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Strategic Foresight for Sustainability (SF4S) - Synthesis Report

This is a synthesis report based on 130+ interviews conducted as part of the Strategic Foresight for Sustainability (SF4S). The synthesis report concludes the project’s Work Package 2, led by Finland Futures Research Centre, which had as a central objective to identify “key skills and good practices on the basis of interviews with the key community actors”.

The interviews map out sustainability, digitalisation, and foresight skills and practices in organisations around Europe with an emphasis on the project’s three target clusters: Agri-food, Health, and Mobility. In addition to industry representatives, experts in foresight, policy, consulting, and education have contributed their views to the project.

Nine SF4S consortium partners – DKSD, EDC, EDHEC, FFRC, GEA, HMKW, ISPIM, IZT, and TalTech - have carried out 91 interviews in situ or via digital communication channels from September 2022 to March 2023. In addition, 47 interviewees or discussants participated via focus group discussions (November 2022) and a public webinar (January 2023).

The first part of the key outcomes of interviews are perspectives to sustainability and innovation (S&I) practices, can be summarised as presented in the figure below (Figure 1). The current practices in all three clusters emphasise digital solutions and their application in building a community, transparency and traceability in the value chains. The challenges for building these practices come from cultural barriers and the necessary mindset to enable systemic transformations. The key problematics of how to catalyse multi-layered systemic impacts, how to get right kind of leadership to these practices and where to get funding for these kinds of practices.

Figure 1. Synthesizing findings from the three clusters.

The second outcome of interviews is about foresight as a cross-cutting meta-skill. In majority of the interviews, foresight was evaluated as the key emerging capability in the clusters. Foresight is needed as a kind of practical pursuit, but also as a future-oriented strategic intelligence practice that was needed across the companies, value chains and ecosystems. Practically all interviewed companies depicted that they are building foresight capabilities, in one way or another. There was specific interest is on evidence-based, data-driven and scenario-based approaches.

Synthesising the interviews, the following meta level competences were assessed be central in the future. The first competence is multi-disciplinarity and/or trans-disciplinarity, which refers to the need of generalist and cross-cutting knowledge in the companies. The second key competence is systems thinking that was assessed to be important in combining cluster-level connected insights of the trends. This also calls for understanding wider contexts of activities and to be able to assess phenomena in specific contexts. The third key competence is critical thinking. This refers specifically to the need to have multiple perspectives on phenomena and trends in the operative environment. It also refers to the need to question some of the surface level perspectives and points to the necessity of having different ways to contemplate these events and to have different data sources that could bring illumination to the most banal simplicities in the field.

The fourth competence is digital capabilities, especially analysis, management and visualisation of data. These kinds of competences will rise in importance. The fifth competence is a cluster of various skills which we call social and cultural competence. This includes hard skills needed in future organisations, that is, communication skills, networking capabilities, narrative skills, emotional intelligence, and empathy. The sixth meta-level result of the interviews is here called “new literacies”. This includes new kinds of “literacy skills” of the future, for example, information (data) literacy, sustainability literacy, algorithmic literacy, and futures literacy.

Donwload the full report here.

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