Scotland's Futures Forum A Guide and legacy report for the 2011-2016 parliamentary session

Section 1

What is Scotland’s Futures Forum?

Scotland’s Futures Forum was created by the Scottish Parliament to help its Members, along with the wider community of Scotland, look beyond immediate horizons, to some of the challenges and opportunities we will face in the future.

Looking beyond the electoral cycle and away from party politics, the Forum seeks to stimulate public debate in Scotland, bringing fresh perspectives, ideas and creativity on how we might prepare for the future now.

A resource owned by the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB), the Forum has many contributors to our work programmes. They come from all sectors – business, international organisations, academia, civic organisations, civil servants, public policymakers and members of the public.

The Forum is a company limited by guarantee with a Board of Directors, comprising of MSPs and non-MSPs, to help guide the Forum’s work.

The Forum’s core operations are funded by the SPCB. The Forum is non-party political and seeks to provide different perspectives for Members to think about futures issues.

What does the Forum do?

Public policy seminars, briefings and workshops

The Forum brings together civil servants with policymakers, implementers and users to consider issues of long term strategic importance.

Domestic and International lectures

The Forum brings international speakers to Holyrood through its lecture series to discuss world issues likely to impact on Scotland’s future.

Professor Enrico Giovanni, Professor of Economic Statistics at Rome University, former Minister of labour and social policies in the Italian Government and former Chief Statistician of the OECD. He is a renowned expert in the field of wellbeing and a member of the 'Stiglitz Commission'. Professor Giovanni delivered a lecture a lecture on 'the Purpose and Measurement of Wellbeing' to the Scottish Parliament in January 2015.

Provides a safe space for dialogue

The Forum acts to stimulate (non-party political) public policy debate through a series of futures discussions. These range from being simple conversations to scenario planning. By doing so, we can help in a facilitation role to “hothouse” initiatives, concepts and ideas.

Futures studies

At any one time, the Forum undertakes a major futures study to bring new thinking and fresh perspectives on futures issues.

The chosen theme of the programme commencing 2016 will focus upon “the cultural base and strength of a civilised country”. What sort of society do we want for Scotland in 2030 and beyond?

Section 2

Looking forward

The cultural base and strength of a civilised country; what are our aspirations for a civilized cultural society in Scotland in 2030?

From time to time, SFF undertakes a major futures study. For the Parliamentary session commencing May 2016, our topic will be “The cultural base and strength of a civilised country; what are our aspirations for a civilized, cultural society in Scotland in 2030?”

The programme will take a very broad/holistic view on the definition of “a civilised, cultural society” and will look at the topic through a number of dimensions/lens. It will incorporate perspectives from both a domestic and international standpoint.

Engagement with MSPs is critical to the programme and member involvement and input is actively sought.

Section 3

Events and major programmes 2011-16

Dr Katherine Trebeck appears before the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee to discuss how prosperity is measured, drawing on the development of the Oxfam Humankind Index.


SFF events, lectures, workshops and seminars

Over 100 SFF events, lectures, workshops and seminars were held over the period from 2011-2016 to help bring "fresh-thinking" into the Parliament.

These ranged from civic forum workshops and helping to establish the Oxfam Humankind index, to hosting dialogue between senior NHS staff to better understand and learn from the diverging health policy approaches between Scotland and England.


Enhancing University and Research Institute Engagement with the Scottish Parliament

Scotland has world class research, knowledge and expertise in its universities and academia. Working in partnership with SPICe, we are building on existing engagement practices to allow Parliament to better understand what is happening in academia (and vice versa). This will help to strengthen links with Scotland's universities and other professional bodies - with the aim of further improving the service the Scottish Parliamentary Service provides to Members.

Tapping into academic expertise is particularly important to the Scottish Parliament at this point in time with the implementation of the Calman powers and the new powers associated with the Scotland Bill. Taxation, borrowing and welfare powers are areas of particular challenge but, more generally, there will be an ever more complex interplay between reserved and devolved matters, creating new challenges in policy analysis and communication. Better access to academic expertise can help with these challenges.

The overall approach is outlined in the December 2015 paper approved by the SPCB. This programme is on-going.


By 2025 Scotland will be regarded as a world-leading learning nation

This was a two year programme with a further year of embedding knowledge among stakeholders. In partnership with GGIS, this ambitious project took a "futures" look at the learning environment in 2025 and beyond.

In February 2014, we undertook a one-year-on horizon scan of the project, based on feedback from those who took part in the scenario project and on visible signals from key drivers. Outputs include a toolkit and presentation materials.

The wider purpose of the project, and the scenarios, was to encourage policy makers, influencers and those interested in education, skills and learning to use the project findings and materials to test their own strategic assumptions about the future, foster new debate and contribute towards a cultural shift in our attitudes to learning, education and skills.

The report has been used by Education Scotland on a number of levels and has been taken forward by the Royal Society in setting out their vision of how the UK might achieve inspiring, high-performing STEM led education by 2030.


