“Over the next twenty years, how might changes on the horizon alter Ontario’s economy? What can an Ontarian living in this future expect?”
The framing questions established the economic focus and the Ontarian-centred perspective needed to frame Economic Futures for Ontario 2032 (EFO), an unprecedented, collaborative foresight project commissioned by the Government of Ontario. EFO considers future implications for the people of Ontario and for the government in four highly developed, plausible and provocative future scenarios.
Economic Futures for Ontario 2032 is an Ontarian-centred foresight project, a rich investigation of potential future economic conditions as seen through the diverse needs and wants behaviours, cultures and expectations of Ontarians, now through 2032. Collaboratively guided by OPS specialists and OCAD University’s Strategic Innovation Lab (sLab), this research aims at finding, framing, and addressing emerging opportunities and “wicked” problems through a coordinated program of strategic foresight, in-depth research and design thinking.
“Strategic foresight is an evidence-based and participative method to consider possible futures, uncertainties, challenges and opportunities, and make better decisions today.”
—Adapted from ED Joint Research Centre (2001), Institute for Prospective Technological Studies
The goal of the Economic Futures of Ontario initiative (EFO) is the development of a high quality forward-looking view to identify opportunities and threats, and to mobilize joint actions for Ontario’s future economic and social wellbeing. In the face of accelerating change and rising complexity, we sought to develop original perspectives, insights and greater capacity for creative adaptation and resilience in the realm of governance.
Broad in scope and unprecedented in its extensive use of strategic foresight, EFO involves nearly 250 participants in all, two-thirds of these participants from across the Ontario Public Service (OPS), together with noted experts from the public, private and non-profit sectors. Our integrated approach to understanding change and envisioning possible futures leverages scenario-based, experiential learning. We utilize evidence, expertise, participation and creativity, balancing structured analysis and imaginative extrapolation.
It is critical for government to be strategic and to take the long-term view, especially on the vital subject of Ontario’s economy. But the increasing complexity and volatility in the global economy is challenging our capacity to provide the best advice.
Economic Futures of Ontario 2032 uses a scenario planning approach to help the government:
- Make better decisions today in the face of uncertainties, building on the government’s existing knowledge about the economy, models and approaches.
- Learn as an organization, and with the government’s partners, leading thinkers and experts to be more thoughtful and better prepared for the range of future surprises and shocks.
- Place Ontarians at the centre of decision-making: what will the lives of Ontarians be like? What quality of life can they expect? What will the environment feel like?
- Push boundaries and bring new perspectives and knowledge into the Ontario Public Sector.
The report develops a high quality forward view for Ontario between now and 2032 to identify the challenges and opportunities inherent in the scenarios. The insights and capacity gained from this process can be used to inform the development of longer-term strategies and policies today, and aid the government’s preparedness in conditions of rapid change. It is important to note that these scenarios describe possible futures driven by key uncertainties. They are not predictions of the future but they are highly useful in preparing for it.
Key stakeholders from across numerous ministries, and from the private and not-for–profit sectors, participated in a number of workshops to help shape the scenarios. They drew on signals, trends and drivers of change identified through extensive research and working sessions. From the scenarios, key implications for the people of Ontario and for the government were developed, resulting in a Strategic Perspectives Report. In addition to the strategic perspectives developed, the project set out to create a shared understanding of possible futures for Ontario across a number of ministries and to develop foresight capacity within the Ontario Public Service. The highly participatory nature of the project included 30 ministry representatives on the project team, and approximately 240 workshop participants, 175 of which were from the government, and 65 notable externals from the private, public and not-for-profit sectors. The diversity of participants ensured this shared understanding and made great progress in developing internal capacity to consider and envision Ontario’s future.
The project report, documents the project and provides detailed information on the methods employed, the process and participants, and contains the full reports from each stage of the process.