Two-Day Training Workshop in Strategic Foresight

The objective of this two-day workshop is to introduce and train participants in various methods and approaches used to explore, assess, and contemplate emerging and future trends in security, immigration, intelligence, and related sub-themes. Strategic foresight is not used to predict the future. Rather, it provides a set of tools that allow us to better appreciate a range of possible and plausible future scenarios and environments. Strategic foresight allows practitioners and decision-makers to systematically contemplate future challenges and opportunities while improving their appreciation for how complex political and strategic issues might evolve. This workshop will explore, examine, and make use of a variety of tools and methods for thinking creatively about the future of technology, security, governance, and economics in Canada and abroad. Specific topics can be tailored in advance to provide for a client’s specific needs. Upon completing this workshop, participants will have a broadened understanding of how and when to use and engage several strategic foresight techniques, including: horizons scanning, influence diagram and cascades, futures wheel, system and domain mapping, scenario planning, and assumptions testing. Success in this workshop will be largely dependent on active participation during all training and exercise sessions. Prior knowledge of the basic principles of strategic foresight is an asset but not necessary.

  • The workshop is ideal for groups of between 8 to 13 individuals

  • The presentation, deck, and reading material is provided in English, but discussion and participant Q/A can be provided in both French and English

  • The workshop includes eight training modules: Learn about foresight theory and how to use framing; scanning; system mapping; influence cascades; future wheels; scenarios; and assumption testing

  • Past clients have included Employment & Social Development Canada (Dec 2017); Natural Resources Canada (March 2018); Global Affairs Canada (March 2018).

  • With funding from CSIS, DND, and Policy Horizons Canada, Prof Wilner ran the Ottawa Workshop on Strategic Foresight (Nov 2017)

  • Prof Wilner has advised the RCMP in developing its own foresight capacity (2017-2018)

  • Day long workshops and other foresight consultancy services available upon request


Methods and Techniques Used During the Workshop

  • Domain Mapping: A domain is any topic that serves as the focus of a foresight exercise (e.g. the future of terrorism; policing; Canada; etcetera). Domain mapping is the process of conceptually and visually framing the scope of a given domain; determining what is in and what is out. Developing a robust domain map can help you clarify how the foresight process will unfold.

  • Scanning: Horizons, or environmental, scanning is the process of systemically exploring a domain in order to appreciate the nature of current and future change within that domain. Scanning is used to uncover ‘hits’, ‘weak signals’, and ‘insights’ that signify that change within the domain may be under way. Scanning can also help produce a repository of other relevant data and information useful to the foresight process.

  • System Mapping: In foresight, system mapping is the process of visually identifying the core elements, actors, and relationships within a domain. A system map can be useful for identifying where and how change within the system might occur.

  • Influence Diagram and Futures Wheel: These are two separate tools used for pushing a weak signal or insight into the future in order to help visualize how that signal/insight, were it to eventually occur, might interact with other processes and actors within the system. These tools ask us to explore the “if – then what” question: If this happens, then what happens next, and next, and next... These tools allow us to explore the second, third, and fourth order implications of change within a domain or system.

  • Scenario Planning: Scenarios are fictional accounts of a domain’s possible future, based on scanning material, that allow you to explore that future in greater detail. Scenarios let us creatively imagine how future change will be felt and addressed, and provide us with an opportunity to think about how a system or domain might evolve in surprising ways.

  • Assumption Testing: Assumptions are beliefs that guide our personal and institutional understanding of a domain. They are the lens through which we see events unfolding, and help us determine what we think the future will hold. Testing current policy assumptions can involve pairing deeply held beliefs about a domain with plausible alternative futures uncovered during the foresight process. Identifying weak current assumptions can help us avoid strategic surprise in the future.


Workshop Agenda, Day One

08:30 – 08:50 - Registration and Welcome

08:50 – 10:00 - Introduction to Strategic Foresight: What, Where, When?

10:00 – 10:15 - Health Break

10:15 – 11:45 Domain Mapping Exercise: Framing the Margins of a Foresight Project

11:45 – 12:45 - Lunch

12:45 – 14:30Scanning Exercise: Building Weak Signals into Insights

14:30 – 14:45 - Health Break

14:45 – 16:15 Stakeholder System Mapping Exercise: Linking the Pieces Together

16:15 – 16:30 - Wrap up discussion

Day One Assignment

Spend 20-30 minutes, tonight, scanning elements of the Domain Map or System Map we created together, and identify ONE scanning hit. In a short, written paragraph, explain: 1) What is changing? (i.e. What is the hit about?); and 2) Why is that change important? (i.e. How might it influence the system itself?). Come prepared to pitch your scanning hit in a 5-minute presentation on Day Two of the Workshop.


Workshop Agenda, Day Two

08:30 – 9:00 - Recap & Weak Signal Pitches

09:00 – 10:15 Influence Diagram Exercise: Charting Plausible Futures, Part I

10:15 – 10:30 - Health Break

10:30 – 11:45 Futures Wheel Exercise: Charting Plausible Futures, Part II

11:45 – 12:45 - Lunch

12:45 – 14:30 Scenario Planning Exercise: Fictionalizing Plausible Futures

14:30 – 14:45 - Health Break

14:45 – 16:20 Assumption Testing Exercise: Challenging What We Already Know

16:20 – 16:30 - Wrap up & Evaluation