Integrated Governmental Foresight (IGF)

Over the past decade or so, a new approach to Anticipatory Governance has been developed which integrates intelligence and foresight activities across governmental departments, harnessing synergies that overlaps toward systemic policy insights. While still broadly focused on national priorities and challenges, “public health, national security, or the environment,” [etc] (Habegger, 2010, p.50) this mode of foresight activity cuts across traditional policy areas and departments, and puts a premium on cooperation and collaboration across departments. It typically requires large scale knowledge management systems for scanning databases and subsequent analysis, and can be considered a limited type of organizational “crowd sourcing”.

Its end purpose is to assists policy makers with strategic thinking and decision- making. Habegger (2010) analyzed three important examples of this mode of foresight activity (UK, Netherlands, Singapore), arguing:

“Only few contemporary challenges can be confined to one policy area anymore, and governments have realized that a single-issue focus is in many instances insufficient. Consequently, they have started to experiment with foresight that cuts across the traditional boundaries of policy areas and government departments.” (Habegger, 2010, p.50)

While such an approach to governmental foresight has distinct instrumental advantages, for example the Singapore government’s Risk Assessment and Horizon Scanning (RAHS) program’s capacity to identify early warning signs of potential risk, Habegger argues that the cultural benefits of this approach are perhaps even deeper, where process-based foresight among inter-organizational learning networks create conditions for cultural change toward adaptive and agile policy development. Such approaches foster cross-departmental sharing and collaboration, building in a culture of learning networks and organizations, breaking down traditional silos among government areas. Or as Habegger articulated, the IGF is:

“characterized by a long-term, interdisciplinary, participative, and communicative perspective that attempts to build networks across professional communities, enables broad-based social learning, generates scenario-based knowledge, and eventually results in visions of (alternative) policies.” (Habegger, 2010, p.50)

A precursor to integrated governmental foresight may also be noted in early experiments with what Bezold (2006) describes as “legislative foresight”. Experiments in the US at the federal level in integrating futures studies approaches into legislative processes attempted to build in environmental scanning and forecasts that could have implications for existing legislation, as well as foster coordination across legislative committees to look at intended and unintended future consequences of legislation: to establish more coordinated and coherent. As such legislative foresight played a kind of oversight function on all legislative activity (Bezold, 1978, p.124 in Bezold, 2006). While this kind of legislative foresight is distinctly different to the IGF described by Habegger, it still holds significant potential for those considering a broad strategy mix and designing Anticipatory Governance approaches.

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