Using Foresight to Surface Social Problems
The Rockefeller Foundation recently concluded a multi-year project supporting a network of foresight organizations. The Searchlight Network was an international community of practice that utilized pro-poor foresight activities to identify problems and opportunities as they emerged in the Global South. The Network built foresight capacity by employing tactics such as horizon scanning and trend monitoring, which aided the opportunity identification and risk management activities of multiple philanthropic actors.
Four of the organizations in the Searchlight Network—the Centre for Democracy and Development in West Africa, FORO Nacional Internacional in Peru, Noviscape in Thailand, and the South African Node of the Millennium Project in Southern Africa—were recently interviewed to reflect on their work and explore the question, “how has foresight influenced policy?” Their reflections are captured in the report, “Dispatches from the Frontline,” which highlights key lessons learned by Searchlight members regarding foresight methods and how they can be used to aid public discourse.
Searchlight members found that embedding pro-poor foresight capacity in the public sector requires significant behavior change. Public offices often put more emphasis on the present rather than planning for the future, yet members found that trend monitoring, scenario planning, and horizon scanning methods can yield powerful insights, open new dialogues, and alter public opinion as citizens imagine different futures. Across the Network, the shift in public opinion was often channeled to influence the decisions of policy makers and reinforced the importance of sustaining a dialogue about the future.