
and security
Issue Borderline
issue >50%
Core issue
100%
A major war by 2020 R
NATO will become more open to
outside partnerships
M
Terrorists and small radicalized groups
will use more and more sophisticated
forms of attacks
VM
State’s ability to guarantee security of
citizens will increase in Western world
MR
Interdependency of internal and external
security is growing in EU
M
Pervasive sensors for real-time surveil-
lance are widely diffused on a global
scale by 2020
MV
Investments in defence will carry on
declining in world
R
M = mean-oriented analysis, V = variance-oriented analysis, R = rare event-
oriented analysis
Facing the future: Horizon scanning
.
227
the individual cross-cutting challenges proposed by
workshop participants into five categories and then,
on the second day of the workshop, into 22 collect-
ively developed cross-cutting challenges divided in four
clusters:
. global governance
. natural capital
. society
. economy.
By the end of the workshop, a workable agreement had
been reached on the definition of the following three over-
arching challenges:
. The need to change current ways in which essential
natural resources are used.
. The need to anticipate and adapt to societal changes.
. The need for more effective and transparent govern-
ance for the EU and the world.
All these challenges exhibit a global scope and require
action at EU level through appropriately aligned cross-
cutting policies that implement effective joint responses.
These challenges also served as a basis for the following
three broad recommendations which, according to the
workshop participants, had not yet received sufficient
attention in the policy and decision processes (Boden
et al. 2010):
. The need to change the uses of essential natural
resources by aligning all policy realms towards sustain-
ability, extending from policy design through imple-
mentation to evaluation.
. The need to anticipate and adapt to societal challenges
by building on social diversity and information
and communications technologies to enable citizens’
empowerment.
. The need for more effective and transparent govern-
ance that allows institutions to anticipate future chal-
lenges and to turn these into opportunities by
embedding FTA in their decision-making processes.
3.5 Reflections on the exercise
Overall, the exercise can be viewed as a collective
sense-making process where emerging issues were first
identified and then synthesized into challenges at the EU
level. The vocal satisfaction expressed by the workshop
participants suggests that there is considerable potential
in carrying out similar or analogous exercises based on
the same methodological approach. Participants, espe-
cially policy-makers, found that they could express and
explore their ideas freely and interactively. They also said
that they received useful feedback from participants repre-
senting different policy areas, because this helped them to
see challenges from alternative viewpoints and explore
solutions that would constitute systemic responses. In its
approach, the workshop evolved from a loosely structured
discussion of issues resulting from the scanning of reports
to a collective sense-making process that focused on how
such issues could be brought together into cross-cutting
challenges and how such challenges could be explored in
view of EU-level policy implications.
The traceability of cross-cutting challenges and recom-
mendations was supported by the appropriate coding of
issues and challenges that were generated during the
exercise. This has been helpful when communicating the
results to outside parties, because it has increased the
transparency and legitimacy of the results. To cite an
example, the recommendations have been useful in discus-
sions within the EC, for instance on the sustainable use of
natural resources which may become a source of conflicts
in the future. The final report (Boden et al. 2010) has been
referenced in the Communication on the Innovation
Union (SEC 2010), particularly when describing grand
challenges that have to be addressed through European
policy-making.
4. Implications for horizon scanning
The recent proliferation of horizon-scanning activities is
partly linked to the popularity of the ‘wisdom of the
Table 2. Example of a cross-cutting challenge consisting of issues from
all three analyses and from different thematic areas (demography, en-
vironment, and defence and security); font styles of issue codes refer
to results obtained in different RPM analyses (<http://foresight.jrc.ec
.europa.eu/survey_issues.pdf>, accessed 16 September 2011)
Area No. Issue code Key words from issue description
(optional)
Save natural resources (water, food) to prevent conflicts over their
scarcity and other impacts such as migration
1 DI04 Massive migration due to climate change
3 ENV03 Global under-pricing and
overconsumption of water
3 ENV68 Global decline of freshwater availability
leading to an increase in water
scarcity
3 ENV70 Global decline in biodiversity and loss
of ecosystems services
6 DS13 Attacks on infrastructure facilities
6 DS15 A major war by 2020
6 DS81 Pervasive sensors for real-time surveil-
lance widely diffused
Global decline in the quantity and quality of available fresh water seems to lead to
a dramatic increase in water scarcity in many parts of the world, and its impacts
will be felt more intensely in the period 2025–50. According to the OECD (2008),
2.8 billion, or 44%, of the world’s population lives in areas of high water stress.
