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Namur, July 12, 2021

Challenges such as the imminent strategic choices posed by the European structural funds, the Recovery programme underway within the Government of Wallonia, questions on the interest in and the value of installing 5G, and whether it is even necessary, along with issues surrounding the implementation of a guaranteed universal income, and other energy, climate and environmental issues, raise the question of the impact of the decisions made by both public and private operators [1].

In their recent work The Politics Industry, while analysing the shortcomings and failure of American democracy and the possibilities for reconstructing it, Katherine M. Gehl and Michael E. Porter call for policy innovation. Katherine Gehl, founder of the Institute for Political Innovation, argues that laboratories of democracy have a role to play in the transformations within the political and social system itself to help governments achieve their objectives and, above all, to achieve the results their citizens deserve [2]. Although the authors, who are immersed in the business and entrepreneurship culture, focus primarily on democratic engineering in order to restore its negative effects on economic competitiveness, the issue of prior, objective analysis or assessment of the impacts that political decisions can have on society and its economy is not high on their agenda. In the absence of this type of approach, we believe that criticising policymaking and its lack of rationality – along with demonstrating the absence of general interest and common good – appears futile.

The weakening of a strong impact analysis probably contributed to Philippe Zittoun’s description, based on the work of the celebrated economists, sociologists and political scientists Herbert Simon (1916-2001) and Charles Lindblom (1917-2018), of complex cognitive tinkering. In this tinkering process, the necessary rational links between problem, objective, solution, tools, values and causes are absent [3]. Ignorance, intuitions, ideology and inertia combine to give us answers that look plausible, promise much, and predictably betray us, write the recent winners of the Nobel Prize for Economics, Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo [4].

Dreamstime – Dzmitry Skazau

1. What is policy impact prior analysis?

The purpose of impact analysis is to establish a comparison between what has happened or will happen after the implementation of the measure or programme and what would have happened if the measure or programme had not been implemented. This comparison can be referred to as the programme impact [5].

Policy impact prior analysis can help to refine decisions before they are implemented and to comprehend their potential effects in different economic environments. The impact assessment provides a framework for understanding whether the beneficiaries do actually benefit from the programme, rather than from other factors or actors. A combination of qualitative and quantitative methods is useful to give an overview of the programme impact. There are two types of impact analysis: ex ante and ex post. An ex-ante impact analysis attempts to measure the expected impacts of future programmes and policies, taking into account the current situation of a target area, and may involve simulations based on assumptions relating to the functioning of the economy. Ex ante analyses are usually based on structural models of the economic environment facing the potential participants. The underlying assumptions for the structural models involve identifying the main economic actors in the development of the programme and the links between the actors and the different markets to determine the results of the programme. These models can predict the programme impacts [6].

In April 2016, in their common desire for Better Regulation, the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the European Commission decided to increase and strengthen impact assessments [7] as tools for improving the quality of EU legislation, in addition to consulting with citizens and stakeholders and assessing the existing legislation. In the view of these three institutions, impact assessments should map out alternative solutions and, where possible, potential short and long-term costs and benefits, assessing the economic, environmental and social impacts in an integrated and balanced way and using both qualitative and quantitative analyses. These assessments must respect the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality, as well as fundamental rights. They must also consider the impact of the various options in terms of competitiveness, administrative burdens, the effect on SMEs, digital aspects and other elements linked to territorial impact. Impact assessments should also be based on data that is accurate, objective, and complete [8].

In recent years, the European Commission has gone to great lengths to update its technical governance tools in its efforts to achieve better regulation. This concept means designing EU policies and laws so that they achieve their objectives at the lowest possible cost. For the Commission, better regulation does not involve regulating or deregulating, but rather adopting a way of working which ensures that policy decisions are taken openly and transparently, are guided by the best factual data available, and are supported by stakeholder participation. Impact assessment (or impact analysis) is an important element of this approach to policy issues, as are foresight (or forward-looking) tools, and tools used for stakeholder consultation and participation, planning, implementation, assessment, monitoring etc., which are part of the public or collective policy cycle, and even, by extension, the business policy cycle [9].

Better regulation covers the entire political cycle, from policy conception and preparation, to adoption, implementation, application (including monitoring and enforcement [10]), assessment and revision of measures. For each phase of the cycle, a number of principles, objectives, tools and procedures for improving regulation are used to build capacity for achieving the best possible strategy.

Although impact assessment is not a new tool, since it was theorised extensively in the 1980s and 1990s [11], its role in the process has been strengthened considerably by the European Commission, to the extent that, in our view, it is now of central importance. Even its content has been broadened. The Better Regulations Guidelines of 2017 highlight this transparency and draw a distinction with assessment practices: in an impact assessment process, the term impact describes all the changes which are expected to happen due to the implementation and application of a given policy option/intervention. Such impacts may occur over different timescales, affect different actors and be relevant at different scales (local, regional, national and EU).  In an evaluation context, impact refers to the changes associated with a particular intervention which occur over the longer term [12]. The Guidelines glossary also states that impact assessment is an integrated process for assessing and comparing the merits of a range of public or collective policy options developed to solve a clearly defined problem. Impact assessment is only an aid to policymaking / decision-making and not a substitute for it [13].

Thus, impact assessments refer to the ex-ante assessment carried out during the policy formulation phase of the policy cycle.

This process consists in gathering and analysing evidence to support policy development. It confirms the existence of a problem to be solved, establishes the objectives, identifies its underlying causes, analyses whether a public action is necessary, and assesses the advantages and disadvantages of the available solutions [14].

The Commission’s impact assessment system follows an integrated approach which assesses the environmental, social and economic impacts of a range of policy options, thereby incorporating sustainability into the drafting of EU policies. The impact reports formatted by the Commission also include the impacts on SMEs and on European competitiveness and a detailed description of the consultation strategy and the results achieved [15].

2. Complex, public-interest processes that make democracy more transparent

In a parliamentary context, impact studies designed as ex-ante assessments of legislation satisfy, firstly, an ambition to overhaul policy practices, secondly, an open government challenge to make public debate more transparent, and, thirdly, a desire for efficiency in the transformation of public and collective action, since assessment means better action. Generating knowledge on the objectives, the context, the resources, the expected results and the effects of the proposed policies means giving both parliamentarians and citizens the means to assess the consequences of the recommended measures. It also means supporting public decision-making by plainly revealing the budgetary impacts of the decisions policymakers want to make. These advantages are undoubtedly ways to revitalise our democracies [16].

Used for prior assessment of legislation, impact assessment aims to analyse all the behaviors and situations that present a direct or indirect causal link with the legislation being examined, to identify the unforeseen effects, the adverse effects [17]. It involves identifying the genuine changes expected in society which could be directly associated with the prescriptive (legislative or regulatory) measures implemented by the actors involved in the policy [18]. It is therefore understandable that questions relating to concerns such as the impact of technological choices on health or the extent to which the legislation is consistent with climate and sustainable development objectives are essential questions posed in impact studies [19].

Measuring the impact is therefore the key challenge of the assessment, but it is also the hardest issue to tackle from a methodological point of view [20]. As indicated in the Morel-L’Huissier-Petit report submitted to the French National Assembly in 2018, assessing the mobilisation of resources and the control of public expenditure when implementing legislation or a policy is the driving force for more effective public action which is able to innovate and evolve its management methods in order to adapt positively to the paradox of modern public action: how to do better with less, against a backdrop of cutting public expenditure, rising democratic demands and Public Service expectations, and accelerating economic and social trends [21]. This report also recommends expanding impact studies to cover tabled legislative proposals and substantial amendments in order to supplement the content, review the impact studies already accompanying the legislative proposals, develop robust impact and cost simulators and use them regularly, and, lastly, organise discussions within committees and at public hearings dedicated to assessing impact studies [22].

