Strategic foresight helps people to understand how the future may be different to the present, and how to create a preferred future for their organisations. Anticipating changes in their operating environments allowing for proactive planning, strategy development, risk management, operational agility, innovation and new business development.

Strategic foresight approaches and techniques can be used in a variety of settings. Policy makers want to be able to anticipate changes affecting particular regions,, and develop proactive policy. Corporate and business thinkers need to understand key industry shifts if they wish to develop new strategic intent, business and innovation strategies.

Social development professionals need to understand the challenges that will be faced by communities in the future, and develop action strategies to address these.

Strategic foresight integrates an eclectic mix of thinking and methods, such as forecasting, systems analysis, communications / discourse analysis, organizational psychology, participatory development processes, and organisational learning and development.

Many of our projects use and incorporate strategic foresight approaches.

Our publications in the area of foresight / futures studies include:

Foresight in a Network Era: Peer-producing Alternative Futures

Anticipatory Governance: Traditions and Trajectories for Strategic Design

Forging the Synergy between Anticipation and Innovation: The Futures Action Model

The Futures of Power in the Network Era


Futures Prompter

Futures prompter is a simple, low cost social media based engagement process for an organisations wanting to have its staff explore and contribute their ideas about the future of the organisation.

Futures prompter was developed in response to a local council’s desire to involve a broad range of staff in a discussion about which new ideas and technologies to invest in over the next few years. There was a requirement to challenge participants and also leave space for them to contribute their own examples and ideas. Like many organisations councils funds are tight and this had to be a low cost endeavour.

We developed process which can be run on internal social media discussion channels like Yammer. After a brief introduction participants were able to view and comment on different ideas and examples of what the future might hold and how that might be relevant to their organisation.  This was presented as a safe space to add ideas and examples. The discussions moved through a sequence of typical future ‘voices’ in organisations (e.g, technological change) so that the was space for different types of views to be heard. At the end of the 3 week discussion participants were invited to rate which were the most important ideas which the council should invest in over the next few years.

It makes sense to use the collective intelligence of your organisation to frame a view of how scarce resources should be spent and to do this you need to engage a large number of people and challenge the dominant in-house thinking. The Futures prompter is a low cost product which can be run in-house by your team to do just that.

If you want to make sure that you’re covering your blind spots before making investment decisions, use futures prompter to engage your most precious resource; your staff, contact us at Action Foresight.

GLAM Innovation Study

CSIRO’s Australian Centre for Broadband Innovation commissioned a study of next steps for digital innovation among Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums – the so-called GLAM Sector – in Australia. Action Foresight collaborated with Chris Winter and a team from Smart Services CRC and CSIRO to carry out the study using a foresight-driven approach.

The study used a two-day futures workshop to create a visionary space for the next 10 years in the sector.  The attendees worked collaboratively on a set of four key initiatives for the whole sector.

Due to time constraints the workshop was attended by mostly Sydney-based representatives of the sector, so we wanted to ensure that the ideas created by the attendees formed a sound, but forward-thinking agenda for the whole sector nationally. To achieve this, we held over thirty interviews in-person and online with heads and digital leaders in the sector nationally and overseas.  The feedback in these interviews ratified and developed the proposals from the workshop.

Issues raised by the study included new ways to access and interact with collections and information, changes to public use of cultural collections and new service and business models to fund and promote activities.  While the individual institutions and parts of the sector naturally had their own concerns, it was interesting to discover how similar many of them were.

The final report was released by CSIRO in August 2014 and been distributed to every GLAM institution at the state and federal level and all relevant ministers.


·      CSIRO press release

·      Museums Australia download page

·      Project website for the study

Creating the Age Friendly City: An Initial Evaluation

This research report was commissioned by City of Port Phillip (CoPP) and delivered by Action Foresight with the aim of improving the lives of older residents, both now and in the future. The major objective of this initiative was to provide a broad assessment of municipal strengths, weaknesses and gaps for the City of Port Phillip (CoPP) in relation to the World Health Organisation’s Global Age-friendly Cities: A Guide and the Community Liveability Guide2 developed by Professor Laurie Buys and her team at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT).

The research team drew from workshops, focus groups and interviews, augmented by online surveys administered by the CoPP. An environmental scan of related issues was conducted to provide an outside view and support future policy development within the CoPP.

The project was carried out by DeChantal Hillis, Dr. David Wright, Dr. Laurie Buys and Dr. José Ramos.

Open Futures Library

Every year there are hundreds of quality scenarios developed by futurists in conjunction with industry leaders and universities. To this we can add the many images, videos and short stories that are little ‘snippets’ of alternative futures that people generate each year. These are great resources to start some conversations about what the future might hold, but until recently there was no single place to look for these.

Action Foresight with the support of the Smart Service CRC changed this by developing the Open Futures Library. The Open Futures Library contains hundred of links quality scenarios and other depictions of the future. The library support search by subject, tags, time frame, topics and many other features. It’s free to join and you can add images as well as add comments to existing ones.

