Future Methods

Chair:       Markus Vinnari / Leena Jokinen, Finland Futures Research Center
Time:        Friday 1oth June, at 10:30-12:30
Venue:     Lecture room B3109
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Acting as an Outside Vendor in a Futures Process – Four Ways of Doing the Job
Markus Vinnari1, Burkhard Aufferman2 & Petri Tapio2
1University of Eastern Finland, Finland & 2Finland Futures Research Centre, Finland
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Expectations about the future are drivers of many actions in the corporate as well as the public sector. The futures processes in these institutions should start with the recognition of futures knowledge needs and be continued with the evaluation of information collection methods. In this article we analyze how the collection of the information process can be done when an outside vendor process is selected. We use selected publications of the largest academic futures research organization in the Nordic countries, Finland Futures Research Centre (FFRC), as the material of a case study. The processes are identified in order to highlight the methods used to detect new information about the future and especially to highlight in which cases this information is called weak signals. In the first process, the expert futures researcher gathers a group of subject matter experts (SMEs) which delivers most of the information. The outcome in the first process is often called “factors of change”. In the second process, an SME with some knowledge of futures research methods gathers data to detect possible factors that could influence future conditions and this information is used as a basis for the futures information. In the third process, the futurist or generalist uses his or her own expertise to gather possible factors that could influence the future. These factors are often called weak signals. In the fourth process, an SME uses heuristic reasoning to outline the future development of a specific field. We argue that the information gathered in the first and second processes can be ratified by another group of experts, which is not the case with the third and the fourth process. We argue that subject matter expertise is always needed when interpreting signals of change that could be utilised by others than the collectors of the information.
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Keywords: Futures Studies, Methodology, Weak Signals
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The History of the Future: Envisioning for Resilient and Sustainable Cities
Frank Nevens & Leen Gorissen
VITO, the Flemish Research Institute for Technological Research, Belgium
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During the decades ahead, worldwide cities will have to cope with major ‘landscape’ pressures/ trends that will them to consider major transformative processes or ‘transitions’ (resource depletion, energy cost/use/dependency, sufficient/healthy food production, mobility needs/limits, further greenhouse gas emissions, climate adaptation….). It may only be expected that this challenging complexity will only continue to increase, and will ask for different/additional approaches in change processes than the ones in use today. Where forecasts and prognoses typically extrapolate and build on linear and well-known working mechanisms of the systems in routine, scenario methods handle a set of possible future  evolutions (determined by different combinations of major drivers) and tend to compose a preparative portfolio of available response trajectories. Probably the least applied future strategic approach is the one of envisioning. Visions are narratives/images of a desirable (sustainable) future state, established in explicitly transdisciplinar and creative settings; inspired by basic principles and building on a set of explicit values/norms.
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In our presentation, we will attempt to indicate how the concepts of ‘vision’ and ‘envisioning’ add value to forecast/prognosis and scenarios as tools for the design and the dynamic process of change towards resilient/sustainable cities. In a philosophy of “be the change you want to see”, we envisage a presentation (and eventually paper) in which we involve a designer/artist (active in future city design) and with which we creatively activate the conference audience.
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Increasing the Pace of Sustainable Development in Countries: The Need for Foresight Champions, Policy Architects and System Builders
Sally Fawkes1 & Carsten Beck2
1La Trobe University, Australia & 2Copenhagen Institute for Futures Research, Denmark
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The use of futures studies has been shown to support processes inherent in moving societies towards more sustainable practices, such as: the development of shared goals and commitment to change; appreciation of barriers to and facilitators of change; identification of contradictions in goals and strategies; understanding of the content and timing of critical steps in realising preferred futures; and defining the nature of and trade-offs between social, technological, economic, legal and political aspects of sustainable development. Research conducted as part of a recent PhD study (Fawkes, 2009) found no examplar countries with an organised, multi-level, multi-sector approach to the conduct of futures studies. While key elements exist in many countries in and outside of Europe (e.g. institutions with a standing brief to monitor trends, training programs in futures studies techniques, nationally commissioned futures studies projects), they were not joined up to form a high performing foresight system. This paper argues that the quest for sustainable development would be strengthened considerably if futures thinking were to occur regularly, at multiple levels and engage civil society, government and business sectors. It proposes an integrated national foresight system framework and calls for ‘foresight champions’ to drive the development of such systems in countries.
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Need and Usefulness for Future Foresight -– Finland’s Rescue Services’ Environmental Scanning: Trend Analysis and Future Scenarios 2025+
Esko Kaukonen
Pelastusopisto, Finland
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This exploration and developing project was carried out during spring 2010 in four workshop sessions and in one seminar. The workshop sessions were participated by the Finland’s Rescue Service’s Future Foresight Council, which is a networking coalition anticipating future changes in Rescue Service’s operational environment and having members from the Ministry of Interior, Regional State Administrative Agency, Rescue Departments, The Finnish National Rescue Association and Emergency Services College. The seminar was participated by the Executive Committee of the Forum of the Rescue Services’ Administration.