Concerning the low-carbon strategy, France’s High Council on Climate indicated, in December 2019, that, with regard to environmental and particularly climate assessment, the existing impact studies have not achieved their potential: they cover only a small portion of the legislation adopted (legislative proposals of parliamentary origin and amendments are not included), they are rarely used, and they are often incomplete [23].

However, these assessment works of the High Council on Climate are very interesting from a methodological perspective. When supplemented, impact prior analyses can be considered to follow a seven-stage process, guided by a compass as shown below.

Overall, it might be argued that the impact of a policy is all its effect on real-world conditions, including: 1. impact on the target situation or group, 2. impact on situations or groups other than the target (spill over effects), 3. impact on future as well as immediate conditions, 4. direct costs, in terms of resources devoted to the program, 5. indirect costs, including loss of opportunities to do other things. All the benefits and costs, both immediate and future, must be measured in both symbolic and tangible terms and be explained with concrete equivalences [24].

The main purpose of any ex-ante assessment is without doubt to clarify the political objectives from the outset, for example before voting on a law, and to help define or eliminate any incompatibilities within or between the general objectives and the operational objectives [25]. The fundamental problem seems to be that the impacts of changes brought about by public policies are often minor, or even marginal, compared with those caused by external social and economic developments. It then becomes hard to get the message across [26]. That is why demonstrating a significant public policy impact often means having to deal with a major programme, or series of programmes. The measures must be properly conceived, properly financed and made sustainable over time [27]. These measures can be discussed with stakeholders or even with citizens, as was the case with the measures in the independence insurance bill debated at the citizens’ panel on ageing, organised by the Parliament of Wallonia in 2017 and 2018 [28].

More than simply a judgment, impact assessment is a learning approach whereby lessons can be learned from the policy or action being assessed, and the content improved as a result. Any assessment requires collaboration and dialogue between its key participants, namely the representatives, assessors, beneficiaries of the policies, programmes, projects or functions, and stakeholders, in other words the individuals or bodies that have an interest in both the policy or programme being assessed and the results of the assessment. Assessment in this sense is merely a process in which the actors themselves adopt the thinking on the practices and the results of the subject being assessed [29]. The methods may be many and varied, but the key points are probably the ethics of the assessment and some essential quality criteria: a high-quality model, a large amount of robust data, meeting expectations, and genuine consideration of the common good [30].

 3. Interests and obstacles for a strategic intelligence tool

Impact prior analysis is one of the strategic policy intelligence tools promoted by the European Commission. It also respects the following principles:

principle of participation: foresight, evaluation or Technology Assessment exercises take care of the diversity of perspectives of actors in order not to maintain one unequivocal ‘truth’ about a given innovation policy theme;

principle of objectivisation: strategic intelligence supports more ‘objective’ formulation of diverging perceptions by offering appropriate indicators, analyses and information processing mechanism;

principle of mediation and alignment: strategic intelligence facilitates mutual learning about the perspectives of different actors and their backgrounds, which supports the finding of consensus;

principle of decision support: strategic intelligence processes facilitate political decisions and support their successful subsequent implementation  [31].

An impact assessment can therefore be broken down into traditional cost-benefit measures and measures relating to areas such as sustainable development, environment, technological innovation and social impact. The Sustainability Impact Assessment has been developed by the European Commission and includes a detailed analysis of the potential economic, social, human and environmental impacts of ongoing commercial negotiations. These assessments are an opportunity for stakeholders from the EU and the partner countries to share their points of view with the negotiators [32].

In recent decades, the literature on policy assessment has increased substantially and new methodologies have been developed to identify the causal effects of policies [33]. In addition, the openness approaches pursued by governments and parliaments are introducing democratic innovation aspects which need to be taken into account. Although the quality of the impact analysis methods, particularly environmental (air, water, ecological systems, socio-economic systems, etc.), has been improved and diversified considerably since the beginning of the 2000s, especially through the works of Christopher Wood [34] and Peter Morris and Riki Therivel [35], it must be acknowledged that, in practice, these processes are rarely applied and that, often, the public authorities prefer not to activate them. However, major clients such as the European Commission and the OECD are becoming increasingly demanding in this area in terms of assessment and climate/energy indicators. This is also a real opportunity to create closer links between impact assessments and public inquiries.

Beyond the technical sphere of civil servants and experts, many elected representatives tend to perceive policy impact prior analysis as an additional layer on top of the decision-making process – which generates a degree of indifference – rather than a beneficial layer which represents real added value for stakeholders.

We also know that, when taken to the extreme, impact assessment is a tool that can hinder or even prevent legislative and programme-based action. The Anglo-Saxons have an extreme vision of efficiency, even going as far as the concept – assumed – of a regulatory guillotine [36]. This fairly radical approach may involve two paths: one in which, faced with the proliferation of ex ante assessment procedures, the political system risks rigidity, the other in which, for fear of generating additional prescriptive complexity, the elected representatives avoid all legislative change. The OECD is interested in this aspect [37].

In this way, prior policy impact assessment could open a lively debate on legislative relevance. Something that is always healthy, particularly in parliamentary settings.

 

Philippe Destatte

@PhD2050

 

[1] I would like to thank Sarah Bodart, analyst and economist at The Destree Institute’s Wallonia Policy Lab, for her advice and suggestions for finalising this paper.

[2] Katherine M. GEHL & Michaël E. PORTER, The Politics Industry, How Political Innovation Can Break Partisan Gridlock and Save our Democracy, p. 179, Boston, Harvard Business Review Press, 2020.

[3] Philippe ZITTOUN, La fabrique politique des politiques publiques, p. 146, Paris, Presses de Sciences-Po, 2013. – Charles E. LINDBLOM, The Policy-Making Process, Prentice-Hall, 1968.

[4] Abhijit BV. BANERJEE and Esther DUFLO, Économie utile pour des temps difficiles, p. 439-440, Paris, Seuil, 2020. – See also Esther DUFLO, Rachel GLENNESTER and Michael KREMER, Using Randomization in Development Economics Research: A Toolkit in T. Paul SCHULZ and John STRAUSS ed., Handbook of Development Economics, vol. 4, p. 3895–3962, Amsterdam, North-Holland, 2008.

[5] Lawrence B. MOHR, Impact Analysis for Program Evaluation, p. 2-3, Chicago, The Dorsey Press, 1988.

[6] Shahidur R. KHANDKER, Gayatri B. KOOLWAL, Hussain A. SAMAD, Handbook on Impact Evaluation: Quantitative Methods and Practices, p. 19-20, Washington, World Bank, 2010.

https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/2693.

