Analysing potential futures to support decision-making today is increasingly used in a world characterised by rapid, volatile and complex change. More and more organisations, including EU bodies (1), are integrating foresight approaches into their activities. Against this backdrop, the EMCDDA is launching a new online toolkit today to help stakeholders in the drugs field implement their own foresight exercise.

The EMCDDA has been building its foresight capacity since 2019 through a range of activities aimed at developing skills and tools. These have included a series of expert workshops, trend scanning exercises and data development projects designed to boost preparedness in the areas of drug trends, policy and practice. The aim was to create a forward-looking approach to identifying future trends and risks in order to better support EU preparedness and response in an ever-changing drugs landscape.

Today’s toolkit responds to a need expressed by EMCDDA stakeholders for instruments to implement foresight activities in the drugs area. The toolkit is designed specifically to support the organisation of a trend workshop in order to identify relevant new developments both in the external environment and the drugs field. The purpose is to understand where fundamental changes may be under way, and what this means for one’s organisation.  

The toolkit includes an array of templates, tips and tricks to deliver the trend workshop. Among others, it includes a user guide and a deck of ‘trend cards’, featuring megatrends and emerging trends specific to the EU drugs arena. The intended outcomes of the workshop include: a list of prioritised trends; an overview of the potential implications of these trends; and participants’ understanding of foresight approaches and changes in the wider environment beyond the drugs field. The toolkit can be adapted to specific contexts.

The idea behind foresight is to be proactive, rather than reactive, to identify and anticipate change, and to be prepared with options to obtain desirable outcomes. Foresight methods consider multiple potential outcomes (‘scenarios’) or alternative futures in the development of strategies.

Trend analysis is one of many foresight methodologies. While it is a common starting point and a major building block of any foresight practice, it is not the only foresight approach. There are a variety of complementary methodological approaches that should ideally be combined. The toolkit provides comprehensive references for those interested in deepening their knowledge in this area. 

To mark the launch of the toolkit, the EMCDDA is organising today a webinar entitled ‘Preparing for the future — applying a foresight approach in the drugs field’. The event aims to promote a foresight approach and increase foresight literacy among EMCDDA stakeholders, take stock of current initiatives in this area and reflect on possible ways forward.