Methods of Foresight and Futures Studies
An overview of Futures Methods classified by the assumptions
on which they are based: Foreseeing, Managing and Creating the future.
There are many methods for attempting to deal with the future.
The choice of the appropriate method depends on the purpose of the
exercise and the circumstances. Where there is plentiful data and
it is reasonable to assume that the future will be a continuation
of the past quantitative methods may provide a good starting point.
Where these conditions do not occur, or the intention is to influence
the future in particular directions, qualitative methods are likely
to be more appropriate.
Although all classifications are imperfect they can be useful in
understanding and selecting appropriate methods. They are considered
here under three headings, which are based on different assumptions
about how best to deal with the future.
These methods are based on the assumption that we can usefully
look into the future and forecast what will happen. One of the most
popular methods is Trend Forecasting, which assumes patterns from
the past can be extended to provide an indication of what will occur
in the future.
Experience of forecasting has led some to conclude that it is not
possible to produce accurate predictions of the future but that
we need to prepare for possible alternative futures and the uncertainty
that creates. One of the most used methods is Scenarios, which are
not predictions but alternative possible futures against which plans
and decisions can be tested.
Planning and all forms of policy making are based on the assumption
that we do not just passively experience the future as it becomes
the present but also influence what happens by the decisions we
make and the actions we take. The future is to a degree created
rather than just happens.
Principles of Forecasting: A handbook for
researchers and practitioners J Scott Armstrong (editor)
Kluwer, Boston 2001
The Future is Ours: Foreseeing, Managing
and Creating the Future Graham H May Praeger 1996