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The Innovation Process
Activity 1.1 E

Use forsight to identify trends

The exercises in this activity aim to explore how trends can create opportunities or problems in your context or in the wider humanitarian sector.

Things to consider

  • Pay attention to the social, political and economic factors that can result in power dynamics that have a negative impact on the affected population, particularly vulnerable groups.
  • This activity is often good to carry out when starting to think about recovery and reconstruction.
  • Make sure that you understand sensitivities regarding the discussion of political and social trends with a diverse group and manage the process accordingly.
  • In conflict environments, carrying out a conflict analysis and using this to feed into this work should be seriously considered.
  • Consider the potential impacts of climate change or other natural hazards.
  • The legal environment can be critical for innovation, whether it is around organisational registration, or the ability to protect intellectual property such as patents. Don’t skip over this bit!
  • Think about how humanitarian principles might be impacted by the trends you uncover. Most tools don’t cover this explicitly, so use the Legal section to discuss it.

PESTLE Analysis


PESTLE analysis is the analysis of trends and factors that can affect the context in which humanitarian action is carried out and/or your organisation as a whole. It requires the user to look at six different domains; Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal and Environmental. There are a number of versions of this tool that have less domains (PEST, STEEP), but we would recommend using PESTLE for reasons laid out in the things to consider.

The result of PESTLE analysis is a document that enables you to identify trends and understand opportunities and threats at a macro level. In this way it can be used as a precursor to a SWOT analysis (the outcomes can be used to populate the ‘Opportunity’ and ‘Threats’ segments of the SWOT analysis) and for scenario planning (see following exercise).

Scenario Planning


Scenario planning is not about predicting the future, it is about understanding possible and plausible futures and what their implications might be for a given context or sector and organisations working within it.

Scenario planning can be used to look into the long term (50 years), or very short term (1–2 years). It is an activity that is designed to help you think about different potential scenarios that you may need to plan for. It can highlight both future problems and future opportunities. The key is not to think any scenario will be ‘fact’ – the future is notoriously difficult to anticipate. Instead, scenarios are there to point at potential, and to expand your thinking.

Download the Cass Business School Guide to Scenario Planning and use the templates and tools provided to plan and run a scenario planning workshop, engaging your colleagues and using the learning for inspiration.

Further resources

Arup Foresight Drivers of Change
[Simple categories of drivers]

Future Agenda
[The world’s largest open foresight initiative]

Foresight Cards
[An interesting list of workshops/games/activities]

UK Government Office for Science (2017) The Futures Toolkit: Tools for Futures Thinking and Foresight Across UK Government
[See p 29 for ‘7 Questions’, and p 35 for ‘Delphi’]

Tetlock, P, Garner, D (2016) Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction
[Insights into the potential traps of foresight and predictions]