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Foresight in Public Policymaking: An Exploration of Process Practices



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Frau, Ilaria 


Despite governments’ recognition of the importance of maintaining a forward-looking approach in policymaking, the actual inclusion of information and insight concerning the future into policy development does not appear widely implemented. However, existing literature on ‘public’ Foresight appears predominantly prescriptive, offering limited information concerning its actual practices and their possible consequences on both the output and its acceptance and uptake.

The investigation focussed on how Foresight activities (“FAs”) are being carried out within the public sector, in order to identify which practices – in their preparation, execution, and management – could be ultimately affecting the way the insight thus generated is accepted and used (or not). This enquiry is intended to help identify best practices for FAs that can support both the quality of any insight produced and its ability to contribute to policy design and – ultimately – delivery. The goal was to explore and understand current practices and their possible effects and implications, in order to ‘abduce’ from them the theory components that would underpin said recommendations.

Data collection for this Grounded Theory approach was carried out first during an in-depth case study, and subsequently during focused interviews carried out six years after the case. This made it possible for the events to play out fully, as well as allowing the subjects interviewed sufficient perspective and emotional distance from the facts.

The data analysis led the Researcher to identify fifteen elements of practice that appear to have a crucial impact on the quality and performance of the outcomes of Foresight activities and exercises, as well as thirteen areas of impact which clarify where and how such quality and performance may be affected, and a table which attempts to map the connections between each element and the areas it influences.

The thesis concludes with suggestions for fifteen recommendations for practitioners.





Gregory, Mike


Foresight, Policymaking, Participatory Foresight, Foresight Process


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge