What is strategic foresight?
Change is happening all around us. Some changes are predictable with more certain outcomes; others are less predictable and highly uncertain. Strategic foresight helps us to anticipate and better prepares us for change. It is about exploring different futures, and the opportunities and challenges they could present. Those ideas are then used to act now to make better decisions and invest limited resources effectively.
Benefits of strategic foresight
For Calgary to have a resilient and prosperous future, we need better tools to engage with and consider numerous complex choices. To do this, we must have future-focused information and resources that will help us in the following:
- Be innovative, tech-savvy and future-focused.
- Be more agile to emerging stresses, shocks and opportunities.
- Identify strategic actions to achieve goals.
What is resilience a dividend?
Business development is a vital part of a resilient economy, as such, there are many market attraction efforts underway in our city. Development and growth opportunities should be strategic and consider a resilience dividend that allows for a better understanding of short- and long-term benefits from across the City Resilience Framework, whether they are economic, social, or environmental.
Benefits of resilience dividend
Economic investments should be meeting strategic long-term needs. Doing this will:
- Improve the business case for investments opportunities.
- Ensure the capital outlay does not put the ability of the community to respond to, withstand, and recover from adverse situations, at risk in the future.
Working towards a future-focused city
Awareness and capacity building began within The City as our strategy was being developed. These tools help to inform and guide our work:
- A Federal strategic foresight agency, The Futures Toolkit and Future of Cities: Foresight for Cities published by the UK Government Office for Science.
- A Playbook for Strategic Foresight and Innovation developed by Stanford University.
- Webinars and tools from the Institute of the Future.
A City of Calgary strategic foresight community of practice meets to discuss new and emerging changes taking place and identify what they mean for Calgary. Strategic foresight information, learning opportunities and resources are also shared.
Horizon scanning is a research practice to uncover changes that have the potential to disrupt our future. In April 2020, The FYI Calgary Scan Club was started in order to scan for signals of change that could impact Calgary more broadly. The scan club identified 26 trends based on their geographic reference, time horizon, scale, and perceived importance. While the scan club is primarily for City of Calgary staff, members from the greater Calgary community have attended.
Work is underway to build a platform to retain scanning information, comment on, and share it with others.
Strategic foresight is a cross-cutting theme of the Resilient Calgary strategy. Inclusive futures also used a strategic foresight process to inform its outcomes.
The One Calgary 2019-2022 business plan and budgeting process included a workshop for over 300 participants to understand change taking place and implications for Calgary over the next four years. Guiding questions were developed to include resilience and future-focused thinking into the business plans.
Other opportunities to align with City process will be explored in 2021 and the scenarios and tools created will be available to inform policy and strategy questions.
With partners, we are developing an application toolkit that can be applied to City policy, strategy and service questions. The toolkit will be tested and refined as it is implemented.
Resilience in action
Applying a strategic foresight methodology during COVID-19
- Identify the complex range of changes that have the potential to impact the future of Calgary in the next 18 months to 15 years.
- Identify high-level actions to mitigate risk and inform our recovery efforts.
- Build strategic foresight capacity in the organization.
Through this project, the FYI Calgary Scan Club (Scan Club) launched and conducted a horizon scan to identify possible changes occurring and being accelerated that have the potential to impact Calgary. The scan was used to create four exploratory and plausible future scenarios:
- Continuation and growth - business as usual or “status quo” growth.
- Limits and discipline - implementation of behaviours to adapt to growing fiscal and environmental limits.
- Decline and collapse - system degradation and failure during escalating crisis.
- Transformation - new technology, business, or social factors that result in significant change.
The summary of trends and scenarios are available to the organization to identify opportunities, risks and gaps toward achieving policy or strategy outcomes. The application of these scenarios can identify opportunities, risks and gaps towards achieving targeted goals. This will enable The City to be nimble, innovative and future-focused to create a Calgary that is more resilient to stresses and shocks.
For more information on the project.
The City of Calgary is in partnership development with resilient champions, Evergreen, ARUP, and Wood, along with the AI firm Grabner to develop a Resilience Dividend Toolkit that will:
- Guide strategic, investment decisions that improve quality of life, public confidence and demonstrate service value.
- Be a scalable and organization-wide toolkit that informs planning, operations and investment decision.
- Include engagement and change management plan to support adoption.