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Completed work Metascan 2011 Reports

MetaScan 2011: Exploring Four Global Forces Shaping Our Future

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The world is changing
Canada needs to influence or adapt
Process and key products
Annex 1 : Our Process
Annex 2 : What is Foresight?
Global forces will play a larger role in shaping our future
Scenarios explore the range of futures we may confront
About how we think and work
Some of the potential changes are far more disruptive than others

The world is changing

Through foresight studies, plausible futures are explored to examine the relationships amongst issues and actors within the system. Foresight allows key assumptions to be tested and uncertainties revealed to identify opportunities and challenges so that effective coping strategies are developed.

Canada needs to influence or adapt

Successful foresight should challenge current assumptions and mental models, providing a space for reflection about the robustness of current policies and strategies.

Our purpose with this work is to stimulate discussion and help frame the questions we need to explore.

This MetaScan is a learning process designed to experiment with new ideas and techniques, and through collaboration and co-creation help build capacity to use foresight across government to strengthen the long-term policy process.

In the future, the experience gained through the MetaScan process could be applied by individual departments and agencies to inform their own forward policy agendas.

MetaScan 2011 explored how four international change drivers are shaping Canada’s future. The global and Canadian economies could look quite different in 10 years or 15 years. New developments are expected to change the economy, such as:

  • fragmentation in global value chains;
  • rise of new technologies;
  • new processes like co-creation, co-production and co-consumption;
  • demographic change;
  • growing demands for new measures of well-being; and,
  • new factors shaping competitiveness.

One thing is certain – we confront a period of profound change. MetaScan 2011 was co-created by Policy Horizons Canada and participating departments.

Process and key products

MetaScan 2011 was informed by three foresight projects. Each project brought together expertise from across the public service, academia and elsewhere. Each was produced using collaborative methods and tools. The three 2011 projects were:


With persistent social problems and growing environmental ones, the question of how to comprehensively understand societal progress beyond economic growth is being re-evaluated by major international and governmental organizations. There is growing consensus around the normative assumption that growth in economic output is better understood as a means to an end, and that end is “well-being”.  This study focuses on the strategic question of why the current well-being movement has relevance to Canada’s future.

Key Products 

  • Final Report
    • Re-defining Progress: The Well-Being Objective
  • Policy Brief
    • What is Well-Being?

For More Information 

To find out more about this project, e-mail questions@horizons.gc.ca.

Environment and Competitiveness

The pace of change globally and domestically is rapid. Environmental sustainability and economic competitiveness, once believed to be at odds, are becoming more closely aligned. This project looks forward and raises some key policy question.

Key Question

  • Are Canadian businesses and governments ready to adapt to the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities the future may hold?

Key Products 

  • Final Report
    • Leading the Pack or Lagging Behind: A Foresight Study on Environmental Sustainability and Canada’s Competitiveness
  • Policy Brief
    • Leading the Pack or Lagging Behind (Backgrounder)
    • Leading the Pack or Lagging Behind – Key Findings
  • Book Review
    • Government versus Markets: The Changing Economic Role of the State

For More Information 

To find out more about this project, e-mail questions@horizons.gc.ca.

Social Media

The digital age has arrived with accelerating speed and an expansive reach. Social media, in particular, is causing a fundamental shift in society. It is immediate, pervasive, open and interactive. It is synonymous with connectivity and transformation. It is challenging our current institutions, processes, behaviours and values.

Imagine what the future holds as:

  • advances in artificial intelligence lead to hyper-personalization;
  • peer production, collaborative consumption and gamification drive the new economy; and,
  • social media shape our institutions and work environment.

Key Question

  • Will governments have the policy tools and levers appropriate for issues associated with the digital era, such as wiki-governance, digital identity, cyber-security, digital stress, or digital addiction?

Key Products

  • Foresight Study
    • Governing by Wiki: Fast, Flat and Furious
  • Foresight Study – Brief
    • Governing by Wiki: Fast, Flat, and Furious (brief)
  • Policy Brief
    • Governing by Wiki: Social Media Foresight Summary
  • Policy at a Glance
    • Horizons Invites: Anthony Williams
    • Social Media as part of the Solution: Can social media support the social inclusion of youth-at-risk?
    • Living the Wiki Government
  • Conference Chatter
    • Integrating into Canada is just a click away!
  • Book Review
    • You’re Not Alone: The Networked Life

For More Information 

To find out more about this project, e-mail questions@horizons.gc.ca.

Annex 1 : Our Process

Annex 1 - Our Process

This image is titled “Annex 1: Our Process” which includes Assumptions, Scanning, System Mapping, Change Drivers, Scenarios, and Products.

Annex 2 : What is Foresight?

Scanning and foresight are tools to help us to think about the future.

  • Scanning identifies changes in the domestic and international environments that could have significant implications for government policy and programs.
  • Foresight processes explore how these changes may evolve and interact to create new policy challenges and opportunities.

