What is strategic foresight?

Foresight is a tool for peering into the future. Pioneered decades ago by public and private sector organizations alike, foresight is a practice area which maps, assesses and forecasts future trends and their interaction. It is an iterative game, which thrives on diversity of input and perspectives, and an essential first step in developing strategies to deal with alternative futures. In a world that is always changing, we believe foresight should become a global mindset.

For a decade, the Atlantic Council’s Foresight, Strategy, and Risks Initiative (FSR) has been a global leader in the strategic foresight space. Under the direction of Dr. Mathew Burrows, who formerly led the National Intelligence Council’s quadrennial Global Trends studies, FSR has identified the world’s key trends and uncertainties and charted pathways to a more prosperous, stable, and peaceful future. FSR is considered a gold standard foresight practice within the United States and around the world.

The issues

FSR Webpage Global Trends

The new decade is in rapid flux and is characterized by geopolitical turbulence, economic complexity, technological disruption, demographic shifts and social interconnectedness. In this changing environment, we focus on identifying the key trends and risks which will fundamentally shape the future of humanity and global affairs. Our work encompasses a wide range of issues, from demography and urbanization to migration, power transitions and global governance, but is always driven by the principle that foresight is a key mindset for decision-making.

FSR Webpage Tech

Technology and innovation

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is already underway. Technological development will fundamentally alter the global geopolitical landscape by changing governance structures, challenging human ingenuity and demanding innovative policy responses. Our team analyzes the political, socioeconomic, ecological, and security implications of emerging technologies, maps the evolution of innovation ecosystems and distills blueprints for entrepreneurship, in the Unites States and globally.

FSR Webpage Geopolitics

Geopolitics

The global power shift towards Asia, the United States’ relative decline and the emergence of transnational threats such as climate change are pulling at the threads of the post-World War II international system. Our team’s research discerns the outline of the dawning multipolar order by exploring power transitions, geopolitical shifts, and civil society movements. At the same time, we seek to challenge the assumptions which have been underpinning US foreign policy for the last 70 years and adapt them for current times.

FSR Webpage Nontrad Security

Non-traditional security challenges

In the 21st century, the definition of security and its global architecture are changing under the pressure of transnational, non-traditional threats such as migration, climate change and inequality, in an unresponsive global governance system. FSR is reframing security policy paradigms by bringing into the fold cutting-edge issues such as environmental security, peacebuilding, resilience and illicit trade, and providing policy solutions for the international community, states and citizens.

The Initiative leverages in-house expertise and cutting-edge tools such as data analytics, modeling, and simulations to provide pioneering research and analysis about the most important challenges of today and tomorrow.

What world post-COVID-19? interview series

This interview series features insights from FSR’s nonresident senior fellows, a set of experts drawn from across a wide range of fields, discussing the potential impacts of COVID-19.

us navy military what world post-covid 19 kim roberts

Mon, Jul 20, 2020

What world post COVID-19?: A conversation with Dr. Kim Roberts

Dr. Kim Roberts, security studies expert, discusses how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed thinking around national security and the US role in the world, and outlines the uncertainties ahead.

Blog Post by Anca Agachi, Peter Engelke

China Coronavirus

Thu, Jul 23, 2020

What world post COVID-19?: A conversation with Mr. Greg Lindsay

Greg Lindsay, director of applied research at NewCities, outlines the implications of the pandemic for the future of cities and shares suggestions for how communities could emerge from this crisis stronger than before.

Blog Post by Peter Engelke, Anca Agachi

Civil Society Climate Change & Climate Action

Wed, Jul 29, 2020

What world post COVID-19?: A conversation with Dr. Joe Mascaro

Dr. Joe Mascaro, director of education and research at Planet, discusses the effects of the pandemic on the environment, and its implications for energy transitions and earth sciences research.

Blog Post by Peter Engelke, Anca Agachi

Climate Change & Climate Action Coronavirus

Thu, Aug 20, 2020

What world post COVID-19?: A conversation with Dr. Conrad Tucker

Dr. Conrad Tucker, professor of mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, explains how the pandemic is changing the conversations around higher education and emerging technologies.

Blog Post by Peter Engelke, Anca Agachi

Coronavirus Education

Thu, Sep 3, 2020

What world post COVID-19?: A conversation with Mr. John Raidt

Mr. John Raidt, security and public policy expert and practitioner, discusses political dysfunction in the US and the need for democratic renewal in light of the pandemic.