There is a risk of global water bankruptcy due to humanity’s consistent
under-pricing of water and its consequent waste and overuse. Measures to save
natural resources (mainly water and food) have to be applied worldwide.
In addition, technologies have to be developed and/or applied to provide sufficient
water and food in many parts of the world
228
.
T. Ko
¨
nno
¨
la
¨
et al.
crowds’ (Duboff 2007) which suggests that the engagement
of a large number of scanners helps draw attention to phe-
nomena that qualify as indicators of emerging policy
issues. Indeed, in comparison with more structured
approaches—such as Delphi studies—a distinctive and
defining feature of horizon scanning is that there are no
strong a priori constraints on which signals could count as
relevant. Also, because judgements on relevance are taken
later, horizon scanning is inherently a bottom-up process
where results from individual sense-making activities are
followed by collective processes where the scanners take
stock of and learn from each others’ signals.
From the viewpoint of policy-making, however, this
type of ‘bottom-up’ process implies that the list of
prioritized issues may not be very coherent (Bunn and
Salo 1993). Indeed, the resulting list may appear frag-
mented and lead to the development of piecemeal and
possibly even conflicting action plans. It may therefore
be beneficial to synthesize issues into a smaller number
of internally consistent theme clusters which reflect the
full scope of the issues and which highlight interconnec-
tions that might otherwise escape attention. Yet, an
inherent difficulty in this type of clustering—which
requires and fosters collective sense-making—is that the
number of possible combinations can be enormous. For
example, if there are 40 issues from which clusters of con-
taining three issues are to be built, there would be nearly
ten thousand possible combinations (40!/3!37! = 9880).
Due to this mathematical reality, it is practically impos-
sible to evaluate all combinations systematically.
In this setting, it can be beneficial to proceed iteratively,
possibly by following ‘rules of thumb’, for instance by:
. Building an initial set from one or few issues that
appear to be particularly significant.
. Expanding such sets with additional issues that are
consistent with the ones that have been already
selected.
. Continuing until the resulting set has reasonably many
issues and sufficiently broad coverage.
Because these steps rely on subjective judgements that
call for creative sense-making, they may be best enacted
in workshops that offer opportunities for intensive inter-
action and shared knowledge creation. Furthermore,
the clusters (akin to the ‘cross-cutting challenges’ which
combined issues from at least two areas in the case
study) may have to be described at a more abstract and
general level than the issues from which they were built. In
consequence, the clusters may not be all that easy to inter-
pret, especially if there are no pointers to underlying
evidence about the issues or the insights that may have
guided their aggregation. One may therefore wish to
strive for a traceability that allows users to explore which
issues a given cluster was built from and which reasons
guided its formation.
A third concern is that if the resulting clusters are truly
comprehensive, they may have policy implications in
several areas of administrative responsibility. But if the
policy-makers in these areas are autonomous, or represent
different ‘administrative silos’, it may be difficult to
shape broad policies that they would be fully committed
to, because such commitments could be seen as a threat
to their autonomy. This notwithstanding, collective
sense-making activities spurred by cluster formation can
still be fruitful, because they highlight the interconnected-
ness of policy actions and, by doing so, provide pointers to
actions that may be best executed in a loosely coordinated
fashion. In this way, horizon scanning activities can, at
best, contribute to the design of systemic policies
which—far from being monolithic and inflexible—contrib-
ute to the attainment of systemic policy objectives by sup-
porting the timely recognition of the interconnectedness of
actions.
