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Towards a framework to understand purpose in Futures Studies : the role of Vickers appreciative system

Burt, George and van der Heijden, Kees (2008) Towards a framework to understand purpose in Futures Studies : the role of Vickers appreciative system. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 75 (8). pp. 1109-1127. ISSN 0040-1625

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There have been comments recently about the efficacy of Futures Studies (and scenario planning) projects, relating to confusion on knowledge aggregation and methodology, which can be summarised in the question: 'how to determine the purpose of such projects'. The lack of a purpose framework makes it difficult for 'clients' initiating such projects to determine if outcomes meet their original expectations. This paper proposes a framework to help understand the nature, objective and purpose of Futures Studies (and scenario planning) projects, which we will argue helps to overcome these concerns. The proposed framework is based on Vickers' definition of an Appreciative System, highlighting how decision making involves three areas of judgment - reality judgment, value judgment, and instrumental judgment. It will be argued that decision-makers and policymakers call for Futures Studies projects when they become aware of an organizational deficiency in one or more of these areas. Each element, alone or in combination, could form the basis of a purpose definition for a Futures Studies project, and, therefore, needs to be considered to ensure that the project meets client expectations and is experienced as purposeful and rewarding. The paper elaborates on each of the three elements, and then discusses their integrated nature. This is followed by a discussion of the implications of Appreciative System theory for three key players in the decision making process, the organizational leadership, the professionals and the organization at large involved in the practice of Futures Studies (and scenario planning) projects.