[7] The OECD defines impact as the positive or negative, primary and secondary long-term effects produced by an intervention, directly or indirectly, intended or unintended.  Niels DABELSTEIN dir., Glossaire des principaux termes relatifs à l’évaluation et à la gestion axées sur les résultats, p. 22, Paris, OECD, 2002. http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/29/21/2754804.pdf

See also the EVALSED glossary: Nick BOZEAT (GHK) & Elliot STERN (Tavistock Institute) dir., EVALSED, The Resource for the Evaluation of Socio Economic Development, Sept. 2013: Impact: The change that can be credibly attributed to an intervention. Same as « effect » of intervention or « contribution to change ». – A consequence affecting direct beneficiaries following the end of their participation in an intervention or after the completion of public facilities, or else an indirect consequence affecting other beneficiaries who may be winners or losers. Certain impacts (specific impacts) can be observed among direct beneficiaries after a few months and others only in the longer term (e.g. the monitoring of assisted firms). In the field of development support, these longer-term impacts are usually referred to as sustainable results. Some impacts appear indirectly (e.g. turnover generated for the suppliers of assisted firms). Others can be observed at the macro-economic or macro-social level (e.g. improvement of the image of the assisted region); these are global impacts. Evaluation is frequently used to examine one or more intermediate impacts, between specific and global impacts. Impacts may be positive or negative, expected or unexpected. – Philippe DESTATTE, Evaluation of Foresight: how to take long-term impact into consideration? For-learn Mutual Learning Workshop, Evaluation of Foresight, Seville, IPTS-DG RTD, December 13-14, 2007. – Gustavo FAHRENKROG e.a., RTD Evaluation Tool Box: Assessing the Socio-economic Impact of RTD Policies. IPTS Technical Report Series. Seville, 2002.

[8] Better Regulation, Interinstitutional agreement between the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the European Commission, Brussels, 13 April 2016.

[9] Better Regulation Guidelines, Commission Staff Working Document, p. 5sv, 7 July 2017 (SWD (2017) 350.

[10] Application means the daily application of the requirements of the legislation after it has entered into force. EU regulations are applicable from their effective date, while rules set out in EU directives will apply only from the effective date of the national legislation that transposes the EU directive into national law. Application covers transposition and implementation. Better Regulation Guidelines…, p. 88.

[11] For example: Saul PLEETER ed., Economic Impact Analysis: Methodology and Application, Boston – The Hague – London, Martinus Nijhoff, 1980.

[12] Better regulation guidelines, p. 89, Brussels, EC, 2017.

[13] Ibidem.

[14] Szvetlana ACS, Nicole OSTLAENDER, Giulia LISTORTI, Jiri HRADEC, Matthew HARDY, Paul SMITS, Leen HORDIJK, Modelling for EU Policy support: Impact Assessments, Luxembourg, Publications Office of the European Union, 2019.

[15] Better Regulation Guidelines…, p. 13.

[16] Pierre MOREL-L’HUISSIER and Valérie PETIT, Rapport d’information par le Comité d’Évaluation et de Contrôle des politiques publiques sur l’évaluation des dispositifs d’évaluation des politiques publiques, p. 7-24,  Paris, National Assembly, 15 March 2018.

[17] Geneviève CEREXHE, L’évaluation des lois, in Christian DE VISSCHER and Frédéric VARONE ed., Évaluer les politiques publiques, Regards croisés sur la Belgique, p. 117, Louvain-la-Neuve, Bruylant-Academia, 2001.

[18] In simple terms, a successful impact assessment aims to establish the situation that society would have experienced in the absence of the policy being assessed. By comparing this fictional, also called counterfactual, situation to the situation actually observed, a causal relationship can be deduced between the public intervention and an indicator deemed relevant (health, employment, education, etc.). Rozenn DESPLATZ and Marc FERRACCI, Comment évaluer les politiques publiques ? Un guide à l’usage des décideurs et praticiens, p. 5, Paris, France Stratégie, September 2016.

Cliquer pour accéder à guide_methodologique_20160906web.pdf

See also: Stéphane PAUL, Hélène MILET and Elise CROVELLA, L’évaluation des politiques publiques, Comprendre et pratiquer, Paris, Presses de l’EHESP, 2016.

[19] This extension can also be found in the AFIGESE definition: Impact: social, economic and environmental consequence(s) attributable to a public intervention. Marie-Claude MALHOMME e.a., Glossaire de l’Évaluation, p. 77, Paris, AFIGESE- Caisse d’Épargne, 2000.

[20] Jean-Pierre BATTERTI, Marianne BONDAZ and Martine MARIGEAUD e.a., Cadrage méthodologique de l’évaluation des politiques publiques partenariales : guide, Inspection générale de l’Administration, Inspection générale des Finances, Inspection générale des Affaires sociales, December 2012

http://www.ladocumentationfrancaise.fr/rapports-publics/124000683-guide-cadrage-methodologique-de-l-evaluation-des-politiques-publiques-partenariales

[21] Pierre MOREL-L’HUISSIER and Valérie PETIT, Rapport d’information

[22] Pierre MOREL-L’HUISSIER and Valérie PETIT, Rapport d’information... p.11-13

[23] Where there is evidence that some provisions of a law have a potentially significant effect on the low-carbon trajectory, whether positive or negative, the text initiator decides to steer the text towards a detailed impact study relating to the national low-carbon strategy (SNBC). This detailed study is the subject of a detailed public opinion on its quality, produced by an independent authority with the capacity to do so. This process must be concluded before the legal text is tabled in Parliament. It is suggested that Parliament should expand detailed impact studies relating to the low-carbon strategy to cover legislative proposals. Évaluer les lois en cohérence avec les ambitions, p. 5-6, Paris, High Council on Climate, December 2019.

[24] Thomas R. DYE, Understanding Public Policy, p. 313, Upper Saddle River (New Jersey), Prentice Hall, 2002. The impact of a policy is all its effect on real-world conditions, including : impact on the target situation or group, impact on situations or groups other than the target (spillover effects), impact on future as well as immediate conditions, direct costs, in terms of resources devoted to the program, indirect costs, including loss of opportunities to do other things. All the benefits and costs, both immediate and future, must be measured in both symbolic and tangible effects. – See also: Shahidur R. KHANDKER, S.R., Gayatri B. KOOLWAL, & Hussain A. SAMAD, Handbook on Impact Evaluation, Quantitative methods and practices, Washington D.C, World Bank, 2010.

[25] Paul CAIRNEY, Understanding Public Policy, Theories and Issues, p. 39, London, Palgrave-MacMillan, 2012.

[26] Karel VAN DEN BOSCH & Bea CANTILLON, Policy Impact, in Michaël MORAN, Martin REIN & Robert E. GOODIN, The Oxford Handbook of Public Policy, p. 296-318, p. 314, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2006.

[27] Th. R. DYE, op. cit., p. 315.

[28] Ph. DESTATTE, Que s’est-il passé au Parlement de Wallonie le 12 mai 201 ?7 Blog PhD2050, Namur, 17 June 2017, https://phd2050.wordpress.com/2017/06/17/panel2/

[29] Philippe DESTATTE and Philippe DURANCE dir., Les mots-clefs de la prospective territoriale, p. 23-24, Paris, La Documentation française, 2009.

Cliquer pour accéder à philippe-destatte_philippe-durance_mots-cles_prospective_documentation-francaise_2008.pdf

[30] Jean-Claude BARBIER, A propos de trois critères de qualité des évaluations: le modèle, la réponse aux attentes, l’intérêt général, dans Ph. DESTATTE, Évaluation, prospective, développement régional, p. 71sv, Charleroi, Institut Destrée, 2001.

[31] Alexander TÜBKE, Ken DUCATEL, James P. GAVIGAN, Pietro MONCADA-PATERNO-CASTELLO ed., Strategic Policy Intelligence: Current Trends, the State of the Play and perspectives, S&T Intelligence for Policy-Making Processes, IPTS, Seville, Dec. 2001.

