We are all challenged by change. Changes generate turbulence and uncertainty, calling into question much that we take for granted, and also expanding what we can achieve, if we choose. Futures research and foresight (we shall use the terms interchangeably throughout the toolkit) help people, organizations, communities, businesses, and governments explore and manage change. That does not mean predicting change – futures research and foresight focus on heightening the awareness of change, spotting emerging changes early, and exploring their implications.
- Where might certain trajectories of change take us?
- How do those possible paths align with our values and preferences?
- What can we do today to shape our futures and achieve preferred outcomes, avoiding undesirable ones?
The earlier we think through the implications of transformative and disruptive changes, the better our options for response – whether by influencing change, or adapting to it.
Organizations and institutions adapt, innovate and renew themselves in an environment of continuously unfolding change. The unexpected, novel or intractable challenges that such an environment inevitably produces cannot therefore be addressed by solutions that are only based on an understanding of what may have worked in the past. To create ways forward that are informed by the continuously emerging future as well, the ILO and ITC-ILO are helping ILO staff and constituents to become familiar with well-established futures, foresight and horizon scanning tools and methods.
In this webpage, you will find a variety of tools and question sets to help you think more effectively about emerging change and uncertain futures.
The release of these tools will be progressive. So keep coming back to download more of our futures methods!
We have organised futures research and foresight tools around six activities critical to futures thinking:
The fifty-year-old field of futures research has collected, developed, and refined a wide range of analytic and collaborative tools for each of these key foresight activities. The different futures methods featured in the above present an illustrative (not an exhaustive) list of futures methods. Discover some of the tools in the next section.
This online toolkit provides an initial set of twelve key futures tools to get you started in exploring uncertainty and creating the future. In the first version it was developed in late 2016 through a 3-day workshop in Cairo commissioned by the International Labor Organization from Sparknow and Infinite Futures. Their task was to explore the potential in applying these tools to the programme of activities around Egyptian Youth Employment.
Explore these tools using the following and download the PDF guides which will help you initiate futures thinking and foresight in your organization.
For each futures method, we have:
- offered a brief introduction and overview;
- described its aims and desired results;
- written step-by-step instructions on how to use it;
- suggested how to adapt it to different questions and combine it with other futures tools;
- given links to examples of how other people have used it;
- provided a short in-depth piece for those with the interest to probe the theoretical context more
- provided tips and hints for effective and engaging use of the method; and
- attached a facilitator’s grid / script for participatory methods; necessary worksheets for a workshop; and links to related background readings.
The toolkit also provides five in-depth case studies that illustrate how different futures tools may be linked to create an in-depth integrated futures research project.
For each case study, we have highlighted the following:
- Aim – what did the project want to accomplish?
- Substantive focus – what issue or topic did the project focus on?
- Methodology – what futures tool or tools did the project apply?
- Implications and Applications – what insights resulted? how were they used?
- Relevance to ILO practical applications – how does this relate to ILO’s research interests and use of foresight?
- Other field notes and observations:
- How does this connect to ongoing activities, other projects, and other critical issues?
- Lessons learned: what would you do the same again, and what would you change?
- What tips / hints would enhance use of this approach and ensure good foresight practice?
- Keywords and links to related methods
- Who participated?
- Suggested reading – further references
The case studies each conclude with an interactive ‘map’ of the futures techniques used, providing links to the specific methods pages in this toolkit.
LESSONS LEARNED & GENERAL GUIDANCE
This section sums up the ‘lessons learned’ from a variety of foresight methods and futures research project generally. As additional case studies and methods resources are added, this will evolve.
This also links to a short general reading list around foresight good practice and practical experience, both from the UN and from elsewhere. Included in this reference list are a set of guidance and checklist developed by Sparknow, with Infinite Futures for DEFRA, a UK government department, between 2005 – 2007. These are still widely regarded as relevant today.
SOFTWARE PLATFORMS for FORESIGHT
This section provides a brief inventory of relevant futures research and foresight software. These can be particularly helpful for crowd-sourcing foresight data and insights.
MASTER FACILITATION AND CURATION (COMING SOON)
The final section of this toolkit addresses basic good practice in group process facilitation, curation, and communication of results.