The influence of futures work on public policy and sustainability

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Foresight, 2009, 11 (5), pp. 40 - 56
Issue Date:
Full metadata record
Purpose - This paper aims to draw on a global scan of futures literature undertaken for the State of Play in the Futures Field (SOPIFF) project to investigate the contribution of futures work to averting looming sustainability challenges and suggest new strategies for influencing policy and practice. Design/methodology/approach - The SOPIFF project used an integral meta-scanning framework to review publicly available futures material, providing a rich source of material to use in assessing the influence achieved by futures work. The framework categorizes futures work according to organizational type, social interests, methods, domains and geographic location. Findings - On the whole, the influence achieved by futures work is disappointing given that many futurists are strongly committed to bringing about more desirable futures. Some qualified success stories include science and technology foresight, getting sustainability challenges onto the social agenda and small-scale, distributed initiatives. Research limitations/implications - Limitations of the scanning process include heavy reliance on publicly available material, prioritization of breadth over depth of analysis and the physical and cultural location of the researchers. Future iterations of the research should go beyond public material, undertake deeper analysis of scanning hits and draw in more non-western and non-English work. Practical implications - The paper proposes four strategies for increasing the influence of futures work: methodological renewal, political engagement, individual capacity building and participatory approaches. Originality/value - The paper uses the recently developed integral meta-scanning framework to provide a novel view of the futures field. The findings will be of value to foresight practitioners that are seeking to influence public policy and sustainability. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
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