Strategic Foresight in International Security 

Course Description

The objective of this seminar is to introduce students to the methods and approaches used to explore, assess, and contemplate emerging and future trends in international security. Strategic foresight is not an attempt to predict the future. Rather, it provides tools that allow us to better appreciate the range of possible and plausible future scenarios and security environments Canadians might eventually face. Strategic foresight allows decision-makers to systematically contemplate a plethora of future challenges and opportunities while improving their appreciation for how complex political and strategic issues might evolve. The course will explore, examine, and make use of a variety of tools and methods for thinking creatively about the future of terrorism and crime, domestic and international security, and intelligence and espionage. On completing this seminar, students will have broadened their understanding of how to use and engage strategic foresight, horizons scanning, influence diagrams, systems mapping, scenario planning, and red teaming for exploring emerging security dynamics. Success in this seminar will be largely dependent on active student participation during in-class training and exercise sessions. Prior knowledge of strategic foresight or national security issues is not required.  

Prerequisite: MA standing in the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs or permission of the School.

Learning Outcomes 

At the end of this course, students will:

  • Understand how strategic foresight relates to security studies, strategic surprise, and policy development;
  • Be able to conduct independent and group-based foresight exercises using a variety of different tools and approaches;
  • Have sharpened their written, oral, research, analytical, and presentation skills in individual and team settings.

Course Structure & Class Format

This is an academic course at the graduate level. Students should expect to participate in seminar-style discussions, lead group and individual presentations, and actively participate in professor-guided training exercises. A typical class will incorporate different learning strategies:

  • Classes will begin with a brief Weekly Update – an informal discussion of national and international security developments that took place over the previous week. The Weekly Update will give students an opportunity to share news stories with the class and relate the content to class materials, exercises, and foresight projects.
  • A lecture, and occasionally, a guest lecture. Introductory lectures will provide a framework for understanding the issue under discussion and for participating in subsequent in-class training exercises.
  • Oral presentations by students, small-group exercises, and class discussion. Student-driven content will provide peer review and comment.