The Southwest Finland Foresight Academy’s collaborative approach to foresight

Regional forerunner in tackling future competence needs

November 9, 2021, Esa Högblom, Anneli Frantti, Kristiina Ojala, Elina Vuorio

The Southwest Finland Foresight Academy has a unique foresight academy model and a collaboration network that operates across professions and industries to forecast future educational needs and boost regional competence. It is a partnership effort among the region's key educational and public sector actors, with a joint budget to support the foresight process.

Twelve foresight clusters – heading to 2030+

Today’s technological advances pose new challenges to future educational systems. To provide actionable insights for the planning of future educational programs, the foresight process at the Southwest Finland Foresight Academy focuses on the medium interval time range, usually spanning the next 5 to 10 years.

The foresight work is carried out by eleven industry-specific foresight teams. Each team is made up of about ten to twenty experts from various education organisations and stakeholders. In total, there are more than 100 experts in the foresight teams. Below is a list of all the foresight clusters:

  • Commerce
  • Logistics
  • ICT
  • Creative sectors
  • Tourism
  • Medicine technology
  • Health technology
  • Marine- and manufacturing industry
  • Construction and real estate
  • Food chain
  • Social and wellbeing sectors

The key objective of these clusters is to foresee changes in the operating environments of their industries by 2030+. The foresight teams regularly collaborate in online workshops and different sessions to identify the change signals in their focus areas.

Once the key changes are identified, the teams create competence profiles. These competence profiles help educational institutions identify future in-demand skills in working life and respond to changing needs. Furthermore, the student counselling and the businesses operating in Southwest Finland also benefit from these foresight results.


From scanning to profiling – contribution by Future Platform radars

In practice, the foresight process at the Southwest Finland Foresight Academy is carried out in three phases:

  1. Future Environment Scanning
  2. Future Scenario Creation
  3. Future Competence Profiling


1. Environmental Scanning Phase

The future environment scanning phase sets the groundwork for the entire foresight process. We use Futures Platform’s collaborative foresight radars to analyse future environments and identify the most influential external factors in different sectors. The insights gained at this stage is essential for the later scenario and competence profiling phases. Our foresight teams use PESTE analysis to structure these key drivers, which provides a detailed overview of the external change factors from political, economic, sociological, technological, and environmental points of view. The foresight radars are published on Southwest Finland Foresight Academy’s website.


Marine cluster foresight radar
Change drivers identified by the Marine cluster, structured according to PESTE analysis (in Finnish)


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2. Scenario Building Phase

As of Autumn 2021, all the foresight teams have now finalised the scanning phase and are intensively working on the next step, which is scenario building. At this stage, each foresight team builds three to four different scenarios. When creating the scenario narratives, they utilise various foresight tools such as the Futures Table, futures images, and futures stories.

First, the foresight teams fill in the Futures Table based on the factors of change they identify through the information provided by Futures Platform’s radars. Of these, only the most important phenomena are selected for the Futures Table. Next, the possible future development paths of these phenomena (desirable, threat, business as usual, upheaval) are considered from the perspective of each cluster’s sector.

Futures Table
An excerpt from the marine industry foresight team’s Futures Table


Once the Futures Table is ready, the foresight teams build future images and stories. The stories of different futures are created based on the future images. These future images and stories, in turn, serve as the basis for building the scenarios. We construct the scenario descriptions based on the backcasting method, which maps out possible event chains and processes from a possible future state in 2030+ back to the present.


3. Competence Profiling Phase

At the scenario building stage, each foresight team creates at least three to four different scenarios to ensure the success of our final phase, which is competence profiling. The profiling is done based on these alternative scenarios and future images. Our foresight teams analyse what specific knowledge and expertise would be needed in the case of different future scenarios.

In the final step, we build competence profiles that reflect these different futures to provide education planners with alternative possibilities and action points. The profiles will also be discussed widely in the education community, including students, teachers and counselling professionals.


Case studies – Factors of change identified

Marine Industry

The Marine industry foresight team consists of 20 experts from various education organisations and stakeholders in Southwest Finland. The team has been working intensively since the beginning of 2021. In the first phase, team members used Futures Platform’s collaborative foresight solution and the PESTE analysis tool to build a holistic picture of all the factors that may impact the marine industry by 2030.

In the second phase, the Futures Table was built, where only the key variables affecting the future of the industry were selected based on the rich discussions within the team and the foresight database of Futures Platform. In this way, a shared view of the most central factors of change was built. 


Marine cluster
Key change factors identified by the marine industry foresight team


A particular focus within the foresight team has been the growing importance of cybersecurity, circular economy, digitalisation, accelerating international competition and their implications for the marine industry. For example, cybersecurity is of utmost importance for the future of the marine sector as the number of remotely operated vessels increases in maritime traffic.

In addition, the team has also focused on the melting of the Arctic ice sheet, which will open up the Northeast Passage and increase the number of ships operating on that route. According to our maritime foresight team, this could mean additional economic growth for the marine industry.


Social, Health and Welfare Services

Our social, health and welfare services foresight team consists of 12 experts from various education organisations, labour administrations and stakeholders in Southwest Finland. The team has been working in online workshops since March 2021. Like the other foresight teams, the social, health and welfare services foresight cluster used Futures Platform and PESTE analysis to identify the factors that may impact the Social, health and welfare services by 2030.


PESTE analysis
Social, health and welfare services foresight team's phenomena clusters


Based on these change factors, the team built five different future images to explore possible future directions for the welfare society and examined different future scenarios that would unfold if the welfare services developed steadily, changed radically, followed a business-as-usual path, or declined.


Additional value: Improving future awareness and boosting collaboration in the remote work era

Throughout the foresight process, countless fruitful discussions have taken place both internally and externally in our foresight teams. These discussions have significantly improved future awareness among members by increasing their understanding of the factors affecting the future of their sectors. The results of each team’s foresight work are also distributed to other foresight teams of the Foresight Academy, and also to external industry experts. Discussing the results and sharing views with others further complemented the foresight work done.


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