[32] Sustainability Impact Assessment (SIA) https://ec.europa.eu/trade/policy/policy-making/analysis/policy-evaluation/sustainability-impact-assessments/index_en.htm

[33] Massimo LOI and Margarida RODRIGUES, A note on the impact evaluation of public policies: the counterfactual analysis, JRC Scientific & Policy Report, Brussels, European Commission, Joint Research Center, 2012. (Report EU 25519 EN).

[34] Christopher WOOD, Environmental Impact Assessment, A Comparative Review, Harlow, Pearson Education, 2003. (1st ed. 1993).

[35] Peter MORRIS & Riki THERIVEL, Methods of Environmental Impact Assessment, London – New York, Spon Press, 2001.

[36] Thanks to Michaël Van Cutsem for this remark. http://regulatoryreform.com/regulatory-guillotine/

[37] La réforme de la réglementation dans les pays du Moyen-Orient et d’Afrique du Nord, Paris, OCDE, 2013.

Liège, le 28 février 2018

1. Qu’est-ce que la prospective, en quoi est-elle stratégique ?

Telle que nous la connaissons aujourd’hui en Europe, la prospective constitue une rencontre entre des dynamiques françaises et latines, d’une part, anglo-saxonnes, de l’autre. Les évolutions entre ces deux sources apparaissent croisées. Ainsi, le foresight a-t-il évolué au fil du temps, de préoccupations militaires (améliorer les systèmes de défense) vers des objectifs industriels (accroître la compétitivité) et les questions sociétales (assurer le bien-être de la population, mettre le système en harmonie). Depuis les années 1960 jusqu’à nos jours, ses sujets de prédilection sont passés des sciences de base aux technologies-clefs, puis à l’analyse des systèmes d’innovation, enfin à l’étude du système sociétal dans sa totalité. De disciplinaire, orienté vers les sciences dites exactes, le foresight est devenu pluri, multi, et interdisciplinaire, ouvert aux sciences sociales [1]. Ainsi, s’est-il rapproché considérablement de la prospective, abandonnant une bonne partie des ambitions prévisionnistes héritées du forecasting pour devenir davantage stratégique.

La prospective française trouve notamment son origine dans la pensée du philosophe et entrepreneur Gaston Berger. Née d’une philosophie de l’action collective et de l’engagement, elle travaille les systèmes de valeurs et construit de la connaissance en vue du projet politique [2], s’affirmant elle aussi de plus en plus stratégique au contact des mondes des organisations internationales, des entreprises et de celui des territoires [3]. Prenant en compte le long terme et la longue durée, en postulant la pluralité des futurs possibles, faisant sienne l’analyse des systèmes complexes ainsi que mobilisant la théorie et la pratique de la modélisation, la prospective construit du désir et de la volonté stratégique pour mettre en mouvement et agir sur l’histoire. Ainsi que j’ai contribué à la définir dans des cadres européens (Mutual Learning Platform des DG Research, DG Enterprises & Industry, et DG Regio, appuyés par le Comité des Régions) [4], français (Collège européen de Prospective territoriale, créé dans le cadre de la DATAR à Paris) [5] ou wallon (Société wallonne de l’Evaluation et de la Prospective) [6], la prospective est une démarche indépendante, dialectique et rigoureuse, menée de manière transdisciplinaire en s’appuyant sur la longue durée. La prospective peut éclairer les questions du présent et de l’avenir, d’une part en les considérant dans leur cadre holistique, systémique et complexe et, d’autre part, en les inscrivant, au delà de l’historicité, dans la temporalité. Résolument tournée vers le projet et vers l’action, elle a vocation à provoquer une ou plusieurs transformations au sein du système qu’elle appréhende en mobilisant l’intelligence collective [7]. Cette définition, qui existe également en anglais, est celle à la fois de la prospective et du foresight. Elle a, en tout cas, été conçue comme telle, dans le cadre d’un véritable effort de convergence entre ces deux outils, porté notamment par l’équipe de l’Unité K2 de la DG RTD de la Commission européenne, alors dirigée par Paraskevas Caracostas.

Ce qui distingue fondamentalement la stratégie du processus de la prospective ou du foresight – certains disent prospective stratégique ou strategic foresight, ce qui constitue à mes yeux des pléonasmes -, c’est le fait que, dans la prospective, la stratégie qu’elle élabore n’est pas linéaire par rapport au diagnostic ou aux enjeux. Fondamentalement, la prospective s’arrime à la fois à des enjeux de long terme auxquels elle veut répondre et à une vision de l’avenir souhaitable, qu’elle a construite avec les acteurs concernés. Son processus, circulaire, mobilise à chaque étape l’intelligence collective et collaborative, pour donner réalité à une action désirée et co-construite, inscrite dans le long terme et se voulant efficiente et opérationnelle. La veille prospective s’active à chacune des étapes de ce processus. Je la définis comme une activité continue et en grande partie itérative d’observation active et d’analyse systémique de l’environnement, sur les court, moyen et long termes, pour anticiper les évolutions, identifier les enjeux du présent et de l’avenir, afin de construire des visions collectives et des stratégies d’actions. Elle s’articule à la création et à la gestion de la connaissance nécessaire pour nourrir le processus prospectif lui-même. Ce processus s’étend à partir du choix des chantiers d’opération (enjeux de long terme) et de la nécessaire heuristique, jusqu’à la communication et l’évaluation, en passant par l’analyse et la capitalisation des informations et leur transformation en connaissance utile [8].

2. La prospective à côté de l’intelligence stratégique

Le Groupe de Recherche en Intelligence stratégique (GRIS), ancré à HEC Liège, sous la direction de la professeure Claire Gruslin, voit l’intelligence stratégique comme un mode de gouvernance basé sur la maîtrise et la protection de l’information stratégique et pertinente, sur le potentiel d’influence, indispensable à tous les acteurs économiques soucieux de participer proactivement au développement et à l’innovation, en construisant un avantage distinctif durable dans un environnement hyper compétitif et turbulent [9].

De son côté, le célèbre Rapport Martre, daté de 1994, ouvrait, dans sa définition de l’intelligence économique, le champ d’un processus assez semblable de celui que j’ai évoqué pour la prospective, intégrant lui aussi la veille, l’heuristique, le questionnement des problématiques, la vision partagée, ainsi que la stratégie pour l’atteindre, articulés dans un cycle ininterrompu :

L’intelligence économique peut être définie comme l’ensemble des actions coordonnées de recherche, de traitement et de distribution en vue de son exploitation, de l’information utile aux acteurs économiques. Ces diverses actions sont menées légalement avec toutes les garanties de protection nécessaires à la préservation du patrimoine de l’entreprise, dans les meilleures conditions de qualité, de délais et de coût. L’information utile est celle dont ont besoin les différents niveaux de décision de l’entreprise ou de la collectivité, pour élaborer et mettre en œuvre de façon cohérente la stratégie et les tactiques nécessaires à l’atteinte des objectifs définis par l’entreprise dans le but d’améliorer sa position dans son environnement concurrentiel. Ces actions, au sein de l’entreprise, s’ordonnent en un cycle ininterrompu, générateur d’une vision partagée des objectifs à atteindre [10].

Ce qui est particulièrement intéressant dans la recherche de parallélismes ou de convergences entre intelligence économique et prospective, c’est l’idée, développée par Henri Martre, Philippe Clerc et Christian Harbulot que la notion d’intelligence économique dépasse la documentation, la veille, la protection des données, voire l’influence, pour s’inscrire dans une véritable intention stratégique et tactique, porteuse d’actions aux différents niveaux de l’activité, de la base de l’entreprise au niveau global, international [11].

