How to successfully engage policy makers in long-term thinking?

During the last 6 years, I was happy to be involved in two foresight studies about the future of China.

The first, China 2025[1] (produced by PRAXI/FORTH & Phemonoe Lab) was mostly focusing on the trends and drivers that affect the research focus in China.

In order to achieve better dissemination and understanding of what the future might bring and make the final report appealing for the various stakeholders, we heavily invested resources on graphic design and quality printing and presented the outcome at workshops and scientific journals.

Nevertheless, we don’t know in which extend the “China 2025” report, was successfully used to engage stakeholders in a more strategic long-term thinking and planning.

The second phase of our foresight work, China 2030[2], started at 2015 and is mostly focusing on the innovation environment, the uncertainties, and the specific opportunities for cooperation between EU and China (the work is performed by KAIROS Future, PRAXI/FORTH & Phemonoe Lab).

China 2030, has been a far more demanding project entailing a cooperative foresight work that took place simultaneously in EU and China, to produce scenarios drawing special focus in the cooperation potential between EU and China.

The research team has utilized a combination of foresight methodologies such us desk-study analysis, Delphi, media scanning, interviews, exploratory workshops, and patent/paper analysis, in order to identify critical drivers, trends, and uncertainties, in order to draw plausible scenarios for China in 2030.

Having confirmed the megatrends, and emerging business models that are changing the global future, the team with the support of the experts identified a set of nine key dimensions (uncertainties), each with three options, that generated 20,000 possible scenarios. The number of plausible scenarios was further reduced after ranking the uncertainties by importance, that revealed two overarching uncertainty dimensions. The first is related to the Chinese government’s approach toward innovation, and the second dimension is relative to China’s creative capabilities.

These two overarching dimensions were used as the axes of the key four produced scenarios:

After concluding the main part work of the scenario work, the main challenge was still the same: How to actively engage stakeholders in long-term thinking and planning based on the outcome of the China 2030 scenarios.

A new methodology was decided to be tested this time. Working together with the Policy Lab of JRC, we decided to use the JRC Scenario Exploration System (SES), as a tool to present the outcome of our work and actively engage stakeholders in long-term thinking. Working together with the Policy Lab, we produced the China Edition 1.0 of SES, introducing all the findings from our scenario work.

The first workshop, took place on the 16th of May 2017 in Shanghai, involving over 40 Chinese and European stakeholders and the feedback was amazing. Participants with any previous knowledge of the scenarios, managed to take part in long-term policy discussions, and achieved a deep understanding of the different China 2030 scenarios.

A second experiment took place in June 2017 in Brussels where we again utilized SES China, for testing the strategic plan and vision of ERICENA, another China-focused initiative aiming to set-up European innovation hub in China.

The positive feedback in both cases was just the right motive to test more gamification tools in foresight so stay tuned…

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