What is foresight

Foresight activities are carried out with the aim of foreseeing events, trends and challenges in the near future or in the long term.

Foresight complements strategic planning as it can aid policy-makers anticipate, debate, and ultimately, shape the future.

The European Commission (JRC) has defined foresight as:

a systematic, participatory, future-intelligence-gathering and medium-to-long-term vision-building process aimed at present-day decisions and mobilising joint actions.

Territorial foresight

Territorial foresight can be thought of as a structured set of participatory vision building and strategic planning activities that allow regions to think, consider, debate and shape the medium to long-term future of their regions, provinces or cities.

Many of the key process elements of foresight are widely used in strategic planning - the formation of expert panels, the use of socio-economic and environmental data consultation, brainstorming, trend and extrapolation and the setting of strategic goals.

The distinctive feature of foresight is its long-term future orientation that goes beyond immediate issues and concerns, and the use of methodologies such as brainstorming, scenario development and scenario analysis using SWOT or similar techniques. Foresight, unlike most approaches to strategic planning, deals with long-term prospects, and draws upon the views of multiple stakeholders.

LRAs foresight and horizon scanning exercise

Today there is a vast number of local and regional authorities and actors that engage in foresight activities and strategic planning. There is a growing necessity to anticipate changes, challenges and ongoing concerns, early on, and try to shape the future following relevant debates, dialogues and consultations.

On foresight, regions and cities work in different ways on their own areas of competences, as well as with national authorities and even European or global organisations or associations. These can be discussed between them and best practices as well as mutually considered alarms from their own horizon scanning exercises can be shared. Moreover, foresight networks have been developing in Europe precisely for the purpose of establishing a forum for elaborating on foresight and planning.

CoR's horizon scanning for 2016-2017

The CoR is considering the territorial approach of horizon scanning, an exercise that complements traditional planning and aims to detect early signs of potentially important developments by examining possible threats and opportunities.

For the CoR, this exercise identifies the key issues on the horizon for 2016/2017 of particular relevance to EU local and regional authorities and should have the purpose of:

  • Supporting the achievement of the CoR's priorities;
  • Feeding into the 2018 European Commission’s legislative proposals for post 2020 policies.

Uncertainties that have been identified at this stage concern:

  • The future of European integration;
  • The ongoing migration challenges;
  • EU's growth and jobs dynamic.

Research programme

The Committee of the Regions 2010 research programme established a two-pronged approach consisting of supporting the CoR's consultative activities and platforms/networks and more long-term strategies to push forward discussions on themes of European integration relevant for local and regional authorities and to reinforce the visibility of the CoR and its capacity to react to strategic developments on the political agenda.

The CoR turned to forward planning and foresight in order to increase its ability to anticipate and react to new political or socio-economical developments. The aim was to provide the Committee of the Regions with knowledge and intelligence on the major trends and future challenges to be faced by local and regional authorities (LRAs) in Europe and by the Institution itself over the medium and long term.

The programme for foresight activities of the CoR for the years 2013-14 focused on developing two specific foresight strands:

  • The EU after 2020: what priorities for LRAs in a post-Europe 2020 strategy;
  • The CoR in 2025.

Additionally, the following strategic themes were identified:

  • Europe 2020 strategy and economic and fiscal governance in the EU;
  • Governance and territorial cohesion;
  • Engage with Citizens and the future of Europe.

The CoR's research programme provided scientific support to the CoR commissions, platforms and networks through the use of framework contracts.


Related Information

Foresight activities at the Committee of the Regions are coordinated by the Directorate for Legislative Works C in close cooperation with other commissions' secretariats.

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