A structured process of looking for early signs of change that could disrupt the issue you are studying in unexpected ways.
On this page:
Why you should use it
- To identify the drivers of change that may impact your policy area.
What it involves
- Horizon scanning involves reading a range of materials (e.g. academic articles, news articles, blogs and early research reports) to identify signals of change. It can also involve stakeholder interviews and workshops.
- Different frameworks can be used for horizon scanning. For example, PESTLE and its variants can be used to identify signals of change across the five domains of Political, Economic, Societal, Technological, Legislative and Environment.
- These signals of change are generally collated, clustered into themes and relationships between them considered (see the diagram below). This information provides a basis to consider and discuss with stakeholders how emerging trends may affect your policy area.
The way individual observations are organised / clustered might vary
There is more than one way to explore the relationship between different clusters / observations
Choose for relevancy (to policy) or for novelty (in policy thinking)
What you will get out of it
- Identifies drivers of change so you can be prepared to respond.
- Helps to surface and test assumptions about the future.
Ideal circumstances for use
- Horizon scanning works best as an open ended acitvity, keeping information fresh and therefore relevant.
- Cognitive biases of individuals conducting horizon scanning may mean they don’t include important or insightful information.
- To add value, the information from the horizon scanning needs to be interpreted to identify what changes are likely to be important and make sense of how these changes may affect your policy area.
References, Guides and Key Readings
UK Government Office for Science’s Futures Toolkit (pages 27-28),