The anticipatory governance of sustainability transformations: Hybrid approaches and dominant perspectives

Karlijn Muiderman*, Monika Zurek, Joost Vervoort, Aarti Gupta, Saher Hasnain, Peter Driessen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Anticipation methods and tools are increasingly used to try to imagine and govern transformations towards more sustainable futures across different policy domains and sectors. But there is a lack of research into the steering effects of anticipation on present-day governance choices, especially in the face of urgently needed sustainability transformations. This paper seeks to understand how different perspectives on anticipatory governance connect to attempts to guide policy and action toward transformative change. We analyze perspectives on anticipatory governance in a global network of food system foresight practitioners (Foresight4Food) – using a workshop, interviews, and a survey as our sources of data. We connect frameworks on anticipatory governance and on transformation to analyse different perspectives on the future and their implications for actions in the present to transform food systems and offer new insights for theory and practice. In the global Foresight4Food network, we find that most foresight practitioners use hybrid approaches to anticipatory governance that combine fundamentally different assumptions about the future. We also find that despite these diverse food futures, anticipation processes predominantly produce recommendations that follow more prediction-oriented forms of strategic planning in order to mitigate future risks. We further demonstrate that much anticipation for transformation uses the language on deep uncertainty and deliberative action without fully taking its consequences on board. Thus, opportunities for transforming future food systems are missed due to these implicit assumptions that dominate the anticipatory governance of food systems. Our combined framework helps researchers and practitioners to be more reflexive of how assumptions about key human systems such as food system futures shape what is prioritized/marginalized and included/excluded in actions to transform such systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102452
JournalGlobal Environmental Change
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


  • Anticipatory governance
  • Food systems
  • Foresight
  • Politics of the future
  • Sustainability transformations


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