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Completed work Future of Asia Reports

MetaScan 4 – The Future of Asia: Implications for Canada

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Appendix 1: Horizons Foresight Method

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Horizons foresight method
Process description

Horizons foresight method


  • Interviews to frame and understand the problem
  • Identify current assumptions buried in public dialogue and policy documents


  • Scan for weak signals of potentially disruptive change
  • Assess relevant trends
  • Elaborate commonly-held assumptions

System Mapping

  • Identify key elements in the system
  • Describe key relationships

Change Drivers

  • Describe change drivers shaping the system
  • Influence maps of 2nd and 3rd order consequences
  • Cross-impact analysis of the interaction of drivers


  • Scenarios to explore range of futures
  • Identify potential challenges and discontinuities
  • Testing for robust assumptions and strategies


  • Credible assumptions and key uncertainties
  • Policy challenges and opportunities
  • Emerging issues
  • Better understanding of the system or issue

Process description


From May to December 2014, Horizons led and facilitated a collaborative foresight study on the Future of Asia that helped build scanning and foresight literacy and capacity within the Canadian federal public service. The study involved the creation of interdepartmental “clusters”, one for each of four domains: economic, social, energy, and geostrategic. Each cluster consisted of 10–15 participants who were engaged in the process through a set of half and full-day workshops over the course of eight months.

Scanning and foresight research phases

The Future of Asia foresight study had two distinct phases: the scanning phase (May–August 2014) and the foresight phase (September–December 2014). The purpose of the scanning phase was to explore weak signals (e.g. signs that a significant change is starting or that could be underway) in the four broad domains. Current assumptions embedded in Canadian policy as it pertains to Asia were also initially identified, which provided a sense of the expected future.

During the foresight phase (from September–December 2014), the interdepartmental clusters explored change drivers, plausible scenarios and potential policy challenges and opportunities. Cluster groups had a chance to both discuss change drivers and scenarios within their domain areas, as well as interaction across domains. This analysis produced additional insights on emerging changes.

During both phases, participants were exposed to presentations and interviews with leading experts on Asia to supplement their own scanning, analysis and thinking. Horizons’ collaborative online platform, Jive, was used to share weak signals, develop insights, and comment and edit one another’s work.

Example of process


Write-up phase and products

A final writing phase (December 2014–February 2015) ensued, where four cluster studies were produced to provide a domain specific exploration of plausible disruptive changes in Asia and potential implications. These four intensive studies then fed in to the overarching MetaScan that highlights the key findings and explores interactions between the four domains.


The Future of Asia foresight study allowed participants to explore the changes taking shape in Asia and their potential implications for Canada over the next 10–15 years in the economic, social, energy, and geostrategic domains. At the same time, the study allowed Horizons to help build scanning and foresight capacity across a number of federal organizations through a learning-by-doing process. Participants also developed a deeper understanding of Asia and built “Asian literacy” at a time when this could be strategically valuable.

Policy Horizons | Horizons de politiques

Policy Horizons Canada, also referred to as Policy Horizons, is an organization within the federal public service that conducts strategic foresight on cross-cutting issues that informs public servants today about the possible public policy implications over the next 10-15 years.

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