The impact of foresight on policy-making: Insights from the FORLEARN mutual learning process
The paper presents recent insights from the ongoing FORLEARN project, which aims to develop Foresight theory and practise by supporting the sharing of experience ('mutual learning') in Europe. Six functions of Foresight for policy-making are elaborated on: (1) Informing policy: generating insights regarding the dynamics of change, future challenges and options, along with new ideas, and transmitting them to policymakers as an input to policy conceptualisation and design. (2) Facilitating policy implementation: enhancing the capacity for change within a given policy field by building a common awareness of the current situation and future challenges, as well as new networks and visions among stakeholders. (3) Embedding participation in policy-making: facilitating the participation of civil society in the policy-making process, thereby improving its transparency and legitimacy. (4) Supporting policy definition: jointly translating outcomes from the collective process into specific options for policy definition and implementation. (5) Reconfiguring the policy system: in a way that makes it more apt to address long-term challenges. (6) Symbolic function: indicating to the public that policy is based on rational information. The relationship between these functions and the tensions that can arise when a Foresight exercise attempts to address more than one function are discussed. Possible approaches for Foresight practice to better achieve the targeted impact on policy-making are outlined and emerging guidelines for improving Foresight practice are presented.