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In the project two aspects of the challenge strategic developing were studied. On the one hand the challenge of strategic developing was seen as a problem of interpreting change in rescue services’ operational environment.  On the other hand it was seen as a leadership problem when the operational environment is in a turning point or quickly changing.’
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The central part of the project was the trend and scenario analysis. Earlier, at 2008, the rescue services aimed at understanding the changes of its operational environment through trend analysis and scenario planning. The events in the world and the in 2010 starting rescue services’ strategic planning process gave a reason to re-evaluation.
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The following trends affecting the operational environment  of Finland’s rescue services were discovered: ageing of the population in Finland, urbanisation, marginalisation and polarisation development, technology development, increasing importance of data networks, emphasising of  neo-helplessness and desire for safety, growing need of energy, increasing importance of ecological aspects and the environment, growing need of skills and innovation abilities, tightening competition of  skilled persons, growth of foreign labour force as well as the overload and the growing pressure of efficiency of the public sector.
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In relation to the updating of the earlier (2008) scenarios of the rescue services the names of the three scenarios (The World of Sustainable Development, The Market-Based World and The World of Closed States and Blocks) were maintained the same in the updated scenario model. Also some fairly clear similarities to the scenarios of the Finnish Business and Policy Forum (EVA) were found although the perspective in these two models is inherently different. Only the scenario name The World of High Capitalism was decided to be changed to The Capitalist Word in Crisis as it was considered that it would better describe the world for possibly unsuccessful recovery measures after the year 2008’s economic recession. Of the four scenarios the two first mentioned were thought to be positive from the perspective of sustainable development and the others two negative. Each of these four scenarios was thought to bring their own kind of opportunities and threats to the rescue services of Finland.
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In the end of the project the work on trends and scenarios was discussed from two viewpoints. On the one hand the benefits of the scenario approaches for future foresight were described.  On the other hand connecting the trends and scenarios integrally to the strategic planning process was introduced.
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Keywords: the trends of the operational environment, scenarios, strategy, scenario based strategic work
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Significance of Wild Cards and Weak Signals for Sustainability – Case of Water Services
Ossi A. Heino & Annina J. Takala
Tampere University of Technology, Finland
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Sustainable development is a complex and dynamic concept (Newman, 2005), that is by its very basic definition future-oriented (WCED, 1987).  It combines the complex human and environmental systems, and as complex systems are filled with uncertainty no amount of precaution will eliminate all risks. The authors maintain it would be useful to identify weak signals and wild cards (see Hiltunen, 2010) which could become major future developments. Based on this information, systems could be better prepared and adapted to future changes enhancing the resilience, and thus, the sustainability of systems.
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This paper examines weak signals and wild cards in the case of sustainability of water services. Water services provide an interesting case as the sustainability of the services is one of the key issues in human well-being. Furthermore, the life cycle of water services infrastructure is remarkably long, putting additional pressure on the decisions made today (Katko et al., 2006). In this research, weak signals were scanned in textual sources: newspapers, books and journals (Hiltunen, 2008). Critical analysis on the usefulness of the process and results is provided.
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References
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    Hiltunen, E. 2008. Good Sources of Weak Signals: A Global Study of Where Futurists Look for Weak Signals. Journal of Futures Studies 12(4), 21–44.
    Hiltunen, E. 2010. Weak Signals in Organizational Futures Learning. Helsinki School of Economics A-365.
    Katko, T. S., Juuti, P. S. & Pietila, P. E. 2006: Key long-term strategic decisions in water and sanitation services management in Finland, 1860–2003. Boreal Env. Res. 11: 389–400
    WCED (World Commission on Environment and Development). (1987). Our Common Future. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
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Get a Life: A Simulation Tool of Future Working Life for University Students
Leena Jokinen, Johanna Ollila & Mikko Vähätalo
Finland Futures Research Centre, Finland
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The paper aims to discuss the future working life simulation as a pedagogical tool in university students’ career guidance. Students as well as career counselors in universities need modern tools to anticipate and assess the future directions of working life and society. Get a Life project has produced a web based tool for an individual student to reflect on the future of working life and career progress. The objective of the tool is to produce safe, yet exciting experience on the future of work.
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The main methodological focus is on simulating complex phenomena such as the work and social life of an individual. In building the futures orientation – with a time scale of 20 years up to 2030 – five background scenarios depicting as many possible futures societies have been created for the simulation tool. The methods used to produce the content for the tool have been mainly scenario building and futures workshops with futures researchers, students and employers.
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Two of the focal points of the paper are how to build and create content for a user-friendly career planning product with futures orientation and how to use futures studies and simulations as tools for personal futures orientation and proactive thinking.