What is Anticipatory Governance?

Updated: Aug 5

What is the impact of our past and present activities on our future, and what should be anticipated?


The understanding of the future, what it entails, and how practices and policies of the past and the present that impact it, has become a forerunning interest for sustainable research and development. The ideology of anticipatory governance (AG) has grown in academic and practical repute in the “futures” sphere since Fuerth and Faber suggested it be applied to the US administration in 2012.


In order to explain what anticipatory governance is, let us understand the two terms individually- Anticipation and Governance. The meaning of the word anticipation use, in this sense, is in analysing the status of both where the world is headed in the future, how that direction can be controlled, and the current actions in relation to the same. Governance refers to the policies, systems of leadership, and goals that are required to be inculcated. Governance techniques need to be tailored to the needs of the “anticipated” forecasts or goals. Therefore, anticipatory governance can be described as a framework that deals with future interpretations to steer the plan for the actions in the present.


The workings of the system, in relation to the concept of anticipatory governance, should evolve to become polycentric in nature- This is a system of having more than one hub of command and the dissemination of information, inputs, and feedback from all stakeholders of a project or area being worked on. This can be done by availing the knowledge, requirements, and expertise of the communities impacted at the ground-level, along with professional research about the problems and prescriptions for the future.


A key feature of the concept is the focus on the longevity and continuity of its structure. It is essential to look at combating issues from a long-term, tangible perspective- This does not only include an understanding of the problem but also, the trends around it, possible outcomes, and solutions. Methodology, research material, and sources can be obtained from several mediums, some of which can be categorised as practical and formal- Practical methods would include ground-level discourse and feedback. Formal methods include qualitative and quantitative data analysis on various crises, data about incidents, etc. There are also several informal methods that projects could make use of.


With the increased awareness and seriousness of anticipatory methods in the policy-making and research sphere, there are several subjects and its leadership, imagination, drivers of change, and scientific approaches. A well-known topic is sustainability. The anticipatory governance approach in relation to this can be understood as mapping out multiple forecasts of the future that are impacted by current choices. Anticipatory research also grants insight into different perspectives on the aims, and workings of sustainability, awareness of the increased burden on the environment and the guidance to make transitions. This topic is interrelated with the existence of the Anthropocene, a measure of geological time that refers to the substantial impact of human beings on the Earth’s surface and atmosphere that could in turn alter its workings. Another subject that employs the anticipatory method is socio-economic resilience. This can be seen alongside the feature of polycentricity, that was discussed earlier, which offers a platform for public demand and societal agency. It is important to make a connection between technology and inter-personal frameworks, institutions and laws and a vision of imbalances and structures predicted in the future. By this, one can understand how to maintain societal and economic stability.



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