The Foresight Manifesto

Season 2, Episode 19,   Sep 22, 2023, 03:10 PM

It’s November 2019, and an associate of Scott Perugini Kelly suggests that he adds a World Health Organization pandemic preparedness paper to a brief he’s currently readying for the head of the department. But Kelly isn’t at all convinced, as he tells me on the latest Back to the Fu**ture podcast with Sally Washington. At the time, he muses, the subject seemed too fantastical, too far removed from the politics of the everyday.  

Fast forward a few years and this strategic foresight director and his team monitor anomalous and extra-ordinary signals of change as a matter of course.  

But for governments and ministers who have more immediate, everyday concerns to juggle with, these initiatives tend to sit in what one UK aide humorously described to me as Boris-in-tray content: something to be read when the former UK prime minister needed to be amused and castigate civil servants for wasting public money. 

A few months later, the world – and Australia with its 19,265 Covid deaths – became a changed place.  

And while Australian fatalities were a lot fewer in number due to the country’s stringent lockdown measures, they were still high enough for Kelly and Washington (in New Zealand, where the Covid response was lauded) to wonder how different these outcomes could have been if, as Kelly says, ‘we [had taken] a more long-term view on the future and how we might, by more proactive and strategic interventions, make it different’. Tune in now.