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Towards an Anticipatory Innovation Governance Model in Finland


In today’s environment, complex systems and problems have become the norm rather than the exception. Governments are struggling to make sense of and respond to them adequately not only in preparing for crises, but also considering future opportunities. Dividing responsibilities or allocating risks to specific policy areas have proved insufficient to address the scale and interrelatedness of emerging complex challenges. Traditional approaches are especially inadequate in coping with fast-paced change, uncertainty and unpredictable events as well as the cascading consequences that come with them.

In order to respond to these challenges, governments need to develop a capacity to actively explore possibilities, experiment, and continuously learn as part of a broader governance system. This broad-based capacity is referred to as anticipatory innovation governance. The OECD is working with the government of Finland and the European Commission to examine how the country’s governance processes and mechanisms need to be transformed to deal with complex and future challenges in a systemic manner. The ultimate goal is to create a stewardship model in the government of Finland incorporating the anticipatory innovation function.

There is limited guidance and paradigms available to governments on how to develop anticipatory capacities to prepare for unknowable futures. Governments’ structures and operations are traditionally geared to respond to well identified and sequential challenges rather than tackling grand challenges of complex and uncertain nature. Classic steering mechanisms often fails to acknowledge the complexity and interdependence of policy issues. The future of climate change depends on a system of human and natural complexity that extends from the lifecycles of micro-bacteria, to scientific advancement, to elections across the world. Economic and social security futures hinge on climate change, global trade flows, and how quickly and effectively the global community responds to threats like pandemics. Anticipatory innovation governance can help national and international decision makers not only make sense of the ambiguity of future-oriented policy issues but also avoid being paralysed by them, and start working on them using a variety of tools and methods to explore and shape those futures.

The initial study provides an assessment of the current public policy steering system of Finland and its anticipatory capacity based on the OECD’s anticipatory innovation governance model (presented in Chapter 1). Finland has been systematically developing its public governance system based on the aforementioned challenges over the last decade (see overview in Chapter 2) by building up its strategic foresight system, experimentation functions and developing coordination mechanisms that support the uptake of complex challenges.

The aim of the current assessment was to identify persisting gaps and barriers in the current system that may hinder the Finnish government from being future-ready. Between October 2020 and February 2021, the OECD carried out more than 50 semi-structured interviews with policy experts in the Finnish government, civil society and media about how the public sector addresses complex problems and deals with long-term challenges.

Between February and April 2021 the findings of the interviews were validated in ten workshops. While all workshops discussed anticipatory innovation governance, most validation workshops were thematic (connected to areas that tend to influence anticipation the most) and covered the following topics: citizens, trust and participation; futures and foresight; budget and resources; experimentation; individual and organisational capacity; policy cycles and continuity of reforms and coordination across government. One of the workshops tested general findings and ideas brought out of testing and one of the sessions was carried out as part of the Committee of the Future meeting on April 7th, 2021 with the particular focus on futures and foresight and the role of the Parliament.

Towards an Anticipatory Innovation Governance Model in Finland

Published on 18 September 2021.