Foresight Training: From Design to Evaluation

The futures field has witnessed a rise in foresight training for government and business leaders. How should the public judge the quality of foresight training they receive? This article presents practical steps that foresight firms can take to upgrade their training impact through continuous improvement, based on the Kirkpatrick Training Evaluation Model.

Over the past ten years, the futures field has witnessed a rise in foresight training for government and business leaders. Where once there was only a handful of foresight graduate level and certificate programs offered by universities, today numerous stand-alone training firms are offering foresight training certificates. Foresight training (FT) may be defined as a multi-day interactive training program to equip practitioners in the use of defined foresight competencies. While the delivery of FT may be anchored in an on-site multi-day meeting, these short-courses are often enhanced by blended learning via pre-readings, virtual classrooms, and fieldwork. FT in this sense is less than a graduate degree in strategic foresight and something more than a one-day workshop offered at a futures conference.

While FT empowers practitioners to use futures methods to create alternative futures, matched to dreams, plans and solutions, the training process is not unique to futures studies. Training and development of talent, whether in public or private enterprise, is undertaken by numerous industries, including professional associations, post-secondary educational institutions, management consulting firms, and business certification programs. The 2018 Training Industry Report estimates that U.S. based institutions invest 87.6 billion in total training expenditures, with 47 billion spent on staff payroll, and 11 billion spent on outside products and services. On average, training expenditures per learner in 2018 was $986 for the year, with employees engaging in 46.7 hours of formal training per year. Government/ military organizations spend the most per learner ($1,433), followed by nonprofit organizations ($1,360). Some 69 percent of training hours were delivered via blended learning in 2018, with instructor-led training dropping 7 percent since 2017 in that blended mix.

Perhaps the most telling conclusion of the 2018 Training Industry Report is the top priorities of institutions with respect to talent development. The highest priority for training in terms of allocating budget resources for 2019 is increasing the effectiveness of training programs (34 percent) and measuring the impact of training programs (19 percent).

In this context, whether one offers a one-off custom solution or a branded professional development foresight program, futurists must pay attention to training evaluation. We must ask: How should potential participants judge the quality of foresight training? How should facilitators judge the quality of their training in reference to foresight competencies, whether that is a one-off client custom solution or a branded professional development program? How does FT demonstrate a ROI or at least reasonable ROE- or ‘return on expectations’ to our clients?

To address these questions, this article will review the history of FT, explain why FT is incomplete without evaluation, present the Kirkpatrick Training Evaluation Model, and conclude with practical steps that foresight firms can take to elevate their training through continuous improvement.

This concludes the Introduction. This article may be accessed in the literature: Gary, J. E. (2019, Sept.). Foresight training: Moving from design to evaluation. World Futures Review. 11(4) 351-359.


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Author Biography Jay Gary, PhD is an associate professor of anticipatory leadership, and assistant dean of Online & Lifelong Learning at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He is a founding member of the Association of Professional Futurists, and presently serves as their chair.

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