Based on their experiences from the exercise on
‘Scanning for emerging science and technology issues’,
Amanatidou et al. (2012) concluded that the analysis of
signals and emerging issues as well as ensuing workshops
need to be structured around specific policy challenges and
aligned with the agendas of policy-makers. In particular,
linkages to prevalent issues that were already on the radar
of policy-makers were seen to contribute to the usefulness
of the exercise. Seen from this perspective, the BEPA
exercise suggests that although the issues as such may be
known, they merit renewed attention if their broader sig-
nificance for society and policy-making has not yet been
sufficiently addressed.
The engagement of stakeholders into collective sense-
making in horizon scanning may follow different organ-
izational models. Specifically, Weber et al. (2012) consider
three ideal-type models for FTA, namely:
. individual projects or programmes of limited duration
and with targeted objectives
. dedicated units providing continuous input to their
embedding or mother organizations
. networks as informal yet stable settings that allow
for the bundling or coordination of resources and
competencies
Following this classification, we believe that the integra-
tion of these different ideal-types can be useful in estab-
lishing anticipatory systems. For example, while the
institutionalization of scanning activities serves to establish
close links with decision-makers and makes it possible to
build up capabilities on continuous basis, the contracted
external services and organized international networks can
still allow for a more rapid and flexible mode of carrying
out extensive scanning activities. All in all, the systematic
engagement of diverse stakeholders calls may call for an
equally diverse range of organizational approaches that
establish appropriate incentives for effective stakeholder
participation. Seen from this perspective, the BEPA
Facing the future: Horizon scanning
.
229
exercise can also be seen as an example of building an
international anticipatory system, which increases its rele-
vance for initiatives such as the European Forum on
Forward Looking Activities and the Joint Programming
in Research (Ko
¨
nno
¨
la
¨
et al. 2012).
To sum up, we have illustrated that horizon-scanning
activities need not be limited to the collection of
future-oriented observations. Rather, the scope of these
activities can be extended to include creative and collective
sense-making processes for synthesizing observations into
cross-cutting challenges and also for exploring the policy
implications of these challenges in collaborative work-
shops. From this perspective, we have presented the
foresight exercise ‘Facing the future: Time for the EU to
meet global challenges’ which has informed the strategy
processes of BEPA and JRC, has also influenced other
stakeholders, and has served as an input to the recent
EC Communication on the Innovation Union. Overall, it
appears the methodological approach in this exercise—
which had well-defined phases for the systematic
‘bottom-up’ scanning of issues and for the prioritization
and clustering thereof—is viable even in other contexts
where there is a need to build shared understandings
about the prospects of cross-cutting coordination in
support of systemic policy objectives.
Acknowledgements
The views expressed are purely those of the author and
may not in any circumstances be regarded as stating an
official position of the European Commission.
Notes
1. See <http://horizonscanning.defra.gov.uk> accessed
26 September 2011. See also Schultz (2006).
2. Effie Amanatidou, Anette Braun, Ville Brummer and
Mika Mannermaa supported JRC-IPTS in reviewing
four out of the six areas.
3. During the International Seville Conference 2008 on
Future-oriented Technology Analysis a ‘big picture’
survey was conducted on trends, drivers, wild cards,
discontinuities and weak signals likely to share the
future (Saritas and Smith 2011). The particularly
novel issues from this survey were added to the
issues collected from the literature review.
4. These issues plus the 73 additional issues identified by
the survey participants can be found at <http://
foresight.jrc.ec.europa.eu/bepa.html> accessed 18
September 2011.
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... Human experts also determine how they want to use the FCM by determining what simulations to run. To keep scenario models up to date one possibility is the practice of HS, where large amounts of data are scanned and processed to find weak or emerging signals (Yoon 2012;Gokhberg et al. 2020;Konnola et al. 2012). HS categorizes different terms based on how often they are found and how many sources they are found in to help people understand if they are weak signals, growing significantly, or are stable areas. ...
... Scanning is to help people make sense of what might happen by scanning through data to find "signals" and map those signals over time to understand how they are trending and thus determine how to set policy or make decisions (Konnola et al. 2012). One study categorizes the different types of signals that can be found and applied to scenario development based on how fast they grow over time and how frequently they occur (Gokhberg et al. 2020). ...