Blog Post by Peter Engelke, Anca Agachi

China Civil Society

Leadership

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Experts

Content

Tue, Apr 27, 2021

The case for a more realist China policy

For Georgetown University's Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, Dr. Mathew Burrows, Director of the Atlantic Council's Foresight, Strategy and Risks Initiative, and Atlantic Council Resident Fellow Julian Mueller-Kaler argue that it is high time to understand that by any measure, from demographics to economics, the world is no longer Western centric and that US strategy must be forward looking, not rest on past laurels.

In the News by Atlantic Council

China Conflict

Fri, Apr 16, 2021

Pavel and Burrows in CNN: There will be no graceful exit from the Covid-19 pandemic

On April 16, 2021, CNN published an article by Barry Pavel and Dr. Mathew Burrows “There will be no graceful exit from the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Article by Barry Pavel, Mathew Burrows

Coronavirus English

Fri, Apr 16, 2021

Reading between the lines of the US intelligence community’s latest reports

What does it say about our system of government that hard truths are not absorbed? This year’s Annual Threat Assessment and Global Trends 2040 are blunt about the challenges facing the United States. But the warnings about China should have been heeded a decade or more ago.

New Atlanticist by Mathew Burrows

China Intelligence

Thu, Apr 15, 2021

Burrows quoted in the New York Times: Why spy agencies say the future is bleak

On April 15th, Dr. Mathew Burrows was quoted in a New York Times article about the latest Global Trends 2040 Report. “Mathew Burrows, principal editor for many earlier “Global Trends” at the C.I.A. and National Intelligence Council — including the one that warned of a pandemic — believes that the initiative to take the future […]

In the News by Mathew Burrows

Korean Resilience & Society

Mon, Mar 8, 2021

Agachi and Swyden in Just Security: Taking gender into account to better confront new security threats

Anca Agachi and Priya Swyden published a blog that examines the unbalanced impact of non-traditional threats on gender.

In the News by Anca Agachi and Priya Swyden

Coronavirus Resilience & Society

Mon, Mar 1, 2021

How should the next National Defense Strategy balance terrorism, rogue regimes, and great-power competition?

Our experts explore how the United States can tackle terrorism, address the advances of rogue regimes, and establish a balance between competition and cooperation with other global powers.

Seizing the advantage by Matthew R. Crouch, Ronald C. Fairbanks

China Conflict

Tue, Feb 2, 2021

Three possible futures for the Biden presidency

Biden’s successes or failures will be determined by how the paradoxes of his presidency play out. The president is pursuing an extraordinarily ambitious social, economic, and foreign-policy agenda amid an exceptionally dire pandemic and recession—and with a razor-thin congressional majority, no less. He hopes to restore comity and bipartisan compromise to Congress, but his legislative skills will be tested by an obstinate Republican Party and worsening political tribalism.

New Atlanticist by Mathew Burrows, Robert A. Manning

Crisis Management Elections

Wed, Jan 27, 2021

Manning in Foreign Policy: Beijing’s welcome gift to Biden: More threats and tensions

On January 27, 2021, Foreign Policy published an article by Robert Manning “Beijing’s Welcome Gift to Biden: More Threats and Tensions.”

Article by Robert A. Manning

China English

Tue, Jan 12, 2021

Smart partnerships amid great power competition

The report captures key takeaways from various roundtable conversations, identifies the challenges and opportunities that different regions of the world face when dealing with emerging technologies, and evaluates China’s role as a global citizen. In times of economic decoupling and rising geopolitical bipolarity, it highlights opportunities for smart partnerships, describes how data and AI applications can be harnessed for good, and develops scenarios on where an AI-powered world might be headed.

In-Depth Research & Reports by Mathew Burrows, Julian Mueller-Kaler

Africa Americas

Tue, Jan 12, 2021

Cooperation in a bipolar world

Taking into account China’s growing influence around the world, discussions often alluded to an uncomfortable truth: In order to avoid catastrophe, even rivals must cooperate, which is why participants, particularly at roundtables in Europe, were keen to identify a number of areas that could lower the tensions and help build trust among antagonistic stakeholders.

GeoTech Cues by Mathew Burrows, Julian Mueller-Kaler

Africa China