Quote of the week
“(W)e need to invest in more rigorous analyses of possible futures…”
No one can predict the future. In a world of rapid change and global interactions, how is it possible for governments with certainty to look forward to, and more to the point, prepare for what may come?
They can predict some things, such as the aging population. As Don Drummond pointed out in his Ontario report last year, there is so much that we can forecast and yet, as governments, we are slow to prepare and too often content to rest in reaction mode.
Why is this? Sometimes, it is politically difficult to invest in preparation. To take one case, we may be able to predict that an ageing population is going to require specific care, but it could be difficult for governments to pursue the slow, steady and costly investments required to prepare for that.
Or take the example of infrastructure. It was no secret in New Orleans that the levy system was at risk. But there was no action to seriously address the issue until Katrina came and went.
The slow and steady approach, too often, is foregone, resulting in a crisis response that probably costs more in the long run, but at least can demonstrate that government is able to act when called upon.
There is a growing business in foresight, in which organizations prepare for what may come, based on multiple scenario options.
In the U.S., the Department of Veterans Affairs has a quadrennial strategic planning process that is based on a 10-15 year assessment of drivers and the alternative “future worlds” veterans will face.
In the world of public sector transformation, it would be great to have a crystal ball that could foresee what government will look like in the future. In Ottawa, some work has been done in this area to help deputy ministers in how to respond to possible scenarios of public sector change.
It would be fascinating to see what the scenarios look like.