On March 2, I attended Carleton University’s Visions 2042 Conference, a three night, two day conference in which Carleton staff and students, government and nonprofit officials, and interested community members discuss “research and ideas that help imagine Canada’s future in 2042”. The conference offers tremendous multi-disciplinary appeal and included discussion of a wide range of topics, which is what drew me to the event.
I attended the session titled Grasping the Future of Canadian Governance: Using Strategic Foresight to Explore Canada’s Evolving Political Landscape. It featured several Carleton faculty as well as leading researchers and writers on strategic foresight from the Conference Board of Canada and Policy Horizons Canada. For those new to the concept, strategic foresight uses tools and methodology to research and understand possible futures and how to position your organization to survive within it.
It was a fascinating discussion. Strategic foresight in government was the main focus but reference to its applications in a variety of situations were made, such as military, end user technology, and international affairs. During Q&A, I asked the panel how practitioners of strategic foresight decide on the most likely scenarios, and what to advance to decision-makers in government as the one or two scenarios for which contingencies should be made. An interesting back and forth between the academics and outside speakers followed, with the final answer being, they don’t!
This session provided me with a new way of thinking about the future. Satyamoorthy Kabilan from the Conference Board of Canada noted that people generally think about the future in one of two ways: that what happened in the past will happen in the future, or what’s happening now will continue to happen in the future. My favourite quote from him about this way of thinking is, “You can’t drive a car without your rear view mirror, but you can’t drive a car with it.” This is where the value of strategic foresight comes in.
I really enjoyed this session and the opportunity to discuss big ideas and themes, such as the future of Canada. I am on Carleton University’s mailing list and I look forward to other conferences and events in the future!