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Setting Up a Horizon Scanning System: A U.S. Federal Agency Example

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Hines, Andy ; Bengston, David N.; Dockry, Michael J.; Cowart, Adam

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World Futures Review


Managers and policy makers are continually working toward a desired future within a context of rapid and turbulent change. To be effective in this context, they must look ahead to anticipate emerging trends, issues, opportunities, and threats. Horizon scanning is a foresight method that can help managers and policy makers develop and maintain a broad and externally focused forward view to anticipate and align decisions with both emerging (near-term) and long-term futures. This article reports on the design and early stage development and implementation of a horizon scanning system established for the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), Strategic Foresight Group, and developed cooperatively with the University of Houston Foresight Program. The goal of the project is to develop an ongoing horizon scanning system as an input to developing environmental foresight: insight into future environmental challenges and opportunities, and the ability to apply that insight to prepare for a sustainable future. In addition, the horizon scanning system is supported by volunteers from within the Forest Service. By including participants from throughout the Forest Service, the project seeks to foster a culture of foresight within the organization, and eventually to develop a more forward looking organizational structure for the USFS and other natural resource management agencies. Lessons learned from the experience to date are shared as well as future challenges for keeping the horizon scanning system in good working order—current, relevant, and consistent.


foresight; horizon scanning; forestry; emerging issues; policy


Hines, Andy; Bengston, David N.; Dockry, Michael J.; Cowart, Adam. 2018. Setting Up a Horizon Scanning System: A U.S. Federal Agency Example. World Futures Review. 10(2): 136-151.

Last updated on: September 5, 2018