Helsinki-Uusimaa Region Harnessing Strategic Foresight

European Committee of the Regions (CoR) has published an information brochure on strategic foresight for cities and regions. The brochure presents the benefits of using foresight at subnational level, examples of foresight tools, CoR activity in the field and good practices from regional authorities - including Helsinki-Uusimaa Region.


Cities and regions possess unique socio-economic, cultural, and environmental fabrics that distinguish them from the national and global level, as well as from each other. Conducting strategic foresight at subnational level is vital to identify specific needs, challenges, and drivers of change that affect each territory differently, thereby enabling regional and local decision-makers to tailor policies and strategies to the particular context.

This applies to all policy areas – for example tackling climate change, improving the response to health threats, embracing new technologies, skills investment, addressing rural-urban transition as well as migration and integration.

A growing number of cities and regions are already engaging in exploring, anticipating and shaping their future by using strategic foresight in a structured and systematic way. The CoR has been actively seeking to link such cities and regions with strategic foresight capacity without necessarily creating any new structures, to build its own foresight capacity, and to mainstream foresight into its work.

Among the topics identified as the most relevant for foresight activity were climate change, economic development, demographic change and mobility, sustainability, and digitalization.

In a CoR survey carried out in 2022, half of the respondents (local and regional politicians) confirmed that some form of foresight activity already existed in their respective subnational authorities. Among the topics identified as the most relevant for foresight activity were climate change, economic development, demographic change and mobility, sustainability, and digitalization.

In the published brochure Embracing Uncertainly: Harnessing Strategic Foresight for Regional and Local Progress, the future scenario of Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council was included as a good example of a European region using strategic foresight to plan its activities.

Scenarios for alternative future visions in Helsinki-Uusimaa

When working with scenarios during autumn and winter 2020 and winter 2021, reflections in the Helsinki-Uusimaa Region centred around considering alternative long-term futures. Three scenarios were prepared to describe developments and trends: state-run green transition, the driving force of the global economy, and local community spirit.

The starting point for the scenarios was made of different alternatives of climate change, as well as population and regional structures, economy and employment, and the overall atmosphere.

The scenarios provided us with material to be used for the Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Programme 2022-2025, to help prepare for an uncertain future and influence in it, as well as for decision making and for regional development activities.

Why is strategic foresight important?

Strategic foresight is a future-oriented discipline that seeks to understand, anticipate, and address emerging challenges and opportunities, through systematic and structured identification and analysis of long-term trends, drivers of change, and potential disruptive developments that may shape the political, economic, social, and technological landscape. It is about exploring different possible futures that could arise, in order to better prepare for change.

When applied to policy-making, the objective of strategic foresight is to enable decision-makers to develop strategies, policies, and actions that promote resilience, innovation, and sustainability, ultimately helping to steer the future in the desired direction.

The European Committee of the Regions

The European Committee of the Regions (CoR) is the voice of regions and cities in the European Union. It represents local and regional authorities across the European Union and advises on new laws that have an impact on regions and cities (70% of all EU legislation). The CoR is a political assembly made up of 329 members and 329 alternates from all EU countries who hold a regional or local authority electoral mandate or are politically accountable to an elected assembly. They come to Brussels to debate their opinions on proposed legislation and agree on resolutions for further action by the EU.

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