This provides you with a free entry point to have a look at some futures work and to be able to use it in your strategy, innovations and organisation design process. The video snippets can act as great conversation starters and the larger documents come with the authority of leading experts in the topic field, great for overcoming the “I don’t believe that” conversation shut down. The larger documents also provide the backing references and materials making them a great place to start your research and update.

Tips and traps for using material from the Futures Library;

  • Look for a mix of topic specific and general country, regional or world overviews
  • Look at all the scenarios in the set, not just the one that might back your business case
  • There are often great summaries which can be used as introductions
  • Look for at least one with quality experts to back the conversation
  • Use the references to start your own research
  • Wind tunnel test you business idea, design or innovation in each scenario in the set.

The Foresight Epidemic

The ‘foresight epidemic’ was a project done as part of research with the Smart Services CRC, to investigate the extent to which contemporary social media can be harnesses as platforms for developing public foresight.

We used a variety of futures studies methods to explore topics chosen by interest from the public. Topics included:

·      The futures of citizen insurgencies

·      The futures of work

·      The futures of childhood education

·      The future of cities in the Asia Pacific

With each topic we employed a new futures method that we twined with a new social media strategy.  We followed an action research strategy of 1) designing a new foresight approach, 2) running it as an experiment in engagement, 3) evaluating how it went. We also employed triple loop learning theory to test our team assumptions with regard to the ‘why’ of the activity (purpose), the strategies we considered best and the tactical and operational dimensions of what we were doing.

Critical insights from the action learning experiment included:

·      The power of images in facilitating people’s engagement and ability to mash-up scenarios

·      The importance of distributed and embodied ‘co-presence’ – even while not physically present, sensory engagement is still fundamental

·      The potential for twining physical and virtual interactions is real but requires design and intelligent implementation

·      Smaller groups engaging in coherent and high quality conversations about the future is preferable to large scale groups with less coherence – there is a trade off with the scale and network capacity of social media.

Bendigo a Thinking Community

In 2012 we put forward a proposal to run an intensive and large scale foresight capacity development process for the citizens of Bendigo in Victoria, Australia.  The objective of Bendigo-A Thinking Community was to encourage and engage with the community to think deeply and strategically about expectations and aspirations to develop a more prosperous, liveable and sustainable society.

A rural city two hours (by train) North-West of Melbourne, Bendigo is facing a number of long term challenges and changes. The current population of approximately 100,000 is set to increase dramatically over the coming decades. Demographic shifts and new migrant populations are changing the cultural landscape. The impact of climate change, already felt in the region, remains an ever present and uncertain factor. The industrial and economic base of the city is also in transition.

We were engaged to run a nine month foresight program for 50 participants, the goal of which was

to inspire [the] city to become renowned as a thinking city. A city, that can think creatively for the long-term. A city, that attracts and inspires the most creative people. A city that thinks beyond the next political poll, TV series or annual report. We already have wonderful thinkers in Bendigo. But do we have the skill set as a City to think long term? Can we inspire our community to be actively engaged thinkers?

In 2013 we designed and over nine months ran a program that involved four full day live large group workshops and six online webinars.  The content of the workshop include:

·      Using the Futures Action Model as a framework to facilitate foresight informed social innovation

·      Setting up and facilitating a social media platform for a shared Horizon Scanning process

·      Group / team based exploration of a variety of foresight themes and innovation topics, many which led to social interventions and innovations

·      Use of the Three Horizons framework of change to help groups conceptualize change strategies

·      Use of a narrative foresight approach, including the use of Causal Layered Analysis, to create a new story / narrative for the development of the region.

·      Production of a story artifact.


NORA Leader’s Summit

The National Online Retailers Association (NORA) is the peak body for online retailers in Australia. Bringing its members together for its inaugural conference in 2013, NORA wanted to provide and space to collaborate, network and articulate the needs of its members. Over the day and half event the attendees were able to share their thoughts about the future and explore these through six archetypal futures. In an industry driven by hourly results, thinking about the future can be difficult but our program was designed to provide both stimulation and a sense of safety. Over the course of the event the attendees – many of whom had never met – were able to created connections and articulate a desired future for their industry.

AIMIA Strategic Visioning

The board of AIMIA, Australia’s peak body for the digital industry, invited Action Foresight to provide a strategic futures workshop over two evenings, one week apart to stimulate a deep rethink of the focus and purpose of the organisation and to develop practical steps toward a renewed vision. We used a version of our Four Futures workshop to enable the sixteen person team to imagine, design and document four key future initiatives to communicate to their new, incoming CEO. For AIMIA, using a foresight-based process enabled them to be both visionary and collaborative at the same time – integrating their diverse ideas, but also honing in on shared purpose and a common sense of a new vision.