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Context

Like many innovations, the Future Agenda began with a number of questions and a rough idea of how to answer them. We wanted to provide a forum for discussion of the most significant challenges we face as a society over the next ten years and think about ways in which collectively we can address them.

Over the past twelve months this largely experimental activity has built momentum. We have identified the key challenges and probable changes that will occur across many different areas, and we have also explored some of the main arenas in which these changes will be played out. We have engaged with a global audience and tried to build a bridge between the traditionally separate areas of foresight and innovation. In short we have created a global open foresight initiative.

Our aim for the Future Agenda is to provide a lens through which organisations can identify major innovation opportunities. Many informed people from over 150 countries have been involved in the discussions and their contribution has helped us to highlight the big issues for the next decade and identify where they will have most impact. We hope it has also provided them and the organisations they represent with new provocations and insights that will guide their activities in new directions and stimulate fresh thinking.

The initial idea

Discussing these two questions with colleagues, we came to the conclusion that, given the technology, contacts and relationships in place, there was a good chance we could bring our idea to life.

We decided to start with some points of view to challenge and build upon, in order to get further and faster. People could build on the initial views, highlight the areas that they agree with and propose alternative positions to those that they disagreed with. At the same time, if all comments were openly accessible on the website from the start then anyone could use the insights straight away, without having to wait six months for the synthesis to be undertaken and shared.

The programme outline

We started with 16 topics on the basis of that they cover the most significant areas which are open for significant change over the next decade. These were the future of authenticity, choice, cities, connectivity, currency, data, energy, food, health, identity, migration, money, transport, water, waste and work.

In August 2009, recognised experts in each topic from across the academic, commercial and government arenas were invited to answer a number of common questions on the future. These were then edited and put into a standard format to ease navigation and to ensure a common structure. These were each grouped into four sections – namely the global challenges, options and possibilities, the way forward, and impacts and implications. The intention from the start was not only to get views for each topic on what the future would be, but also to get perspectives on which way we should go, why and with what consequences.

We then held a series for around fifty workshops involving over 2,000 people in 25 different locations. Some of these were within single organisations but many brought together different expertise from many different avenues. Some took place in corporate conference facilities, some in hotels and restaurants and others in village pubs – whatever worked best. In locations around the world, including both the expected (London, New York, Brussels, Sydney, Shanghai, Madrid, Rome, Barcelona, Mumbai, Delhi, Oxford etc) as well as the unexpected (such as the village of Brightwell in Oxfordshire), groups of people from many cultures, of varied ages and with many different perspectives shared their views. Supported by comments fed back after around 21,000 downloads of the initial perspectives in 147 different countries, although not as originally designed, the Future Agenda programme became a platform for global open foresight.

Outcomes

This website and accompanying book provides a synthesis of what the Future Agenda programme has revealed. Examining the key issues highlighted by the multiple workshops and online discussions, it explores what is certain about the next decade, what are probable changes, what are seen as the moderators of the future and what are the main implications for governments, companies and individuals.

We would like to thank all those who have contributed to the process; this programme could not succeed without their support and thoughtfulness. We hope that you find the results useful, thought-provoking, stimulating and, ultimately, a source of new insights leading to innovation in your own field.

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