 3. La prospective dans l’intelligence stratégique

Au tournant des années 2000, dans le cadre du programme européen ESTO (European Science and Technology Observatory), l’Institut d’Etudes en Prospective technologique (IPTS) de Séville avait rassemblé une série de chercheurs autour de l’idée d’intelligence stratégique comme réceptacle ou chapeau méthodologique orienté vers les politiques publiques. Cette démarche visait à reconnaître et prendre en compte la diversité de l’ensemble des méthodes mises à la disposition des décideurs, afin de les articuler et de les mobiliser au profit de la réussite des politiques publiques [12]. Comme l’indiquait alors un des animateurs de cette réflexion, Ken Ducatel, le concept d’intelligence stratégique n’offre pas seulement une force méthodologique pour répondre aux enjeux (de l’UE) mais dispose aussi de suffisamment de flexibilité pour se connecter à d’autres formes d’interactions, s’adapter à de nouveaux modèles de gouvernance et s’ouvrir à des changements technologiques et des évolutions sociales qui sont plus rapides que nous n’en n’avons jamais connus [13].

Lors du projet REGSTRAT, notamment porté en 2006 par Steinbeis Europa Zentrum à Stuttgart, la notion de Strategic Policy Intelligence Tools (SPI) – les outils d’intelligence appliqués aux politiques publiques – s’était imposée, notamment aux représentants de la Mutual Learning Platform, déjà évoquée. Comme nous l’indiquions avec mon collègue prospectiviste Günter Clar dans le rapport dédié au foresight, l’intelligence stratégique appliquée aux politiques publiques peut être définie comme un ensemble d’actions destinées à rechercher, mettre en œuvre, diffuser et protéger l’information en vue de la rendre disponible à la bonne personne, au moment adéquat, avec l’objectif de prendre la bonne décision. Ainsi que cela était clairement apparu lors des travaux, les outils du SPI comprennent la prospective, l’évaluation des choix technologiques, l’évaluation, le benchmarking, les démarches de qualité appliquées au territoire, etc. Ces outils sont utilisés pour fournir aux décideurs et aux parties prenantes une information claire, objective, non biaisée politiquement, indépendante et, le plus important, anticipatrice [14].

Ces travaux ont aussi permis de caractériser l’intelligence stratégique telle qu’observée dans ce contexte. Le contenu y apparaît taillé sur mesure, avec des côtés hard et soft, avec également un caractère distribué, sous-tendu par des effets d’échelle, la facilitation de l’apprentissage, un équilibre entre approches spécifique et générique, ainsi qu’une accessibilité accrue. Son processus s’articule sur la demande, la nécessité de la mobilisation de la créativité, une explicitation de la connaissance tacite, l’évaluation du potentiel technologique, une facilitation du processus, ainsi que le lien optimal avec la prise de décision [15].

Dans cette perspective, la prospective apparaît bien comme un outil, parmi d’autres, de l’intelligence stratégique, au service des décideurs et des parties prenantes.

4. Anticipation, innovation, décision

La direction générale de la Recherche et de l’Innovation de la Commission européenne s’investit depuis plusieurs années, dans les Forward Looking Activities (FLAs), les activités à vocation prospective [16], comme jadis – nous l’avons vu – l’Institut européen de Séville l’avait fait en développant, les outils d’intelligence stratégique [17] en politiques publiques (Strategic Policy Intelligence – SPI) [18]. Les FLA’s comprennent toutes les études et tous les processus systématiques et participatifs destinés à envisager les futurs possibles, de manière proactive et stratégique, ainsi qu’à examiner et tracer des chemins vers des objectifs souhaitables [19]. On retrouve évidemment dans ce champ un grand nombre de méthodes d’anticipation, d’évaluation des choix technologiques, d’évaluation ex ante, etc.

En 2001, Ruud Smits, préconisait trois axes qu’il considérait comme essentiels. D’abord, soulignait-il, il s’agit d’arrêter le débat sur les définitions et d’exploiter les synergies entre les différentes branches de l’intelligence stratégique. Ensuite, notait le professeur de Technologie et d’Innovation à l’Université d’Utrecht, il est nécessaire d’améliorer la qualité et de renforcer les sources existantes de l’intelligence stratégique. Enfin, Ruud Smits demandait que l’on développe une interface entre les sources de l’intelligence stratégique et leurs usagers [20]. Ce programme reste à mettre en œuvre et nous pourrions considérer que notre réflexion au GRIS s’inscrit dans cette ambition.

Cette approche cognitive nous renvoie sans nul doute à la distinction que prône le psychologue et Prix Nobel d’Economie Daniel Kahneman lorsqu’il met en évidence, d’une part, un Système cérébral n°1, qu’il voit comme automatique, direct, impulsif, quotidien, rapide, intuitif, sans effort réel, et que nous mobilisons dans 95% des circonstances. D’autre part, l’auteur de Thinking fast and slow, décrit un second système cérébral qui est à la fois conscient, rationnel, délibératif, lent, analytique, logique, celui que nous ne mobilisons que dans 5% des cas, notamment pour prendre des décisions quand nous nous mouvons dans des systèmes que nous appréhendons comme complexes [21]. C’est à ce moment, en effet, que nous devons faire l’effort de mobiliser des outils à la mesure des tâches dont nous nous saisissons.

Cette question affecte bien tous les outils d’intelligence stratégique, y compris la prospective. Non seulement parce que les investissements à fournir pour ces champs de recherche sont considérables, mais aussi parce que, souvent, beaucoup d’entre nous ne sont pas conscients de l’étendue de ce que nous ne pouvons saisir. Trop souvent en effet nous pensons que ce que nous voyons est ce qui existe. Nous nous limitons aux variables que nous pouvons détecter, embrasser, mesurer. Avec une capacité considérable de refuser de reconnaître les autres variables. Ce syndrome du WYSIATI (What you see is all there is) est, nous le savons dévastateur. Car il nous empêche de saisir la réalité dans toute son ampleur en nous laissant penser que nous maîtrisons l’espace et l’horizon. On ne peut pas s’empêcher de faire avec l’information qu’on a comme si on disposait de tout ce qu’on doit savoir, dit Kahneman [22].

Cette faille – il en est d’autres – doit nous inciter à unir nos forces pour surmonter les chapelles méthodologiques et épistémologiques et travailler à fonder des instruments plus robustes au service de politiques publiques plus volontaristes et mieux armées.

Philippe Destatte

@PhD2050

 

[1] Paraskevas CARACOSTAS & Ugar MULDUR, Society, The Endless Frontier, A European Vision of Research and Innovation Policies for the 21st Century, Brussels, European Commission, 1997. – Une première mouture de ce papier a été présentée lors du colloque du Groupe de REcherche en Intelligence stratégique (GRIS) à HEC Liège, le 28 septembre 2016.

[2] (…) en appliquant les principes de l’analyse intentionnelle, propre à la phénoménologie, à l’expérience du temps, Gaston Berger substitue au «mythe du temps» une norme temporelle, construction intersubjective pour l’action collective. Sa philosophie de la connaissance se constitue ainsi comme une science de la pratique prospective dont la finalité́ est normative : elle est orientée vers le travail des valeurs et la construction d’un projet politique ; elle est une «philosophie en action ». Chloë VIDAL, La prospective territoriale dans tous ses états, Rationalités, savoirs et pratiques de la prospective (1957-2014), p. 31, Lyon, Thèse ENS, 2015.

