Great Foresight Needed in Planning our Cities

Organisations are now using a variety of foresight techniques to assist them in strengthening their ability to understand and plan for plausible futures.

Strategic foresight:
  • Has benefit where there is a significant amount of uncertainty in the decision making context.
  • Assists in reducing complexity and making sense of the future.
  • Improves the likelihood of considering possibilities that may have otherwise been overlooked, or not even considered.

There is significant opportunity for foresight to “value-add” to the strategic planning process for city planning for anywhere from a five-year to a 100-year time horizon. There are also significant opportunities for foresight to shape the way in which organisations develop plans and respond to this future context.

The use of Environmental Scanning and Scenarios are two techniques in particular which can be used to complement strategic planning, and both offer the prospect of delivering significant benefit to the future planning of our cities.

We cannot predict ‘the’ future  when there are so many possible futures. In trying to forecast what may occur in the future, it is important to consider a range of possibilities. Strategic plans for our cities, therefore, need to respond to a broader range of future challenges which may be ahead. There is a greater need for foresight to:

  •  Challenge current perceptions of the future.
  •  Challenge our existing strategies exposing them to a wider context, therefore improving robustness.
  • Identify previously unforeseen directions and opportunities.
  • Allow us to anticipate, plan and more readily adjust to different conditions.
  • Allow us to make decisions which better align strategy with different plausible futures.

In my opinion, there appears to be an overwhelming emphasis on a projection of the past and the present, without much consideration of the type of world that we will be living in in future.

This could have dire consequences for our cities, as they will not be geared to meet the types of challenges which may be ahead. Quite simply, there is a significant opportunity to use foresight to develop an improved picture of the future, and dramatically improve our capacity to understand, plan, and adapt to meet future challenges.

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September 21, 2012

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