About This Project

More than one tomorrow: Shared Intelligence’s prospectus for the UK Government’s Futures Framework

Shared Intelligence is an approved supplier on the BEIS futures framework which is open to almost all UK public sector bodies including Government departments, local authorities, and public agencies.

Our key point of contact and lead director is Ben Lee – contact Ben to learn more about our futures work or to discuss a specific project.

Local governance, local economies, and local public services

If you are looking for futures research or strategic support relating to local public services, place-based public policy, or local economies, then we can help. Shared Intelligence is a small public policy consultancy specialising in local governance, local economies and local public service delivery. We do what our name suggests and are proud to do so. We start from the assumption that our clients know more than we do and that our job is to help them make better use of that knowledge. Besides our futures work we also carry out strategy development, evaluation, and stakeholder engagement; much of our work takes place in workshops, or peer-learning formats, with our clients and their staff and stakeholders.

Our clients

We work with national government bodies including DLUHC, BEIS, DCMS, NHS England, Welsh Government, Ministry of Defence, and Arts Council England. We have also worked with individual local authorities and mayoral combined authorities across the UK, plus national organisations who support local public services including the Local Government Association, and sector support bodies for public health, economic development, arts and culture, and libraries. We also work with national charities who are involved in local public services or place-based programmes, these include the Forces In Mind Trust, Local Trust, Macmillan Cancer Support, and Friends of the Earth.

Futures literacy

A decade ago we were part of an international consortium which created and launched a futures and strategy course aimed at senior managers which teaches practical methods for strategy development based on futures and scenarios methods. The course is now in its tenth year with close to 100 alumni. We teach on the course and contribute to its evolving syllabus. This experience in teaching the future enables us to incorporate many aspects of futures literacy into our work.

What this means in practice is that we deliberately design our projects to transfer skills and knowledge about our futures methods to clients and their stakeholders. We help clients understand how evidence-informed scenarios are produced, what they represent, and how to use them. It also means we seek out opportunities to make futures analysis and techniques more accessible – for example by using ‘serious games’ in our work.

Our experience of using futures methods

We can carry out or support clients to carry out:

  • trends analysis and horizon scanning.
  • scenario development.
  • futures-focused strategy development.

We also specialise in methods to engage stakeholders in evidence, analysis, and strategy creation:

  • delphi exercises and surveys.
  • visioning workshops.
  • theory of change workshops.
  • systems mapping and cross-impact analysis.
  • processes using a ‘three horizons’ perspective.

In summary, you should speak to us if you are looking for support with:

  • horizon-scanning and scenarios development which contributes futures literacy.
  • creating place-based visions rooted in evidence and analysis of trends and uncertainties.
  • public and social policy decisions especially in: local public services; health and social care; diversity and inclusion; work, skills, and economy; arts and culture; children and education.
  • issues at the intersection of global industrial trends, local labour markets, green jobs and skills, and local intervention to improve education and skills.
  • testing high-level analysis through community and public engagement.
  • reaching common understandings, mental models, theories of change, and collective outcomes.

 

Case studies of futures work

Future funding of public libraries

What was the challenge? In the past decade total revenue expenditure on local public library services in England has fallen in per capita terms from £18 in 2010 to £12 in 2020 – a reduction of one third. CILIP (the UK’s library and information association) wanted to develop a set of scenarios to help them develop their advocacy stance in relation to funding models for public libraries in the context of local government spending pressures.

How did we approach it? We presented analysis of key drivers (trends and uncertainties) to the client and their stakeholders who identified two influential but uncertain factors: (1) future direction of devolution to councils and (2) future size of local government budgets. From this we produced an uncertainty matrix of four deductive scenarios ie greater devolution / smaller budgets, larger budgets / more centralised control. This enabled the client to test their policy positions against four equally plausible future landscapes. It helped them assess their own influence over key uncertainties (which in this case was limited) and see their current policy position was only effective in a limited range of scenarios. Their main challenge therefore was to revise their policy demands so that they would remain relevant in a broader range of future landscapes.

What was the outcome? Our work has helped CILIP to develop its advocacy and also to work with public library services to develop funding and investment arguments which are more resilient to strategic uncertainties around devolution policy, and public spending. They key lesson for CILIP has been that while they advocate for more funding, they must also ensure their members are prepared for and have strategies which are resilient in less favourable but equally plausible outcomes.

MK Futures 2050

What was the challenge? Fifty years on from the original plan for Milton Keynes, the city faces many challenges not least housing affordability, economic inequality and child poverty, and carbon reduction. For Milton Keynes, looking to the future is core to its identity. In 2017-18 the council commissioned MK Futures 2050 to enable themselves and their partners to envision the city in 30 years’ time through a series of detailed and evidence-based papers.

How did we approach it? As lead consultancy for MK Futures 2050 we designed and co-ordinated a wide-ranging programme of trends-scanning of global and domestic drivers and delivered thematic future-focused research ourselves including the “future of skills”. We also commissioned papers from other organisations on areas outside our own expertise. We then worked with our client the “MK 2050 Commission” to make sense of the multiple strands, and crystalise a 30-year vision for MK 2050. This included six marquee proposals to unlock that vision: exploiting the city’s geographic position midway between Oxford and Cambridge, building a new university, connecting under-18 education with the new university, investing in sustainable mobility, revitalising Milton Keynes’ unique public realm, and publicly led investment in culture and creativity.

What was the outcome? The MK Futures 2050 evidence base and vision has now enabled Milton Keynes City Council to agree an evidence-based strategy for achieving the 2050 vision, which it published in 2021.

ICFS international foresight training programme

What was the challenge? There is a growing need for organisations in all sectors to account for strategic uncertainty in their medium and long-term planning. Yet, many organisations lack in-house skills and knowledge of foresight methods. Added to is a lack of practice-based training in techniques like trends and horizon scanning, scenario development, and future-informed strategy development.

How did we approach it? With development funding from the EU’s Leonardo programme Shared Intelligence partnered with four other consultancies across Europe to develop a futures and strategy training course (the ‘ICFS programme’) which teaches practical methods for strategy development based on futures and scenarios methods. Programme development was informed by research into existing training courses, exploration of future learning needs in foresight, and market testing. The current version of the course takes place over four three-day modules (hybrid of face-to-face and online) with a syllabus covering trends scanning, driver mapping, cross impact analysis, using axes of uncertainty to produce scenarios, visioning, strategy formulation and testing, stakeholder engagement, and evaluation and adaptation. Shared Intelligence contributes to all aspects of programme development and a Shared Intelligence director leads teaching of the final module.

What was the outcome? The ninth cohort of students completed the course in 2023 and there are now close to 100 alumni. Many students have used the course to tackle real life projects in their day-jobs in sectors including manufacturing, engineering, biotech, consumer products, health and care, education, city-planning, and defence. Some students have taken what they have learned and shared that learning in their own organisations as in-house foresight practitioners. Others have used the course to kick-start a career change. One student from the first cohort has gone on to become a leading foresight academic.

Category
Improvement and Support, Learning and Development, Visions Policies and Strategies

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