[3] Sur la prospective territoriale, rencontre entre les principes de la prospective et ceux du développement territorial, voir la référence au colloque international de la DATAR en mars 1968. Chloë VIDAL, La prospective territoriale dans tous ses états, Rationalités, savoirs et pratiques de la prospective (1957-2014), p. 214-215, Lyon, ENS, 2015.

[4] Günter CLAR & Philippe DESTATTE, Regional Foresight, Boosting Regional Potential, Mutual Learning Platform Regional Foresight Report, Luxembourg, European Commission, Committee of the Regions and Innovative Regions in Europe Network, 2006.

http://www.institut-destree.eu/Documents/Reseaux/Günter-CLAR_Philippe-DESTATTE_Boosting-Regional-Potential_MLP-Foresight-2006.pdf

[5] Ph. DESTATTE & Ph. DURANCE dir., Les mots-clefs de la prospective territoriale, p. 43, Paris, DIACT-DATAR, La Documentation française, 2009.

[6] Ph. DESTATTE, Evaluation, prospective et développement régional, p. 381, Charleroi, Institut Destrée, 2001.

[7] Philippe DESTATTE, Qu’est-ce que la prospective ?, Blog PhD2050, 10 avril 2013.

Qu’est-ce que la prospective ?

[8] René-Charles TISSEYRE, Knowledge Management, Théorie et pratique de la gestion des connaissances, Paris, Hermès-Lavoisier, 1999.

[9] Guy GOERMANNE, Note de réflexion, Tentatives de rapprochement entre la prospective et l’intelligence stratégique en Wallonie, p. 7, Bruxelles, Août 2016, 64 p.

[10] Henri MARTRE, Philippe CLERC, Christian HARBULOT, Intelligence économique et stratégie des entreprises, p. 12-13, Paris, Commissariat général au Plan – La Documentation française, Février 1994. http://bdc.aege.fr/public/Intelligence_Economique_et_strategie_des_entreprises_1994.pdf

[11] La notion d’intelligence économique implique le dépassement des actions partielles désignées par les vocables de documentation, de veille (scientifique et technologique, concurrentielle, financière, juridique et réglementaire…), de protection du patrimoine concurrentiel, d’influence (stratégie d’influence des États-nations, rôle des cabinets de consultants étrangers, opérations d’information et de désinformation…). Ce dépassement résulte de l’intention stratégique et tactique, qui doit présider au pilotage des actions partielles et su succès des actions concernées, ainsi que de l’interaction entre tous les niveaux de l’activité, auxquels s’exerce la fonction d’intelligence économique : depuis la base (internes à l’entreprise) en passant par des niveaux intermédiaires (interprofessionnels, locaux) jusqu’aux niveaux nationaux (stratégies concertées entre les différents centres de décision), transnationaux (groupes multinationaux) ou internationaux (stratégies d’influence des États-nations). H. MARTRE, Ph. CLERC, Ch. HARBULOT, Intelligence économique et stratégie des entreprises…, p. 12-13.

[12] L’intelligence stratégique peut-être définie comme un ensemble d’actions destinées à rechercher, mettre en œuvre, diffuser et protéger l’information en vue de la rendre disponible à la bonne personne, au moment adéquat avec l’objectif de prendre la bonne décision. (…) L’intelligence stratégique appliquée aux politiques publiques offre une variété de méthodologies afin de rencontrer les demandes des décideurs politiques. Derived from Daniel ROUACH, La veille technologique et l’intelligence économique, Paris, PUF, 1996, p. 7 & Intelligence économique et stratégie d’entreprises, Paris, Commissariat général au Plan, 1994. – Alexander TÜBKE, Ken DUCATEL, James P. GAVIGAN, Pietro MONCADA-PATERNO-CASTELLO éd., Strategic Policy Intelligence: Current Trends, the State of the Play and perspectives, S&T Intelligence for Policy-Making Processes, p. V & VII, IPTS, Seville, Dec. 2001.

[13] Ibidem, p. IV.

[14] Günter CLAR & Ph. DESTATTE, Mutual Learning Platform Regional Foresight Report, p. 4, Luxembourg, IRE, EC-CoR, 2006.

[15] Ruud SMITS, The New Role of Strategic Intelligence, in A. TÜBKE, K. DUCATEL, J. P. GAVIGAN, P. MONCADA-PATERNO-CASTELLO éd., Strategic Policy Intelligence: Current Trends, p. 17.

[16] Domenico ROSSETTI di VALDALBERO & Parla SROUR-GANDON, European Forward Looking Activities, EU Research in Foresight and Forecast, Socio-Economic Sciences & Humanities, List of Activities, Brussels, European Commission, DGR, Directorate L, Science, Economy & Society, 2010. http://ec.europa.eu/research/social-sciences/forward-looking_en.htmlEuropean forward-looking activities, Building the future of « Innovation Union » and ERA, Brussels, European Commission, Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, 2011. ftp://ftp.cordis.europa.eu/pub/fp7/ssh/docs/european-forward-looking-activities_en.pdf

[17] Strategic Intelligence is all about feeding actors (including policy makers) with the tailor made information they need to play their role in innovation systems (content) and with bringing the together to interact (amongst others to create common ground). Ruud SMITS, Technology Assessment and Innovation Policy, Séville, 5 Dec. 2002. ppt.

[18] A. TÜBKE, K. DUCATEL, J. P. GAVIGAN, P. MONCADA-PATERNO-CASTELLO éd., Strategic Policy Intelligence: Current Trends, …

[19] Innovation Union Information and Intelligence System I3S – EC 09/06/2011.

[20] R. SMITS, The New Role of Strategic Intelligence…, p. 17. – voir aussi R. SMITS & Stefan KUHLMANN, Strenghtening interfaces in innovation systems: rationale, concepts and (new) instruments, Strata Consolidating Workshop, Brussels, 22-23 April 2002, RTD-K2, June 2002. – R. SMITS, Stefan KUHLMANN and Philip SHAPIRA eds., The Theory and Practice of Innovation Policy, An International Research Handbook, Cheltenham UK, Northampton MA USA, Edward Elgar, 2010.

[21] Daniel KAHNEMAN, Thinking fast and slow, p. 201, New York, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011.

[22] You cannot help dealing with limited information you have as it were all there is to know. D. KAHNEMAN, Thinking fast and slow…, p. 201.

Liège, January 19, 2018

1. What is foresight, and in what way is it strategic? [1]

 In the form in which we know it today in Europe, foresight represents an encounter and interaction between French and Latin developments, on the one hand, and those in the Anglosphere on the other. In English-speaking countries, the practice of foresight has evolved over time from a concern with military interests (such as improving defence systems) to industrial objectives (such as increasing competitiveness) and societal issues (such as ensuring the welfare of the population or ensuring social harmony). Since the 1960s, its chosen field has shifted from fundamental science to key technologies, then to the analysis of innovation systems, and finally to the study of the entire societal system. Having started out within a single discipline, namely the exact sciences, foresight has become pluridisciplinary, multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary, with an openness to the social sciences [2]. In doing so, it has moved considerably closer to the French approach, abandoning many of its earlier forecasting ambitions for a more strategic focus.

