The terms horizon and environmental scanning are used interchangeably throughout business and the foresight literature. It refers to the systematic exploration, collection and interpretation of external information in an effort to identify trends and drivers of change and their impacts on the future. These drivers of change may be speculative or emerging issues with little supporting data to identifiable trends and well-researched, ‘mainstream’ issues and events. It commonly take several decades from the weak signals to transition to mature trend. Choosing a time frame, or working across multiple horizons, to map the scan ‘hits’ relevant to conservation is important in estimating complex systemic dynamics and can bridge scanning and strategic programs. In addition, scanning broadly, across a range of disciplines and outside ones worldview is critical to managing bias and personal blind spots.
Over the last decade, consistent environmental scanning projects been undertaken across a number of sectors that are of relevance to the conservation profession in Australia. At the broadest level government organisations, think tanks and corporate consulting groups provide a range of environmental scanning data to identify and track change at the wider social and environmental level. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has a dedicated CSIRO Futures program working on foresight in energy, transport and other fields and produces ‘Our Future World’ updates every 2 years on global megatrends and the Australian Council of Learned Academies draws upon deep inter-disciplinary expertise. Many other government departments carry out foresight work including The Treasury Department’s 40 year forecast, which is revised every 5 years and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s Strategic Policy Network.
Within the cultural heritage context, a number of GLAM organisations have adopted environmental scanning to help navigate the increasing complexity that the 21st century brings. A few US and European GLAM organisations have carried out regular scanning, with several other reports commissioned on an ad-hoc basis (see examples below). The objectives of incorporating horizon scanning activities to inform sustainable conservation practice include: broadening risk management to consider speculative, high impact events; developing more robust ‘future-proofed’ policy; strategic allocation of resourcing; and building competitive advantage. (ML, May 2019)
• Curry, A and Hodgson, A 2008 ‘Seeing in Multiple Horizons: Connecting Futures to Strategy’ in Journal of Futures Studies August 2008, Vol 13 No. 1 pp. 1-20.
• Gordon, T and Glenn, J 2009 ‘Environmental Scanning’ in Glenn, J and Gordon, T (eds) Futures Research Methodology – Version 3.0 The Millennium Project 3.0 Edition
• Lelyveld, M 2019 ‘Foresight for Cultural Materials Preservation: The Role of Environmental Scanning in Conservation’ AICCM Bulletin Vol. 40 Issue 2
• Voros, J. (2001) ‘Reframing Environmental Scanning: An Integral Approach’ in Foresight, Vol. 3, No. 6 pp.533-52
GLAM case studies / examples
● American Alliance of Museums, Trendswatch 2015-present
Annual reports that presents five trends and their possible impact on the broader GLAM sector. Trends are commonly social or technological in focus.
● Gensler (2015) Engage: the Future of Museums, https://www.gensler.com/research-insight/gensler-research-institute/museum-futures
● Museums Association (2012) Museums 2020 Discussion Paper https://www.museumsassociation.org/download?id=806530
● New Media Consortium, NMC Horizon Report: Museum Edition and NMC Horizon Report: Library Edition
Focused on the impacts of technology and trends on teaching and learning, these annual reports have editions focused on museum and libraries. Each report presents trends, challenges and developments in educational and interpretive technology.