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Foresight and governance: how good can it get? The case of stakeholder image construction in a municipal vision project

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The article addresses the theme of foresight and equality in the area of stakeholder participation in governance. Empirically, the case at hand illustrates the challenges posed by stakeholder participation based on the concept of 'Inclusive Foresight'. A still understudied aspect of inclusive foresight is how these inclusion procedures are publically and politically legitimised, except with reference to the demand for more genuinely democratic decision-making. Drawing on fieldwork studies of a Norwegian municipal vision project conducted in 2006 it is shown how a specific image of young people was constructed which explained their participatory potential and argued for their authenticity as important social stakeholders. The term stakeholder image construction describes here a pre-defined process in which a social group is associated with seemingly inherent characteristics, including social, cognitive and political dimensions. By creating a specific image of young people, the project leadership resolved issues of stakeholder interests and futures literacy before they received their contributions. Constructing a desired image of specific stakeholders predefines considerably their potential as participants and the scope of their contributions in visioning projects. The article contributes to discussions of inclusive foresight by showing how stakeholder image construction poses questions of power relationships in municipal long term governance.

Keywords: foresight; municipal planning; participation; stakeholder; visioning

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Centre for technology, innovation and culture (TIK), University of Oslo, Norway

Publication date: 2009-11-01

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