FORESIGHT SOUTH AFRICA

Ms Nardos Bekele-Thomas, Resident Coordinator, UN in South Africa, announces the launch of Foresight South Africa portal

The UNCT will be embarking on a consultative process with the Government to develop the next planning framework of the UN, known as the Strategic Cooperation Framework in South Africa. The UN is engaging with the Government to ensure that its next Strategic Cooperation Framework (SCF) is fully aligned to the Government’s next National Development Plan: 5 year implementation plan.

Foresight techniques are important for development planning and responsiveness – these techniques allow policy makers to be innovative and they challenge linear assumptions, which have proven to yield less than optimal results for development planning and responsiveness to socio-economic changes.

It is important to explore alternatives and trigger innovative thinking to enable the UNCT and our Planning partners to be agile and responsive to the ever fast-paced, and changing South African political and socio-economic environment.

Why Foresight

In their book titled Foresight for Science, Technology and Innovation (2016); Miles, Saritas and Solokov stated that foresight “involves a range of activities related to the production of knowledge about possible futures. This knowledge is not of the future, nor any real future, but rather ‘the manufactured knowledge of a restricted number of possibilities.”

Miles, Saritas and Solokov define government foresight as “a systematic, participatory, future intelligence-gathering and medium-to-long-term vision-building process aimed at enabling present day decisions and mobilizing joint action.”

Contrary to some views, strategic foresight is not about prediction or forecasting the future. Strategic Foresight enables participants and stakeholders involved in a policy decision to engage and deal with the complexity and uncertainty of the environment in which they operate. It creates an explicit and otherwise overlooked step in the strategic planning process where decision makers’ assumptions about the future can be challenged.
Foresight is an integral part of governmental strategic planning processes. It supports the process of strategic thinking rather than adopting a default problem-solving approach.

Foresight vs Forecasting

The UNDP’s Global Centre for Public Service Excellence (GCPSE) describes the difference between Foresight and Forecasting as follows:

Contrary to some views, Strategic Foresight (or Foresight) is not about prediction or forecasting the future. Strategic Foresight enables participants and stakeholders involved in a policy decision to engage and deal with the complexity and uncertainty of the environment in which they operate. It creates an explicit and otherwise overlooked step in the strategic planning process where decision makers’ assumptions about the future can be challenged. Foresight is an integral part of governmental strategic planning processes. It supports the process of strategic thinking rather than adopting a default problem-solving approach.

Benefits of Foresight for Public Policy

In a country where widespread service delivery protests have become a daily occurance – partly an indication of the outcry against the apparent lack of accountability by public officers to the electorate, foresight can “promote democratic processes through inclusiveness, openness and public engagement. [Foresight is] based on two premises: First, there is not one future but many alternative futures and second, it is possible to make choices that influence future developments. By envisioning new opportunities, foresight allows for a break with false dichotomies and thus can assist the decision-makers in various ways. By providing greater inclusion in the process of policymaking, it allows for a more comprehensive and broader understanding of the social realities and economic inequalities.” Julia Himmrich (London School of Economics (LSE)) and Monika Sus (Hertie School of Governance)