The political debate today is dominated by harrowing and short-sighted visions of the future. Where are the visions that build hope and combine the special strengths that we have?
In the run-up to the elections, we talk a lot about the economy and security, for good reason. The idea is to create an image of the situation in Finland that is as truthful as possible and which is a requirement for a successful Government Programme and government. There will also be a debate on the various options there are available that have become ideological and the values that arouse such passions such as Yrjö Rautio and Saska Saarikoski write about in their columns, having followed the election debate.
It is hard to form an overall impression from the debate of what sort of Finland each party and candidate aspires to see in the long term. We tend to think that envisioning the future is not a particularly interesting topic of conversation, because everyone shares more or less the same vision: preservation of the welfare society and a return to competitiveness. Of course these are both important at a time when Finland is facing such momentous difficulties. But these visions are both harrowing and short-sighted: we can only lose, we are under threat, on the defence. Where are the visions that build hope and combine the special strengths that we have? Do they shine when they are absent because you can never have enough of them?
As part of Sitra’s strategic government proposal, the government would launch its Strategic Government Programme by agreeing a 20-year objective, or vision. The much-discussed five strategic objectives set out over the government terms would be chosen to support and help build this vision. This very long-range vision is a key ingredient in the Strategic Government Programme and preparations need to be made to start drafting it. Information based on foresight is an essential knowledge base of decisions on matters stretching far into the future. Forward-looking information in Finland is produced by, for example, The National Foresight Network, whose Images of the Future have recently been published.
It would be wonderful if an active debate began in Finland and, indeed, some sort of competition between the various bold visions for the future. The vision is not just pie in the sky; a vision to be taken seriously would have consequences for all areas of society and the practical aspects of everyday life. For example, working life or special welfare and healthcare services could look very different, depending on what sort of vision their reform is based on. Sitra’s work and proposals are based on a vision of sustainable well-being. As an organisation with its focus on the future, we will offer our vision to be adopted more widely. There would of course be room for other suggestions and opinions. Join the debate at: www.uusijuoni.fi.
The writer is Sitra’s Director of Strategy and a member of the Foresight Pilot team that supports national foresight.