Forward-looking activities: incorporating citizens' visions

Poiesis and Praxis 9 (1-2):101-123 (2012)
Abstract
Looking back on the many prophets who tried to predict the future as if it were predetermined, at first sight any forward-looking activity is reminiscent of making predictions with a crystal ball. In contrast to fortune tellers, today’s exercises do not predict, but try to show different paths that an open future could take. A key motivation to undertake forward-looking activities is broadening the information basis for decision-makers to help them actively shape the future in a desired way. Experts, laypeople, or stakeholders may have different sets of values and priorities with regard to pending decisions on any issue related to the future. Therefore, considering and incorporating their views can, in the best case scenario, lead to more robust decisions and strategies. However, transferring this plurality into a form that decision-makers can consider is a challenge in terms of both design and facilitation of participatory processes. In this paper, we will introduce and critically assess a new qualitative method for forward-looking activities, namely CIVISTI (Citizen Visions on Science, Technology and Innovation; www.civisti.org), which was developed during an EU project of the same name. Focussing strongly on participation, with clear roles for citizens and experts, the method combines expert, stakeholder and lay knowledge to elaborate recommendations for decision-making in issues related to today’s and tomorrow’s science, technology and innovation. Consisting of three steps, the process starts with citizens’ visions of a future 30–40 years from now. Experts then translate these visions into practical recommendations which the same citizens then validate and prioritise to produce a final product. The following paper will highlight the added value as well as limits of the CIVISTI method and will illustrate potential for the improvement of future processes
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