Futures Toolkit

The final version of FUTURREG Toolkit is available.

Why use Futures?

Download the toolkit Thinking about the future is something that we all do as individuals, citizens, managers, policy makers or politicians. However thinking about the future can be difficult, confusing and, often, frightening. Futures tools help us to organise and interpret our thinking about the future and can help us to understand how to create the conditions in which our desired futures can be achieved.

At a time when all of us in Europe are facing uncertainties about the future opportunities and challenges we need to find ways in which we do not have to rely on ad hoc policies created from imperfect knowledge and constrained thinking.

Individuals, communities, businesses, organisations and public authorities often have to react to external events that may be caused by the effects of climate change, demographic shifts, the globalisation of trade and technological changes. These effects are unpredictable and potentially far-reaching, so reacting effectively and accurately requires at least an ability to understand, anticipate and deal with their potential impacts.

New approaches are needed that are creative and anticipatory.
Futures tools can provide these approaches.

Futures approaches use a variety of tools to stimulate engagement across society in understanding and debating the uncertain future. By this means present day policy choices can be made that will influence the achievement of the “desired” future.

While, Futures tools are frequently used to complement other tools such as planning, strategy and networking, futures tools usually deal with the greatest uncertainty and provide scope for choices to be made. Through the use of futures tools businesses, organisations and public authorities can deal with important challenges and trends in an intelligent and strategic way.

A Futures approach is therefore not simply an alternative to more conventional strategic planning approaches – rather it is an essential accompaniment to strategic planning providing a planning horizon that is both deeper (in time) and wider (in scope) than is typically provided by a strategic planning approaches.

The most common reasons for using futures tools include:

  • a need to create a fresh strategy for a region business or organisation arising either from the emergence of new opportunities or the negative impact of economic or social "shocks";
  • efforts to understand external trends in the context of their influe nce on an organisation, business sector or region
  • the wish to develop a new trajectory of development based on an inclusive and fresh set of perspectives

Typically, the initiation of futures exercise will be stimulated by the need to take decisions with long term implications and the recognition that before decisions can be taken it is necessary to generate a widespread dialogue about future choices and preferences.

The long term implications may arise because of the need to formulate longer term national and regional programmes, planning the future direction of an organisation or sector of industry or the need to plan major public spending with long-term implications, for example, infrastructure investments or research priorities for science and technology funding.

Other motivations could simply be to refresh the thinking, mindsets or assumptions that have underpinned policy or strategic thinking for a number of years and thereby stimulate new thinking in a region, organisation or business.