... Using Q&A with AI shows that we can utilize NLP-based automation in a very human way to define and use scenarios. HS scans large amounts of data to find weak or emerging signals which can be used to aid in decision making (Yoon 2012;Gokhberg et al. 2020;Konnola et al. 2012). ...
Thesis
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Robotics and autonomous systems are reshaping the world, changing healthcare, food production and biodiversity management. While they will play a fundamental role in delivering the UN Sustainable Development Goals, associated opportunities and threats are yet to be considered systematically. We report on a horizon scan evaluating robotics and autonomous systems impact on all Sustainable Development Goals, involving 102 experts from around the world. Robotics and autonomous systems are likely to transform how the Sustainable Development Goals are achieved, through replacing and supporting human activities, fostering innovation, enhancing remote access and improving monitoring. Emerging threats relate to reinforcing inequalities, exacerbating environmental change, diverting resources from tried-and-tested solutions and reducing freedom and privacy through inadequate governance. Although predicting future impacts of robotics and autonomous systems on the Sustainable Development Goals is difficult, thoroughly examining technological developments early is essential to prevent unintended detrimental consequences. Additionally, robotics and autonomous systems should be considered explicitly when developing future iterations of the Sustainable Development Goals to avoid reversing progress or exacerbating inequalities.
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The provision of quality health care and standards of leadership in the National Health Service in England have been of concern for many years. To address falling standards and institutional failures external regulation of the service was introduced. However, despite the scrutiny of regulators, concerns regarding organisational culture, quality and leadership in the NHS prevail. Research in organisations that have improved their performance as evidenced by the health care quality regulator, Care Quality Commission, has mainly focussed on the organisational changes that have occurred. However, little has been studied as to whether organisational objectives go beyond delivering quality improvement and there is a lack of examination of the strategic leadership behaviour that underpins organisational performance improvement and resilience. Furthermore, there is little research into how the focus of organisational change may alter following a second inspection that demonstrates quality improvement, as evidenced by the Care Quality Commission. Thus it is unclear whether improvement is the result of corporate strategy that intends to deliver long-term, sustainable improvement, short to mid-term improvement to satisfy the regulator, or a mixture of both. This research set out to explore these issues. A multiple-case study design of two non-typical NHS Foundation Trusts were researched to identify the strategic leadership behaviours that enabled organisational performance improvement and underpinned the development of sustained organisational resilience. The research questions were explored through the multiple methods of interviews, secondary documents, non-participant observations and NHS Staff Survey data. Thematic analysis of interview data and analysis of documents were complemented by analysis of summary aggregated percentages of staff survey data. The research offers new insights into leadership behaviour that goes beyond a focus on quality improvement and presents a new theoretical framework regarding the development of organisational resilience. Five strategic leadership behaviours underpinned the development of sustained organisational resilience: responsible leadership, a values-led culture, being people-focussed, applying rigorous governance and a commitment to organisational learning. A new paradigm of leadership in the NHS is proposed, that of responsible leadership. This will benefit the health and social care sectors as they move into a model of integrated care.<br/
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Robotics and autonomous systems are reshaping the world, changing healthcare, food production and biodiversity management. While they will play a fundamental role in delivering the UN Sustainable Development Goals, associated opportunities and threats are yet to be considered systematically. We report on a horizon scan evaluating robotics and autonomous systems impact on all Sustainable Development Goals, involving 102 experts from around the world. Robotics and autonomous systems are likely to transform how the Sustainable Development Goals are achieved, through replacing and supporting human activities, fostering innovation, enhancing remote access and improving monitoring. Emerging threats relate to reinforcing inequalities, exacerbating environmental change, diverting resources from tried-and-tested solutions and reducing freedom and privacy through inadequate governance. Although predicting future impacts of robotics and autonomous systems on the Sustainable Development Goals is difficult, thoroughly examining technological developments early is essential to prevent unintended detrimental consequences. Additionally, robotics and autonomous systems should be considered explicitly when developing future iterations of the Sustainable Development Goals to avoid reversing progress or exacerbating inequalities.
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