Assessing the contribution of Foresight to a more participatory, ‘knowledge society’

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Foresight has been increasingly acknowledged as a valuable policy-making process. It has evolved from informing policies about key technological fields that would be of outmost importance in the future to (re)orienting and opening up policies towards societal needs. The wide application of foresight would benefit from a common evaluation and assessment framework that hardly exists today. This would facilitate the identification of good practices irrespective of case-specific objectives while it would also allow for benchmarking and coordination of policies for socio-economic development.Such a common assessment framework would require a higher level of reference, i.e. the attainment of generic goals, beyond the specific objectives of each case. This higher level of reference is offered by the commonly agreed goal of the EU to become ‘the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world’ by also promoting participatory governance in ensuring sustainable development.Apart from their case-specific impacts, foresight exercises have wider impacts in terms of networks creation, actors’ alignment, knowledge diffusion and creation, or promoting public engagement in policy-making. Thus, the two ‘pillars’ of the ‘knowledge society’ and ‘participatory governance’, are both relevant and feasible to become the generic level of goals where a common foresight impact assessment framework can be based.The thesis argues that such an assessment framework can be built based on the main features and pre-conditions of more participatory, ‘knowledge societies’ and the broader impacts of foresight systems. To this end, it starts with exploring the main features of modern societies and the pre-conditions of what may be called in future ‘more participatory knowledge societies’. Then follows the examination of foresight literature to better understand the main functions and impacts of foresight systems and identify relevant areas of contribution in relation to more participatory, ‘knowledge societies’. The foresight impact assessment framework is eventually built inspired by relevant frameworks and concepts of socio-economic and research programme evaluation in order to adequately address the challenges faced in foresight evaluation.Its validity is then tested through case studies. The case study analysis demonstrates the comprehensiveness of the framework and further refines the main hypotheses and associated success factors, leading to certain foresight principles to be taken on board for foresight exercises to contribute to more participatory, ‘knowledge societies’.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011


  • foresight
  • knowledge society
  • evaluation
  • impact assessment


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