Strategic foresight in forestry: How Canada and the United States use a neglected tool to build a green, healthy and resilient future
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XV World Forestry Congress. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
Strategic foresight is a tool for understanding the ways in which the future might unfold. It is a valuable tool for identifying and mitigating areas of risk while identifying opportunities for our forests, particularly in an age of uncertainty and accelerating change. In recent years, foresight has increasingly been adopted by governments, large organizations, and forward-looking business enterprises as a method to reduce risk for their operations. But forestry agencies have been relatively slow to adopt strategic foresight methods and perspectives. A key principle of foresight is the idea of multiple alternative futures. Rather than predicting exactly how the future is likely to unfold, foresight analysts identify several plausible futures. Foresight is a guide to identify potentially influential decisions, ideas, opportunities and threats. Both the Canadian Forest Service (CFS) and the United States Forest Service (USFS) are developing strategic foresight programs to help plan and operate in an environment of growing complexity, uncertainty and rapid change. The USFS has engaged in foresight in the agency’s R&D branch since 2010. The CFS's foresight team provides advice to policymakers from within its strategic policy division and it builds capacity for forward thinking within the organization. The two organizations have recently partnered to share their findings and approaches. To that end, this paper shows how strategic foresight can help planners, managers, and policy makers understand the future of global forests, using insights from our respective agencies. We outline what foresight is, the suite of foresight tools and how they support proactive analysis and decision making, foresight’s usefulness for the forest sector, how it is practiced in North America, and how it may be beneficial for forestry globally.
Amyot, Marie-Annick; Bengston, David N.; Crabtree, Jason; Fleischman, Forrest; Garcia, Jason; Mann, Carolyn; Perrin, Bryson ; Westphal, Lynne M.; Wheeler, Melissa. 2022. Strategic foresight in forestry: How Canada and the United States use a neglected tool to build a green, healthy and resilient future. In: Proceedings, XV World Forestry Congress. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO); 2-6 May 2022; Seoul, Republic of Korea. 8 p.