The processes are not trying to predict the future, but to explore the range of plausible futures that may emerge and to help identify assumptions and strategies that are robust in preparing for an uncertain future.

But beyond and foremost, foresight is a natural human trait that allows us to consider a problem, explore options, weigh pros and cons and in doing so develop mental models of possible strategies and desired outcomes to help better plan for the future. With that perspective in mind, Horizons’ foresight process assembles a range of visual tools which helps people surface their mental models and discuss them as a group. Engaging many perspectives ensures a more robust analysis which can then lead to better advice.

Foresight … A Path to Policy Preparedness

Foresight studies, when conducted by governments, allow policy makers to reflect on how the environment is changing and what additional information and planning may be required to ensure policy preparedness … Resilience.

Global forces will play a larger role in shaping our future

Global Rebalancing

A multipolar world is emerging. Political and economic influence are shifting with the rise of new players and new agendas. Over the next decade important policy and investment decisions in Canada will be increasingly influenced by forces that are global in nature:

  • Shifting consensus
  • Shifting prosperity
  • New threats and shifting alliances


Economic models are under stress and a well-being framework is emerging. This movement is amplified by points of pressures such as:

  • Hypercompetition – lower barriers to entry makes it difficult to sustain comparative advantage
  • Creating shared value
  • Aging and population diversity

Social Media

Network-enabling technologies are redefining connectivity, collaboration and competitiveness in the digital age, changing the way we think and the way in which organizations work by enabling processes like:

  • Co-creation – users are active in the design of the policy, product or service
  • Co-production – process leverages users resources to create shared value
  • Co-consumption – users jointly consume the product, reducing individual costs and adding value

Environment & Competitiveness

Canadian businesses, governments, and civil society are operating in a complex environment, characterized by rapid technological change, multi-faceted and fragmented regulations, standards and norms and growing pressures to adapt and remain competitive.

  • Changing determinants of competitiveness
  • Rising innovation – response to environmental concerns
  • Beyond compliance environment

Scenarios explore the range of futures we may confront

Scenarios explore the range of futures we may confront

This image describes scenarios that explore the range of futures we may confront through Archetype, Power Shift, Economy, Governance, and Society.

About how we think and work

  • New ways of thinking and working: The digital generation, social media and the next array of smart collaboration tools are among the more influential and pervasive change drivers of the next decade. They will change organizational processes, relationships and hierarchies. They will raise citizens’ expectations for timely and customized services and engagement, especially among the digital generation.
  • New ways of organizing: Social media will amplify the influence of non-state actors, who are able to communicate, organize and mobilize people and resources efficiently. Speed and surprise will give social media users an advantage with both positive and negative outcomes for society.
  • New kinds of authority: Business and non-state actors are shaping norms and standards for production and consumption through a growing number of instruments like ‘triple bottom-line’. However, standards set by non-state actors could be sub-optimal and can create non-tariff barriers that undermine our ability to compete internationally.
  • New definition of progress: There will be growing number of pressures and influential voices demanding more integrated policies to ensure long-term individual and societal well-being and global environmental sustainability. A number of countries are responding with new indicators, policies and programs. Civil society and communities are playing an active role in shaping this debate.

Some of the potential changes are far more disruptive than others

What if … ?

… the US significantly loses global influence? This is not the end of the US but the pragmatic recognition that “the Rest” are growing and the economic centre of gravity is shifting to Asia. The US has large deficits, political polarization and faces a major re-thinking of many government policies and programs, especially its social welfare funding mechanisms. Canada is highly integrated with the US in economic and security terms. How will the world be different? What are the risks for Canada?

… immigrants don’t come or don’t stay? Canada looks to immigration as the prime lever to address the effects of changing demographics and an increasing demand for a skilled workforce. In the era of super-mobility, global demand for highly qualified personnel and attractive emerging markets, Canada may lose its edge as a destination of choice for immigrants. How can we transform the challenges of population aging and skills shortages into an opportunity to optimize the participation of groups vulnerable to social and economic exclusion, including Aboriginal peoples, immigrants, seniors and youth?

… Canada’s traditional natural resources are no longer competitive? Canadians assume that our abundant supply of natural resources will ensure a prosperous future. China and others are buying land and investing in resource development in developing countries where costs and standards are lower than Canada, potentially undermining our advantage. Emerging global scarcity of water and arable land may lead to increased security pressures for Canada.

… the rate at which technologies displace human capacity increases exponentially? Accelerated advancements in collaborative technologies, artificial intelligence and military robotics suggest technology will reshape our economic and social interactions. While new jobs will be created, one key consequence will be the net loss of traditional jobs. How will global job losses impact stability and value systems, such as wealth distribution?

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Policy Horizons | Horizons de politiques

Policy Horizons Canada, also referred to as Policy Horizons, is an organization within the federal public service that conducts strategic foresight on cross-cutting issues that informs public servants today about the possible public policy implications over the next 10-15 years.

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