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Forum exploratory project

Fora of strategic intelligence : conditions for their emergence – results of the Forum exploratory project

Two developments had driven PRIME to propose such a direction. On the one hand the 1990s had witnessed multiple developments on participatory technology assessment or more widely participatory engagement and deliberation. The assessment made of such developments (see the ASSESS ST GOV workshop and review report, 2004) concluded that there was a dual need to better conceptualise the notion of participation (beyond its normative dimension) and to reflect about the multiple societal roles of pTA. On the other hand, the “Advanced Science and Technology Policy Planning Network” (ASTPP), taking hold of respective developments in evaluation, technology assessment and foresight (to which could be added now benchmarking), showed that R&I policies are becoming more evidence-based and increasingly rely on scientific and analytical input provided by sources of strategic intelligence. The Final report (June 1999) thus advocated for “improving distributed intelligence in complex innovation systems”. Edler and Kuhlmann, following their work on policy arenas, further explored the approach and proposed the concept of “fora of strategic intelligence for research and innovation” (see below for their definition). Such an approach should enable to couple and exploit the synergies of this dual movement of developing reflexivity in R&I policy while fostering participatory engagement and deliberation.

Two complementary definitions of a forum of strategic intelligence
Fora are conceptualised as …‘institutionalised spaces specifically designed for pre-political deliberation or other interaction between heterogeneous actors with the purpose of informing and conditioning the form and direction of strategic social choices in the governance of science and technology’.
Practitioners definition : a structured, more or less persistent interaction of different groups (policy makers, social scientists, scientists, industry, and other stakeholders) that is specifically designed for informing and conditioning the form and direction of strategic social choices in the governance of science and technology


The notion of ‘Forum’ subsumes a wide range of different institutional structures and procedural styles. Examples include open-ended programmes such as extended Foresight initiatives, statutory stakeholder consultation processes, participatory horizon scanning and interactive and constructive technology assessment as well as more specific and bounded exercises such as consensus conferences, citizen’s juries and focus group studies.

PRIME being conceived as a risk-taking machine enabling to test new conceptual designs, was enthusiastic about the idea of experimenting such an approach. It however adopted a rational approach asking promoters to further elaborate the concept including operational dimensions and recommendations for PRIME activities. This was the object of the Forum exploratory research project (see final report and thesaurus user guide,April 2006). Based on the development of a systematic characterisation of a set of experiences the report identified 5 types of fora, characterised the roles played by strategic intelligence within them and derived a set of lessons (see box presenting the project). These were translated into a set of points PRIME had to consider if it wanted to undertake a real-size experiment (see other box). These were intensely discussed at the Paris Conference (February 2006) where the Governing Board asked the Executive Committee to carefully review the possibility of mobilising the results of the Globpol initiative on policy implications of the globalisation of RDI activities of large firms (see theme 2, above) for initiating a bounded experiment. The conclusion of the Executive Committee was negative, considering that PRIME was not an adequate institutional setting to generate policy arenas. This line of inquiry was thus closed while the learning about such developments remains truly innovative four years later…

Forum Exploratory Project – an overview of objectives activities and outputs

The project had 2+1 objectives : (a) contribute to a better understanding of the shape and function of such Fora, (b) develop and test a web-based Thesaurus, (c) derive a list of conditions to satisfy in order for PRIME to initiate an experiment.
The project selected 13 fora including policy makers and professional SI providers, research-based and/or institutionalized (from Austria, France, Germany, The Netherlands, UK but also established at the EU level such as the RTD evaluation network, the 6 countries programme or the water platform).

It developed a characterization template and a web-based pilot application, with both a user handbook and a technical report for enabling the reproduction of the application. Dimensions for characterisation included the initiating actor(s), the political level, the stated purpose, the thematic issue, mains social science methodologies mobilised, participants and members, duration, level of persistence, resources, output, criteria for participation (level of formality, mode of participation, membership criteria), History and process of formation, context, wider social interaction, transparency, concrete activities (workshops and conferences, working groups, virtual interactions, seminars, fund-raising….), multiple purposes, effects (strategic actions, knowledge effects, normative effects… ), evolution of the forum over time, lessons learned, role of SI analysis, governance function.

The first exploitation of the DB built concern the identification of 5 types of Governance functions and the roles played by Strategic Intelligence in such fora.
The 5 types of Governance functions are : general non directed policy discourse / policy planning and development (visions, agenda, implementation), conflict resolution or consensus building, policy information on specific issues, improvement of intelligence provision and application. For each the results detail the rationale and mode of functioning, the role of policymakers, the potential role of SI, lessons derived on organisational features, and success factors. Finally they position them vis-à-vis alternative governance instruments.
The report also identifies the 4 actual functions of SI in Fora : facilitator/moderator ; enabler/teacher, entrepreneur/disseminator, issue based expertise. All fora mobilise at least one (the average being 2).

Some lessons (stylised) : form needs to follow function / constant but productive reflection on how best to steer the forum / The more complex the issue, the more need for SI providers to be integrated in the forum (however beware that analysts are only one group of actors) / forum have a dynamics and the function changes depending upon the state of articulation of the issues / forum objectives need to be clearly communicated / The learning of Forum participants about the issue at hand and their learning about other actors’ opinions about or stances on the issue impact on Forum participation / It is important to strike a balance between different types of debates (closed, half-open and fully open circles /


Creating a forum as a PRIME initiative
Extract from final report (April 2006) p 44-45

The following list of items would have to be considered very carefully within the PRIME Community when thinking about setting up a PRIME Forum :
a) SI (PRIME) as initiators : As a PRIME Forum would be initiated by SI rather than policymakers, the crucial question is : what is our purpose, what is in the focus : is it a concrete policy issue or is SI methodology and insights an issue (rather than an enabler) ? The definition of the function is the key ; Fora need to follow a functionalistic approach : form needs to follow function.
b) What would be the wider policy-space – and how would the PRIME Forum fit in here ?
c) Where is a governance gap, a governance function raising interest with policy makers (maybe the combination of issue and SI (methodological) needs) ? Only if a governance gap, such as lack of clear rationales and insights as regards a pressing political issue, is well defined and communicated would policy makers be ready to commit themselves.
d) On that basis : What set of policy-makers could be mobilised and how could their commitment be assured ?
e) What is the niche of PRIME collection of experts and experience ? Why should PRIME provide the sample of SI providers for a certain issue area – given the existing discursive activities ?
f) Which role of SI can be derived from the combination of governance function and the expert niche PRIME can – and is ready to – offer : issue expertise, methodological expertise, moderating, or enabling ?
g) Which rules for participation and institutionalisation ? It should be clear from the outset : who to include in order to make PRIME members more responsive – and learn.
h) With a given issue, how to strike a balance between wider interaction and openness on the one hand and core activities and confidentiality on the other hand ?
i) Is there a need to link with other SI expertise (e.g. if PRIME provides the moderation, but other experts contribute to the issue or method expertise) ?
j) Could the PRIME Forum take advantage of its in-built ability to link different policy levels (trans-national PRIME approach as asset of national and regional discourse) ?
k) How would the financing be organised ? This question is not only crucial against the background of limited PRIME budgets, but has a further aspect : a mix of funding sources, a multi-lateral financing seems to best ensure multilateral commitment.


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