The Value and Social Benefits of Sport in the Community

In 2011/12, the Forum collaborated with SportScotland to commission a study of existing research to provide an indication of the likely benefits of community sport. Professor Fred Coalter collated research which covered the following policy related areas – Fitness and Physical Health, Mental Health, Young People and Education, Anti-social behaviour and crime, Community cohesion and development and Economic impact.

The report and accompanying papers were taken to the Health and Sport Committee and were designed to support and encourage an informed debate about the potential of sport to contribute to a range of policy areas.


Public Service Workforce Development

Dr Campbell Christie CBE served as a Director of Scotland’s Futures Forum from 2005-2011. The driver for initiating this 2012/13 programme was the Christie Commission on the Future Delivery of Public Services in Scotland. This was a programme to help drive partnership arrangements across the public services.

Scotland’s Futures Forum hosted – in conjunction with NHS Education for Scotland and other organisations – a series of seminars, workshops and focus groups. The work culminated in a national “colloquium” where the outputs were handed over in an agreed manner to the Permanent Secretary to be taken forward by Workforce Scotland, Scottish Leadership Foundation.

Outputs and outcomes from our incubated programme include on-going Leadership Exchanges (to provide a platform for cross - sector knowledge sharing), shared practice groups of organisational development and learning professionals (resulting in reduced duplication of resource and costs savings) and a shared partnership vision of Scottish public services being delivered by a highly skilled and engaged workforce based on the model of the Christie Commission.

The Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services built on and further explored this area in “Imagining the Future - a scenario planning’ project that explores ideas of care, support and social services, in Scotland, in 2025.


Rethinking Wellbeing

The central theme of the 2012/13 wellbeing seminar series was that for complex problems such as population health, multiple deprivation, climate change and loss of biodiversity we need to consider the environment, the economy and society holistically and in an inter-related manner.

The series attracted good support from MSPs, researchers and wider stakeholders. As a result, the Forum took the learning forward in a practical way.

From March 2014, six Insight Institute Project teams addressed key issues around social, environmental and economic wellbeing with the aim of making a contribution to the development of policy and practice in Scotland, including the development of Scotland’s National Performance Framework.

Outputs and learnings from the initiative were, inter alia, presented to the cross party National Performance Framework series of Round Tables, chaired by The Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth and were considered by the Scottish Government as part of their broader review and assessment for 2016 amends to the Performance Framework.


Social Impact Bonds and Social Finance

With growing discussion in Scotland about new models of social investment in public services and against the backdrop of the increasingly constrained public finances, SFF hosted quarterly – and proposal specific – knowledge exchange sessions for over two years (2013-2015).

Contact and dialogue on social finance initiatives were established with the Scottish Government, Local Authorities, potential funders (charities and foundations), service delivery partners, metrics assessment partners and end users.

The objective was to support the preventative spend agenda and “hot-house” learning. The knowledge exchange sessions were highly valued by participants and now continue in a new form, led by Social Investment Scotland.


Business Succession SMEs and Family businesses

This was a project in partnership with GGIS. Stakeholders included Scottish Enterprise, HIE, Glasgow City Council, IOD Scotland, Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship, Scottish Family Business Association and academia.

The impact of successful SME and Family business transfers on local communities and the Scottish economy, particularly from a rural perspective, is significant.

This project kicked off with two stakeholder events in 2014 and sought to use lifelong learning throughout all parts of the stakeholder chain to improve the sustainability of Family businesses/SMEs in Scotland. Outcomes included improved co-ordination and synergies.

A Scottish Enterprise ‘Succession Team’ has been established, drawing together organisational skills from account management, company growth, organisational development, Scottish Investment Bank and Co-operative Development Scotland.


Scotland’s Futures Forum Fellowships

In conjunction with Beltane, the fellowships enabled academics to bring cutting edge research into the Scottish Parliament.

Topics covered were:

A route for healthier ageing and increased wellbeing

This fellowship provided further evidence of the need to change our sedentary lifestyle.

Distance and online learning for an inclusive and innovative Scotland

This fellowship investigated online learning in higher education and also examined one of the most talked about educational developments – Massive Open Online Courses.

Developing a MOOC on wellbeing

With support from the University of Edinburgh, two Scotland’s Futures Forum Fellows will develop a Wellbeing Massive Open Online Course: this will focus on policy and practice. We aim to provide tools for analysing wellbeing that everyone will find easy to understand. Our target date for delivery is autumn 2016 onwards. Check out the web site for on-going developments and updates.

British Sign Language

A Beltane Fellow has been appointed to capture Learning from the successful Parliamentary journey of British Sign Language (BSL). It will focus upon Parliament's experience of interaction with the BSL linguistic minority community, and upon planning for future engagement with BSL users. This report will be available in summer 2016. Check out the web site for on-going developments and updates.

Section 4

Further information

For further information, contact

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Susan Wilson, Public Information and Publications

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