Monitoring the future

Building an early warning system for the Dutch Ministry of Justice.

Futures, april 2010:
“Strategic decisions by definition concern tomorrow and they have far-reaching consequences for the future, which means that unpredictable changes in the areas of technology, demography, economy, globalization, and the environment need to be taken into account. This creates a need for the Dutch government (and for any other government) to be prepared for an uncertain future. After all, to govern is to look ahead.

The Dutch Ministry of Justice wants to develop insight into which possible changes may be important to its policy area in the long term. To that end a broad strategic futures exploration was carried out in 2006, with the aim of increasing the departments focus on the future and the environment. Uncertain developments and trends are identified and on the basis of two key uncertainties, four future scenarios were developed.

To be able to determine at an early stage which scenario or which elements of the scenarios are unfolding in reality, the department felt the need to monitor environmental developments, which is why, after building the scenarios, an early warning system (EWS) was developed by De Ruijter.

An EWS is used to monitor various developments and to place them within the perspective of future scenarios. Without actually predicting the future, this makes it possible to determine which scenario is the most relevant at any given moment, allowing the departments to adapt its policies. Regular modifications to the EWS make it possible to monitor in the direction of which scenario society appears to be moving. This created a path to the future with which the sustainability of (new) policies can be tested periodically.”

De Ruijter supported the Ministry of Justice in developing the scenarios and early warning system. In April 2010 the article “Monitoring the future. Building an early warning system for the Dutch Ministry of Justice” (by Lineke Botterhuis, Patrick van der Duin, Paul de Ruijter and Peter van Wijck) was published by Futures.