Alexia Skok

25 April, 2017

Scanning the Horizon: Insider Tips

In the civil society sector, it could be argued that the only thing we can accurately predict is the unpredictability of today’s world. The changes we are facing come fast and hard, and organisations must do everything in their power to be prepared to ensure their ability to deliver. Yet from climate change, to populism, to the power of social media, being ready for the future is possible; Scanning the Horizon helps civil society organisations (CSOs) detect early signs of upcoming changes, allowing them to anticipate for disruption, and turn potential challenges into advantages.

Over the last month, innovators and leaders from UNICEF, the International Civil Society Centre, the Global Knowledge Initiative (GKI), and OECD have been sharing their successes in, and tips for, Horizon Scanning.

Share your Scanning the Horizon insights and victories in the comments section below.

Burkhard-Gnaerig-D_I-websiteSecuring Your Organisation’s Relevance and Effectiveness – 21 March
Burkhard Gnärig, Executive Director, International Civil Society Centre

“Disruption as we experience it today is not the process between phases of stability. Disruption, rather, takes us from a phase of relative stability to one of ongoing change. This means we need to get up and move, and cannot expect to sit down again any time soon. Instead, we will have to learn to keep moving”.

Horizon Scanning and Innovation: Children or Parents of Change?Alex – 28 March
Alex Roberts, Innovation specialist, Observatory of Public Sector Innovation (OPSI), OECD

“We live in a world of continuing and accelerating change. Our expectations about the future are likely to be challenged more and more by rapidly emerging realities which are significantly different from the status quo. How can organisations effectively operate when their environment keeps changing and the future is uncertain?

From the experience of the public sector, there are two processes that can help – Horizon Scanning and innovation.

  • Horizon Scanning (and strategic foresight more generally) can help us understand and consider different possible futures and reflect on how we engage with, and shape, emerging issues or trends.
  • The innovation process can help provide novel responses to problems that require new solutions”.

JillSaraHow Unifying Systems and Futures Approaches Helps Improve Decision Making – 4 April
Sara Farley, Chief Operating Officer and Co-Founder, Global Knowledge Initiative (GKI) & Jill Carter, Program Officer, Global Knowledge Initiative (GKI)

“Faced with complexity, decision makers, more than ever, struggle to understand how the impact of their actions will play out in the world around them. To overcome this lack of clarity, decision makers can arm themselves with a new, powerful approach: Systems Thinking […]

Our work suggests we can only measure innovation’s potential for impact by examining the intersection and interactions between three systems: (1) the problem space of focus, (2) the system from which innovation is sourced (the innovation system), and (3) the context in which challenges and innovations intersect (the context)”.

KatellEvaInformed Action in an Age of Uncertainty: Can Horizon Scanning Play a Role? – 11 April
Katell Le Goulven, Lead and Founder, Policy Planning Unit – UNICEF & Eva Kaplan, Innovation Specialist, UNICEF Jordan

Patience. The goal of Scanning is to keep up with the pace of change.  But that may not always be possible. Game-changing innovation based on emerging trends should be understood as a long game—it often requires organisational culture shifts, steep learning curves, and new skill sets.  Seeing impact at scale may take some time. For example, we initiated our work on the new data landscapes in 2009 (what we now refer to as the “data revolution”), and only last year we saw this translated into the development of a new UNICEF data strategy”.

Survival Kit for Agents of Change in an Age of Change – 18 AprilMarianne
Marianne Henkel, Project Coordinator – Scanning the Horizon, International Civil Society Centre

“One bottleneck for many organisations is going through transformation open-eyed. Gnärig emphasises the need for radical transformation, and indeed, many large international CSOs are currently undergoing significant restructuring and transformation or have done so within the past decade – devolving responsibilities away from headquarters, moving headquarters to the South, diversifying business models and sources of funding. Such processes can be overwhelming in the time and attention they take up, and often lead to a temporary inward focus. But, as Gnärig and Roberts point out, the rate of change is quick and the number of developments to digest is increasing – looking away until an ongoing transformation is over, and leaning back once it is achieved won’t do”.

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