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EU project uses forward-looking analysis to address grand challenges of the future

The recent FLAGSHIP workshop discussed the scenarios and policy recommendations to address future economic, environmental and social challenges.

With nine months to go before the completion of FLAGSHIP, the project team is now fully focused on the final strait. And the recent FLAGSHIP workshop in Brussels offered the perfect opportunity to share and discuss preliminary results before honing them into final policy recommendations. Project coordinator Andrea Ricci from the Institute of Studies for the Integration of Systems (ISIS) in Italy introduced the project which, for over two years, has been working to develop ‘forward-looking analysis (FLA) of grand societal challenges and innovative policies’. Through the FLA approach, FLAGSHIP researchers use past and present information, along with stakeholders’ insights, to shed light on the nature, level, probability and timing of relevant challenges. Carlo Sessa from ISIS outlined how the team used a highly participatory and iterative approach to develop two visions – Metamorphosis and Perseverance – which define the perimeters for storylines and scenarios for the future of Europe towards 2050. The scenarios envisioned are now being run through logic-based models. The team anticipates that, among other things, bifurcation points/events between 2020 and 2030 in such areas as demography, education, technology and socio-economic changes will influence the course of the scenarios. Oriol Biosca from MCRIT in Spain described the meta-modelling approach which allowed the team to build the visions based on simplified representations of macro variables such as: Well-being = Affluence + Cohesion (inequality index) + Environment (resource efficiency). The meta-model approach helps to validate the consistency of the storylines under development. Successive speakers, including Baptiste Boitier and Paul Zagamé from SEURECO in France, Kishore Dhavala from BC3 Basque Centre for Climate Change in Spain and Olga Ivanova from TNO in the Netherlands, discussed how the team has moved from the narrative storylines to the FLAGSHIP scenarios by modelling the economic, environmental and resource efficiency aspects in detail. There are distinct differences between the two visions encompassing the FLAGSHIP scenarios – although both are considered to be ‘possible and acceptable’. The Perseverance vision is driven by mainstream conventional thinking based on projections of current trends. In this vision, GDP growth remains the main focus of decision-makers and policies tend to be reactive rather than anticipate future changes. The Metamorphosis vision is considered to be ‘more daring and normative in nature’. Under this vision, we would make a fundamental and systemic change to build a future that is more just, environmentally sustainable and more legitimate overall. Rounding up the workshop, Cinzia Alcidi from the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) in Belgium assessed how we can transform FLAGSHIP’s research results into policy recommendations, highlighting the difference between adopting an anticipatory (Metamorphosis) or a reactive (Perseverance) approach. In a FLASGHIP policy brief published late last year, the team presented the main features of the two visions with the aim of ‘identifying areas where transformative dynamics could emerge’ – favouring or inhibiting certain future scenarios. When the project winds up this December, the team will have published a set of policy recommendations which can support the European institutions, and all stakeholders in exploiting the potential of transition and change for the future of the EU. The discussions and feedback from this month’s final workshop will feed into these recommendations. The team has also taken stock of existing literature on FLA studies – for example through the previously published FLAGSHIP review paper – with the ambition of helping to improve FLA methodological approaches, through the development of an enhanced set of FLA quantitative and qualitative tools, methods and models.

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