Front Matter
  • 1 0000000404811396 Monetary Fund

Title Page




How to Implement Strategic Foresight (and Why)

Prepared by Alberto Behar and Sandile Hlatshwayo

Copyright Page

Copyright ©2021 International Monetary Fund

Cataloging-in-Publication Data IMF Library

Names: Behar, Alberto, 1979-, author. | Hlatshwayo, Sandile, author. | International Monetary Fund. Strategy, Policy, and Review Department, issuing body. | International Monetary Fund, publisher.

Title: How to implement strategic foresight (and why) / prepared by Alberto Behar and Sandile Hlatshwayo.

Other titles: Guidance note (International Monetary Fund).

Description: Washington, DC : International Monetary Fund, 2021. | Guidance note. | Includes bibliographical references.

Identifiers: ISBN 9781513593869 (paper) | 9781616356026 (ePub) | 9781616356262 (WebPDF)

Subjects: LCSH: Strategic planning. | Forecasting. | Risk management.

Classification: LCC HD30.28.B4 2021

The views expressed in this note belong solely to the authors. Nothing contained in this note should be reported as representing the views of the organizations, member governments, or any other entity mentioned herein.

Any queries on rights and licenses, including subsidiary rights, should be addressed to the IMF Publisher Division, International Monetary Fund,

700 19th St., NW, Washington, DC 20431, USA; telephone: 202-623-7430; e-mail:

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  • Executive Summary

  • Acronyms and Abbreviations

  • Introduction

  • Strategic Foresight

    • Why Use Strategic Foresight?

    • Foresight Approaches

  • Scenario Planning

    • Applications of Scenario Planning at the IMF for Various Objectives

    • The Scenario Planning Process

  • Policy Gaming

    • Policy Games at the IMF

    • Matrix Policy Gaming: Design and Game Play

  • Conclusion

  • References


  • Box 1. The Future is Unpredictable

  • Box 2. Five Long-Term Trends and Uncertainties Used for Scenario Planning

  • Box 3. How One Might Do Scenario Planning Sprints Online

  • Box 4. Characteristics of Good Scenarios

  • Box 5. Deductive Method

  • Box 6. Inductive Method

  • Box 7. Lessons from IMF Policy Games

  • Box 8. Example of a Hypothetical Starting Shock from a Vaccine Policy Game


  • Figure 1. Recent Strategic Foresight Report

  • Figure 2. 2017 Scenarios

  • Figure 3. Brynen and Others’ Matrix Game Toolkit


  • Table 1. Player’s Argument Process and Example as Recorded During Workshop

  • Table 2. Example of Likelihoods and Required Dice Totals for Success

Executive Summary

Strategic foresight is the systematic exploration of multiple plausible futures to inform present decisions. It is especially valuable when traditional risk analysis and forecasting approaches have their limits. Strategic foresight includes multiple methods that can be complementary. For example, scenario planning includes the construction of a few stories of the future that illustrate important contrasts. Policy games are dynamic simulation exercises that often include structured role-play and elements of chance to help uncover the action-reaction sequence that lead to an outcome.

Foresight has been successfully deployed in different types of organizations. At the IMF, foresight has palpably influenced strategy and operations (for example, the Comprehensive Surveillance Review, creation of the Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust, and delivery of fiscal technical assistance). It has also uncovered blind spots (for example, on actors’ responses to capital flow measures or the political economy of pandemic vaccine distribution). However, many benefits expressed by participants, such as better crisis preparedness and a more agile mindset, are harder to directly measure. Strategic foresight is an important addition to the IMF’s risk-preparedness framework and there is room for economists in the IMF and elsewhere to use such tools more, potentially also in country work. Foresight is an organizational competence that should be continually developed through training and practice.

Acronyms and Abbreviations


capital flow measures


Comprehensive Surveillance Review


National Defense University


Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development


subject- or country-matter expert


tabletop exercise


turbulent, unpredictably uncertain, novel, and ambiguous

How to Implement Strategic Foresight (and Why)
Author: Mr. Alberto Behar and Sandile Hlatshwayo