Burkhard Gnärig

23 August, 2016

Scanning the Horizon – Off to a Great Start

Scanning the Horizon

Over the past few months a number of unexpected events such as the refugee crisis, Brexit, and the failed coup in Turkey – followed by increasing repression – have been telling examples of the challenges of disruption. To be better prepared for unexpected and often abrupt changes, civil society organisations (CSOs) must strengthen their efforts to detect disruption early. Working together across the sector and cooperating with other sectors can save costs and, at the same time, improve the quality of findings. Based on this understanding, we initiated the Scanning the Horizon project twelve months ago. In a blog post on 18 August 2015 I wrote:

“The International Civil Society Centre aims to bring together the specialists in strategic foresight from the different CSOs in order to update each other on their activities and to discuss how they can improve the quality of their work by cooperating across sector boundaries. The Scanning the Horizon project’s vision is to build a sustainable structure which continuously scans the horizon for potential disruption.”

Where are we twelve months later and what’s next on our to-do-list?

Only now that I am looking back on the very dynamic development of our activities over the past year, I am becoming fully aware of how much we have achieved in such a short time-frame. Here comes a quick chronology of the main wayposts:

05 October 2015
The Rockefeller Foundation approves our grant proposal allowing us to build a sustainable work area over a three-year period.

04 – 06 November 2015
Scanning the Horizon is one of the topics at our Global Perspectives conference in Bangkok; there is wide support for our plans to start cooperation on scanning. A small steering group is establishing.

03 – 04 December 2015
A first meeting of strategists, futurists, and trend scouts from our sector takes place at the Centre’s premises in Berlin. Twelve key trends for our sector are identified as the basis of our future work.

04 January 2016
Marianne Henkel starts as full-time Coordinator of Scanning the Horizon.

24 – 28 May 2016
The first Annual Meeting of the newly formed Scanning the Horizon community takes place at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio conference centre. The meeting brings together 19 experts from 18 organisations. Seven of the twelve key trends are explored, and three working groups are established focusing on three of the trends: (1) Shrinking Space for Civic Participation; (2) Changing Expectations of Youth; and (3) The Changing Role of Business.

25 members and observers, including CSOs, CSO networks, multilateral organisations, philanthropies, and corporations contribute to the work and/or provide a financial contribution. The Steering Committee, together with the Coordinator, are leading the way. The working groups starts their activities, and the community agrees to meet by telephone once every four months to review progress and advance joint activities.

26 – 28 October 2016
Under the title The Future of Civic Space, the 2016 Global Perspectives conference will focus on one of the key trends the Scanning the Horizon community is working on.

I see three major areas on which we need to focus on in the future:After a wonderful first year, what are the next steps ahead?

  1. Providing concrete advice to our sector’s leaders on how to cope with specific disruptions

Our working groups on three key trends need to produce not only an excellent analysis of the changes we observe and those we can expect, but also deliver concrete and implementable advice on how to prepare for, and react to, the changes ahead.

  1. Developing more, and better, professional tools and systems for scanning the horizon and detecting disruptions

To date, our sector is not very advanced in developing and applying state-of-the-art tools to identify and describe emerging disruptions. The community driving our Scanning the Horizon work must focus considerable effort on exploring tools that other sectors – such as social science and business – are using.

  1. Building a scanning community, ensuring that we do not unnecessarily double efforts, and that we benefit from each other’s scanning results

After our very successful first steps in bringing a community of strategists, futurists and trend scouts together, we need to make sure that information flows freely between the different participants, securing the considerable value-added this cooperation can bring.

Given the exciting experiences we have made in our first year of Scanning the Horizon, I very much look forward to our next steps together. If you are interested in more information, or if you want to join our community, please take a look at our website or get in touch with Marianne Henkel (mhenkel@icscentre.org).

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