Video: Horizons Foresight Process

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In today’s rapidly changing and complex world, we need a rigorous process to help us prepare for the future. In supporting the policy community, Horizons uses a range of foresight tools.

(Footage from space of the great lakes region of North America at night, with the bright lights of densely populated regions visible, a graphic showing the steps involved in Horizons Canada’s foresight process)

(Text on screen: Assumptions)

Assumptions are statements that we believe to be true. They are core building blocks that inform and shape our thinking - our mental models - about what is and what could be.

In the Horizons process, we examine the assumptions that are buried in policy documents and the public conversation about an issue.

(A shot of a bricklayer at work building a wall, a graphic of Horizons Canada’s assumption checking process)

Over the course of the process, we test these assumptions to see if there are robust across the range of futures that may emerge.

(A shot of an aircraft design being testing in a wind tunnel)

Most thinking and conversation is about the expected future. It is important to prepare for the expected future. It consists of the high probability, high impact developments that we need to address. The challenge is that most policy surprises come from alternative futures, throughout the cone of plausibility.

(A fast draw of a hand drawing the “cone of plausibility” diagram, which describes the past, present and future)

(Text on screen: Expected future, Alternative futures, Cone of plausibility)

Through horizon scanning, we can identify weak signals that change is occurring.

(A telescope silhouetted against stars and the night’s sky)

(Text on screen: Horizon scanning, Weak signals)

Often, the seeds of tomorrow’s changes are visible in the present.

(The head of a dandelion flower losing its seeds in the breeze)

We seek to map the whole system, identify key elements, and understand key relationships.

(A graphic showing a detailed system diagram)

(Text on screen: Whole system)

We also look at change drivers – deep, structural forces that interact with the system, and with each other, in ways that can create a range of futures.

(A graphic that outlines important change drivers)

(Text on screen: Change drivers)

Scenarios are narrative descriptions of plausible futures that are logically consistent and strategically useful. Scenarios stretch our thinking to explore developments that are often discounted.

(A grid of four illustrations depicting characters in future stories, zooming into one illustration)

(Text on screen: Scenarios)

They help us identify surprises, challenges and opportunities, that we might not have seen otherwise, and to build policy and strategy that is robust across the range of plausible futures.

(Text on screen: Surprises, Challenges, Opportunities)

(An overhead shot of people surveying a large model of a city)

In the Horizons process, foresight has a number of objectives. It enables us to:

Understand what is changing in Canada and around the world

Identify emerging issues and potential discontinuities

Clarify planning assumptions

Test and develop more robust policy, strategy and programs, and

To rehearse for change

(A montage of: a view of the earth from space at night, a workshop presenter gesturing, and workshop participants in discussion)

(Text on screen: Understand, Identify, Clarify, Test, Develop, Rehearse)

For examples of foresight using this process, please visit Horizons Canada’s web site.

(Text on screen:)

(Direction: Greg Van Alstyne, Zan Chandler)

(Writing: Zan Chandler, Greg Van Alstyne, Peter Padbury, Steffen Christensen, Judy Watling)

(Visual design: Greg Van Alstyne, Jazeen Hollings, Alex Appugliesi, Zan Chandler, Naomi Ku¨hn)

(Editing: Jazeen Hollings)

(Narration: Zan Chandler)

(Video sources: Policy Horizons Canada / Louis-Philippe Gascon, OCAD University / G. Van Alstyne, J. Hollings, A. Appugliesi, NASA Johnson Space Center / Crew Earth Observations Video, NASA Earth Observatory / NOAA NGDC, Ryan Lake Illustration /, Various videographers /, JayMiller /, Lynch, M.C, 2002, Forecasting oil supply: theory and practice, The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance 42, 374.)

(Video sources: (cc): Alex Hoffman, anno112658, caoz96, DARPAtv, darwinfish105, Dexter Ico, dustbagsrevenge, Ekso Bionics, Elijah Meeks, InsideScience, Mike Moceri, MrBugpod, NaughtyMissTee, PlayPauseAndRewind, The NRAO, Russia Today)

(Our thanks to The foresight teams at Policy Horizons Canada, OCAD University)

(Created for Policy Horizons Canada by sLab, OCAD University with ZancomMedia)

(sLab logo, OCAD University logo, Horizons Canada logos, Canada Wordmark)

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