Using well-established futures, foresight, and horizon scanning tools and methods to inform decision making today and create ways forward

Future of social protection sign

At a time of global economic turmoil and uncertainty, investment in social protection is necessary, feasible and effective. The recommendations of the Social Protection Floor Advisory Group point the way towards a fairer world of decent jobs and opportunities for all.

Organizations and institutions adapt, innovate and renew themselves in an environment of continuously unfolding change. The unexpected, novel or intractable challenges that such an environment inevitably produces cannot therefore be addressed by solutions that are only based on an understanding of what may have worked in the past.

Since 2015, the ILO and ITCILO have been helping ILO staff and constituents to become familiar with well-established futures, foresight and horizon scanning tools and methods, to create ways forward.

Foresight is the capacity to think systematically about the future to inform decision making today. Purpose-specific futures, foresight and horizon scanning methods have been helping ILO staff and constituents to consider issues more deeply and to better inform a wide range of work, from policy and programming, project formulation and implementation, to communications and advocacy.

Back in 2017, the Centre embarked on a journey of developing its foresight capacity around four ILO topics; social and solidarity economy, social protection, green jobs and labour migration. For this particular journey, the Learning Innovation team worked on piloting foresight exercises for the different topics and designing a tailor-made training package for each thematic topic, with the support of foresight experts.

These are their stories.

The Future of Social and Solidarity Economy

“In a context in which significant economic, technological and demographic changes threaten to reduce decent work opportunities at a time when the demand for employment is increasing and economic inequalities are higher than ever, the social and solidarity economy has emerged as a viable option to help address these challenges. While the Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) is a diverse and heterogeneous universe of organizational models and approaches, the main actors that comprise it share common features that make them ideally suited to take on some of the key challenges related to the future of work. As stakeholder (rather than shareholder)-oriented enterprises, they tend to cater more to the needs of their workers and other constituents; as enterprises rooted in their local communities, they are less likely to move in search of cheaper labour and are more likely to identify emerging needs at the local level to which address their activities; as not-for-profit enterprises, they can leverage duciary relations, volunteer work and donations that enable them to operate in low-profit sectors.”

Woman raising her hand

In the light of the above, foresight turned out to be an effective scanning and decision-making methodology and was reintegrated in all the SSE training events to help civil society and policy makers taking the right measures towards a more sustainable future of work.

Man laughing in training room
The Future of Social Protection

For a long time, social protection systems have been designed based on the assumed standard forms of the employment relationship. Looking back at the demographic, social and economic challenges the world was facing in the late 2010s, a rising need for effective and socially sustainable social protection systems, which can cope with the challenge of ageing societies and address the need for increasing number of jobs in the care economy, drastically rose.

Since then, foresight analysis has been contributing to a better understanding of the trajectory of the above challenges and exploring their implication in terms of future work in the field of social protection.

The Future of Green Jobs

Back in 2017, ILO CO-Lusaka in Zambia requested the Centre to implement a regional learning forum for Africa on “Private Sector Inclusive Green Growth and Job Creation”. The Africa Forum aimed to open the floor for the different stakeholders to share knowledge and inform future policies and strategies on inclusive green growth and the creation of decent green jobs.

Foresight analysis added value as a tool to facilitate the dialogue among stakeholders on how the Just Transition policy framework could take shape at country level. Two foresight analysis exercises took place at the regional learning forum event in support of the elaboration of policy recommendations for private sector involvement in the transition to greener economies.

Ultimately, the foresight product designed for the Sustainable Development Programme was added to the training activities proposed to strategic partners, such as the Partnership for Action on Green Economy. It was also applied in the occasion of national workshops, seminars and academies.

Man working with wood
The Future of Labour Migration

Since 2012, IMI Oxford has collaborated with ITCILO within the Labour Migration Academy (LMA) in the field of future scenarios of migration. Designing a joint training package gave the Centre the opportunity to formalize the partnership with Oxford and together develop a tailor-made product answering ILO priorities on labour migration and mobility and the future of work.

As the foresight training tool offers a wide set of training options for different audiences, settings and purposes, it helped facilitate foresight initiatives targeting specific audiences such as government of origin or destination and national coordination structure in charge of developing migration policy, which could help in supporting the elaboration of policy recommendations. The tool also helped developing a specific set of foresight activities adapted to employers’ and workers’ representatives, local and regional authorities, migrant associations, who are increasingly involved in the development of labour migration policies and participating in global dialogue on migration such as global compact, GFMD.

Finally, the training kit helped develop the portfolio of labour migration training activities as more and more UN agencies, like IOM, UNDP, UNHCR and UN Women and other international and regional organizations dealing with migration, were interested in future thinking.

Originally published in the Future of Learning magazine.