The French school of foresight (referred to as la prospective) originates in the thought of the philosopher and entrepreneur Gaston Berger. Deriving from a philosophy of collective action and engagement, it deals with value systems and constructs knowledge for political purposes [3], and has likewise become increasingly strategic in nature through contact with the worlds of international organisations, companies and regional territories [4]. Taking account of the long-term and la longue durée by postulating the plurality of possible futures, adopting the analysis of complex systems and deploying the theory and practice of modelling, foresight generates a strategic desire and willingness in order to influence and affect history. As I have helped to define it in various contexts – European (the Mutual Learning Platform of DG Research, DG Enterprise & Industry, and DG Regional & Urban Policy, supported by the Committee of the Regions) [5], French (the European Regional Foresight College) created under the auspices of the Interministerial Delegation of Land Planning and Regional Attractiveness (DATAR) in Paris) [6] or in Wallonia (the Wallonia Evaluation and Foresight Society) [7] – foresight is an independent, dialectical and rigorous process, conducted in a transdisciplinary way and taking in the longer sweep of history. It can shed light on questions of the present and the future, firstly by considering them in a holistic, systemic and complex framework, and secondly by setting them in a temporal context over and beyond historicity. Concerned above all with planning and action, its purpose is to provoke one or more transformations within the system that it apprehends by mobilising collective intelligence [8]. This definition is that of both la prospective and foresight; at any rate it was designed as such, as part of a serious effort to bring about convergence between these two tools undertaken by, in particular, the team of Unit K2 of DG Research and Innovation at the European Commission, led at the time by Paraskevas Caracostas.

The main distinguishing characteristic of the strategy behind the process of la prospective or foresight – some refer to la prospective stratégique or strategic foresight, which to my mind are pleonasms – is that it does not have a linear relationship with the diagnosis or the issues. Fundamentally, this tool reflects both the long-term issues it seeks to address and a vision of a desirable future that it has constructed with the actors concerned. Its circular process mobilises collective and collaborative intelligence at every step in order to bring about in reality a desired and jointly constructed action that operates over the long term and is intended to be efficient and operational. Foresight watch takes place at every step of this process. I define this as a continuous and largely iterative activity of active observation and systemic analysis of the environment, in the short, medium and long term, to anticipate developments and identify present and future issues with the ultimate purpose of forming collective visions and action strategies. It is based on creating and managing the knowledge needed as input into the process of foresight itself. This process extends from the choice of areas to work on (long-term issues) and of the necessary heuristic, via the analysis and capitalisation of information and its transformation into useful knowledge, to communication and evaluation [9].

2. Foresight and strategic intelligence

The Strategic Intelligence Research Group (GRIS) at HEC Liège, under the direction of Professor Claire Gruslin, sees strategic intelligence as ‘a mode of governance based on the acquisition and protection of strategic and relevant information and on the potential for influence, which is essential for all economic actors wishing to participate proactively in development and innovation by building a distinctive and lasting advantage in a highly competitive and turbulent environment[10].

For its part, the famous Martre Report of 1994, in its definition of economic intelligence, delineated a process fairly similar to that which I mentioned for foresight, likewise including monitoring, heuristics, the examination of issues, a shared vision and the strategy to achieve it, all set in a ‘continuous cycle’:

Economic intelligence can be defined as the set of coordinated actions by which information that is useful to economic actors is sought out, processed and distributed for exploitation. These various actions are carried out legally and benefit from the protection necessary to preserve the company’s assets, under optimal quality, time and cost conditions. Useful information is that needed by the different decision-making levels in the company or the community in order to develop and implement in a coherent manner the strategy and tactics necessary to achieve its objectives, with the goal of improving its position in its competitive context. These actions within the company are organised in a continuous cycle, generating a shared vision of the objectives to be achieved[11].

What is of particular interest in the search for parallels or convergences between economic intelligence and foresight is the idea, developed by Henri Martre, Philippe Clerc and Christian Harbulot, that the notion of economic intelligence goes beyond documentation, monitoring, data protection or even influence, to become part of ‘a true strategic and tactical intention’, supporting actions at different levels, from the company up to the global, international level[12].

 3. Foresight in strategic intelligence

At the turn of the millennium, as part of the European ESTO (European Science and Technology Observatory) programme, the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS) in Seville gathered a series of researchers to examine the idea of ​​strategic intelligence as a methodological vehicle or umbrella for public policy-making. The idea was to recognise and take account of the diversity of methods made available to decision-makers in order to structure and mobilise them to ensure successful policy-making [13]. As Ken Ducatel, one of the coordinators of this discussion, put it, ‘The concept of strategic intelligence not only offers a powerful methodology for addressing (EU) issues, but has the flexibility to connect to other forms of interaction, adapt to new models of governance and open up to technological changes and social developments that are faster than we have ever known before[14].

At the time of the REGSTRAT project coordinated by the Stuttgart-based Steinbeis Europa Zentrum in 2006, the concept of Strategic Policy Intelligence (SPI) tools – i.e. intelligence tools applied to public policy – had become accepted, in particular among the representatives of the Mutual Learning Platform referred to earlier. As my fellow foresight specialist Günter Clar and I pointed out in the report on the subject of foresight, strategic intelligence as applied to public policy can be defined as a set of actions designed to identify, implement, disseminate and protect information in order to make it available to the right person, at the right time, with the goal of making the right decision. As had become clear during the work, SPI’s tools include foresight, evaluation of technological choices, evaluation, benchmarking, quality procedures applied to territories, and so on. These tools are used to provide decision-makers and stakeholders with clear, objective, politically unbiased, independent and, most importantly, anticipatory information [15].

This work also made it possible to define strategic intelligence as observed in this context. Its content is adapted to the context, with hard and soft sides and a distributed character, underpinned by scale effects, the facilitation of learning, a balance between specific and generic approaches and increased accessibility. Its process is based on demand, the need to mobilise creativity, making tacit knowledge explicit, the evaluation of technological potential, a facilitation of the process and an optimal link with decision-making [16].

From this viewpoint, foresight is clearly one of the tools of strategic intelligence for the use of policy-makers and stakeholders.

 Anticipation, innovation and decision-making

The Directorate General for Research and Innovation of the European Commission has been involved for some years in forward-looking activities (FLAs) [17], just as the European Institute in Seville had been – as we saw – when it developed strategic policy intelligence (SPI) [18] tools for use in public policy-making[19]. FLAs include all systematic and participatory studies and processes designed to consider possible futures, proactively and strategically, and to explore and map out paths towards desirable goals [20]. This field obviously includes numerous different methods for anticipation of future developments, evaluation of technological choices, ex-ante evaluation, and so on.

In 2001, Ruud Smits, Professor of Technology and Innovation at the University of Utrecht, made three recommendations that he regarded as essential. First, he stressed, it was time to call a halt to the debate about definitions and to exploit the synergies between the different branches of strategic intelligence. Next, he noted the need to improve the quality of strategic intelligence and reinforce its existing sources. Finally, Smits called for the development of an interface between strategic intelligence sources and their users[21]. This programme has yet to be implemented, and our work at GRIS could be seen as reflecting this ambition.

This cognitive approach without a doubt brings us back to the distinction put forward by psychologist and Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman, who refers in his book Thinking fast and slow to two cerebral systems. He describes System 1 as automatic, direct, impulsive, everyday, fast, intuitive, and involving no real effort; we use it in 95% of circumstances. System 2, by contrast, is conscious, rational, deliberative, slow, analytical and logical; we only use it 5% of the time, especially to make decisions when we find ourselves in systems that we consider complex[22]. It is at such times that we have to make the effort to mobilise tools suited to the tasks we are tackling.

