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Foresight vs Forecast


If you’ve heard of Policy Horizons, you’ve probably heard that we’re a government think tank focused on strategic foresight. We call our experts futurists because they explore a wide range of possible futures – nothing to do with tea leaves ;). They study facts and events called “weak signals”, indicators of possible change that could potentially disrupt our current systems.

So what is foresight? How does it differ from forecasting?!

Foresight begins with scanning for early disruptive changes (weak signals), in Canada and around the world, that could have unexpected and significant implications for government policies and programs. We then explore how these changes could evolve and interact to create unexpected policy challenges and opportunities. Foresight does not predict the future, but rather explores the range of plausible futures that may emerge. It’s one of the best tools to support open policy making.

Forecasting is the process of making predictions about the future, based on past and present data and the analysis of trends. This is what meteorologists use to “predict” the weather.

Canada Beyond 150 was designed to provide participants with new tools to support open policy making. They learned foresight using the Horizons Method, and saw the role it plays in designing robust and resilient policies. The result? Over 80 new public servants are bringing foresight literacy and capacity into the Public Service, and using new tools to explore not one certainty, but multiple possibilities in what they do.

Policy Horizons Canada, also referred to as 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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