Stitches in time? Realising the value of futures and foresight

This introduces you to some of the key ideas in a report published by the RSA in the UK, funded by PERU (Policy Evaluation Research Unit and Metropolis). The RSA says “We invite you to be part of this change. Join our community” This is why we attach the link to the full document.

Authors: Adanna Shallowe, Aleksandra Szymczyk, Ella Firebrace, Ian Burbidge and James Morrison

Report recommendations -

For organisations

Establish the chief foresight officer (or equivalent) as a core C-suite role, charged with responsibility for the long-term impact of the organisation. Establish equivalents in public, social, and charity sectors together with mechanisms to share success.

 • Develop an incentives and reporting structure and a code of ethics for all businesses that shifts the balance away from short-term, often unsustainable actions whose sole aim is to maximise shareholder value, and prioritise instead longer-term, sustainable practice and value generation for shareholders and for wider society.

• Identify and connect those organisations actively working to embed long-term perspectives into their work. Seek opportunities to align, test and amplify their work so that longer-term time horizons become more of an institutional norm.

For policymakers

• Look at issues of legitimacy in more detail, including the relationship of futures and foresight with other forms of public engagement and deliberation. Examine, in particular, the differences in how societies and cultures think about time and the long-term, what lessons can be shared, and how this can support the long-term response to the shortterm pressures of responding to Covid-19.

 • Require every government department, public sector organisation, and those organisations delivering services with public funding, to embed foresight thinking into its work, including through the publication of a Future Generations Impact Assessment alongside any significant policy or funding change. Continue to develop futures and foresight as core competency for public policymakers.

• Design and test a new Futures Citizen module, ultimately to form a new further-education qualification, as well be a foundation part of every degree course. It could cover the basics of foresight alongside insights from a range of multi-disciplinary subjects such as systems thinking, complexity, design and innovation, strategy, decision-making, economics, choice and bias, and so on. Make available as a MOOC once developed and tested. This will start to seed and mainstream efforts at making foresight more accessible and culturally acceptable.

For society

• Design and run a citizens’ jury on the idea of establishing a third chamber alongside the House of Commons and the House of Lords, mandated with the primary function of representing the interests of future generations. Equip this chamber with the powers to fulfil their functions. Support this by reducing the voting age to 16, recognising that young people have longer remaining on the planet than their grandparents’ generation, and that they are old enough to have a say at the ballot-box.

• Establish diverse and inclusive national and regional citizens’ assemblies on future generations to inform this work, supported by RSA Fellows with foresight expertise.7

• Design some practical micro experiments that help cement longer term thinking in people’s everyday lives and social contexts. For example, what would it take to enable everyone to have the option of taking mini-retirements for every decade of work? New mechanisms are needed that enable future generations to live a good life in a context significantly different to that enjoyed by previous generations.

The RSA acknowledges this work is relevant for their context. It serves therefore not as a blueprint for anyone in any other country, but as an opportunity to engage with the ideas in here.

You can read the full report here -