This question concerns all strategic intelligence tools, including foresight. Not just because the investments to be made in these fields of research are considerable, but because, often, many of us are unaware of the extent of that which we are unable to understand. All too commonly, we think that what we can see represents the full extent of what exists. We confine ourselves to the variables that we are able to detect, embrace and measure, and have a considerable capacity to refuse to recognise other variables. We know that this syndrome of WYSIATI (‘what you see is all there is’) is devastating: it prevents us from grasping reality in its entirety by making us think that we are in full command of the territory around us and the horizon. As Kahneman puts it, ‘You cannot help dealing with limited information you have as if it were all there is to know[23].

This flaw – and there are others – should encourage us to join forces to cross methodological and epistemological boundaries and work to create more robust instruments that can be used to design more proactive and better-equipped public policies.

 

Philippe Destatte

@PhD2050

 

[1] A first version of this paper was presented at the Liège Business School on September 28, 2016.

[2] Paraskevas CARACOSTAS & Ugar MULDUR, Society, The Endless Frontier, A European Vision of Research and Innovation Policies for the 21st Century, Brussels, European Commission, 1997.

[3] ‘(…) By applying the principles of intentional analysis associated with phenomenology to the experience of time, Gaston Berger substitutes for the “myth of time” a temporal norm, an intersubjective construct for collective action. His philosophy of knowledge is thus constituted as a science of foresight practice whose purpose is normative: it is oriented towards work on values and the construction of a political project; it is a “philosophy in action”.‘ Chloë VIDAL, La prospective territoriale dans tous ses états, Rationalités, savoirs et pratiques de la prospective (1957-2014), p. 31, Lyon, Thèse ENS, 2015. Our translation.

[4] On la prospective territoriale, representing an encounter between the principles of foresight and those of regional development, see the reference to the DATAR international conference in March 1968. Chloë VIDAL, La prospective territoriale dans tous ses états, Rationalités, savoirs et pratiques de la prospective (1957-2014)…, p. 214-215.

[5] Günter CLAR & Philippe DESTATTE, Regional Foresight, Boosting Regional Potential, Mutual Learning Platform Regional Foresight Report, Luxembourg, European Commission, Committee of the Regions and Innovative Regions in Europe Network, 2006.

http://www.institut-destree.eu/Documents/Reseaux/Günter-CLAR_Philippe-DESTATTE_Boosting-Regional-Potential_MLP-Foresight-2006.pdf

[6] Ph. DESTATTE & Ph. DURANCE eds, Les mots-clefs de la prospective territoriale, p. 43, Paris, DIACT-DATAR, La Documentation française, 2009.

[7] Ph. DESTATTE, Evaluation, prospective et développement régional, p. 381, Charleroi, Institut Destrée, 2001.

[8] Ph. Destatte, What is foresight ?, Blog PhD2050, May 30, 2013.

https://phd2050.org/2013/05/30/what-is-foresight/

[9] René-Charles TISSEYRE, Knowledge Management, Théorie et pratique de la gestion des connaissances, Paris, Hermès-Lavoisier, 1999.

[10] Guy GOERMANNE, Note de réflexion, Tentatives de rapprochement entre la prospective et l’intelligence stratégique en Wallonie, p. 7, Brussels, August 2016, 64 p.

[11] Henri MARTRE, Philippe CLERC, Christian HARBULOT, Intelligence économique et stratégie des entreprises, p. 12-13, Paris, Commissariat général au Plan (Plan Commission) – La Documentation française, February 1994.

http://bdc.aege.fr/public/Intelligence_Economique_et_strategie_des_entreprises_1994.pdf

[12] ‘The notion of economic intelligence implies transcending the piecemeal actions designated by the terms documentation, monitoring (scientific and technological, competitive, financial, legal and regulatory etc.), protection of competitive capital, and influencing (strategy for influencing nation-states, role of foreign consultancies, information and misinformation operations, etc). It succeeds in transcending these things as a result of the strategic and tactical intention which is supposed to preside over the steering of piecemeal actions and over ensuring their success, and of the interaction between all levels of activity at which the economic intelligence function is exercised: from the grassroots (within companies), through intermediate levels (interprofessional, local), up to the national (concerted strategies between different decision-making centres), transnational (multinational groups) or international (strategies for influencing nation-states) levels.’ H. MARTRE, Ph. CLERC, Ch. HARBULOT, Intelligence économique et stratégie des entreprises…, p. 12-13. Our translation.

[13] Strategic intelligence can be defined as a set of actions designed to identify, implement, disseminate and protect information in order to make it available to the right person, at the right time, with the goal of making the right decision. (…) Strategic intelligence applied to public policy offers a variety of methodologies to meet the requirements of policy-makers. Derived from Daniel ROUACH, La veille technologique et l’intelligence économique, Paris, PUF, 1996, p. 7 & Intelligence économique et stratégie d’entreprises, Paris, Commissariat général au Plan (Plan Commission), 1994. Alexander TÜBKE, Ken DUCATEL, James P. GAVIGAN, Pietro MONCADA-PATERNO-CASTELLO eds, Strategic Policy Intelligence: Current Trends, the State of the Play and perspectives, S&T Intelligence for Policy-Making Processes, p. V & VII, IPTS, Seville, Dec. 2001.

[14] Ibidem, p. IV.

[15] Günter CLAR & Ph. DESTATTE, Mutual Learning Platform Regional Foresight Report, p. 4, Luxembourg, IRE, EC-CoR, 2006.

[16] Ruud SMITS, The New Role of Strategic Intelligence, in A. TÜBKE, K. DUCATEL, J. P. GAVIGAN, P. MONCADA-PATERNO-CASTELLO eds, Strategic Policy Intelligence: Current Trends, p. 17.

[17] Domenico ROSSETTI di VALDALBERO & Parla SROUR-GANDON, European Forward Looking Activities, EU Research in Foresight and Forecast, Socio-Economic Sciences & Humanities, List of Activities, Brussels, European Commission, DGR, Directorate L, Science, Economy & Society, 2010. http://ec.europa.eu/research/social-sciences/forward-looking_en.htmlEuropean forward-looking activities, Building the future of « Innovation Union » and ERA, Brussels, European Commission, Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, 2011. ftp://ftp.cordis.europa.eu/pub/fp7/ssh/docs/european-forward-looking-activities_en.pdf

[18] ‘Strategic Intelligence is all about feeding actors (including policy makers) with the tailor made information they need to play their role in innovation systems (content) and with bringing them together to interact (amongst others to create common ground).’ Ruud SMITS, Technology Assessment and Innovation Policy, Seville, 5 Dec. 2002. ppt.

[19] A. TÜBKE, K. DUCATEL, J. P. GAVIGAN, P. MONCADA-PATERNO-CASTELLO eds, Strategic Policy Intelligence: Current Trends, …

[20] Innovation Union Information and Intelligence System I3S – EC 09/06/2011.

[21] R. SMITS, The New Role of Strategic Intelligence…, p. 17. – see also R. SMITS & Stefan KUHLMANN, Strengthening interfaces in innovation systems: rationale, concepts and (new) instruments, Strata Consolidating Workshop, Brussels, 22-23 April 2002, RTD-K2, June 2002. – R. SMITS, Stefan KUHLMANN and Philip SHAPIRA eds, The Theory and Practice of Innovation Policy, An International Research Handbook, Cheltenham UK, Northampton MA USA, Edward Elgar, 2010.

[22] Daniel KAHNEMAN, Thinking fast and slow, p. 201, New York, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011.

[23] D. KAHNEMAN, Thinking fast and slow, p. 201.