The core idea behind the Danish Board of Technology’s future panel is that Parliament appoints up to 20 MPs to a future panel, which over a period of 1½ to 2 years is charged with carrying out a long-term, cross-sectorial, cross-party project. Its goal is both to clarify and inform the public. The chief activity comprises 4 public hearings on selected topics of the overall theme.In general terms, the project must help to create an overview and elucidate the political tasks connected with the theme. This requires visionary thinking that crosses the boundaries of different sectors, spheres of competence and professional disciplines. A project in this area can be seen as a kind of politically steered future research where there are reciprocal connections between the political levels, project implementation and public debate.
We are not dealing with actual preliminary legislative work here, but rather a more long-range and visionary project which enables freer debate, affords politicians the opportunity of gaining a more comprehensive overview and of discussing how to prioritise the problems, tasks and choices the theme poses for society. The project can therefore be viewed as a kind of provisional political committee work, which is precisely why it is so important it be carried out in close collaboration with legislators who are afforded the greatest possible latitude in deciding which topics and discussions are to be addressed, how the work should be organised and how the results are to be put into effect.
The purpose of the method
The future panel addresses a wide section of parliamentary committees and the purpose of the work is to:
Who participates in the various roles
The Danish Board of Technology is the secretariat for the future panel and is charged with the tasks of securing the impressions from the hearings and of collating recommendations and suggestions throughout the entire project. In its capacity as secretariat, the Board appoints a project management team comprising a project manager and a project assistant. A permanent secretary and an information project manager are also assigned to the project.
The Board records the minutes of every hearing. These partly gather up all the threads of what has been discussed at the hearing (where are the problems and conflicts, what needs to be looked at more closely, which solutions and proposals have been put forward) – and partly provide a consultation document for the future panel’s concluding debates (how this can contribute to a future strategy for action in relation to the theme).
The future panel
Future panel members are appointed by Parliament and can number up to 20 MPs from all political parties and several parliamentary committees. The panel is continually involved in dialogue concerning organisation of the project, participates in seminars and hearings, and assumes a central role in the formulation of strategies and political action proposals.
The steering group comprises some of the key players within the subject area and assists the Board in collaborating with the political future panel, organising hearings, collation and the presentation of results. The steering group monitors the entire project process.
A future panel lasts 1-2 years, and, in general, the process comprises an introductory seminar, 4 hearings and a concluding seminar. It is crucial that the panel’s work be conducted in close contact with the secretariat, both in terms of content and in determining how to organise the work. For this reason, the politicians work in collaboration with the Danish Board of Technology to determine the project programme and implement it in such a way that the politicians take part in all the public arrangements and in addition have their own meetings, where perspectives and conclusions can be discussed.
At the introductory meeting, the steering group and future panel meet for the first time. Here they jointly adopt a draft for the coming project and decide the general content for the 4 hearings.
At the four hearings, politicians serving on the future panel question a panel of experts who have been specially invited in connection with the theme of each hearing. The future panel has the lead role in the course of the hearing and together with the Danish Board of Technology and a background group of experts for the specific project; they decide the focus of the hearings and what angles and themes are to be deployed. 2 future panel chairmen are appointed for each hearing. The chairmen participate in hearing preparations and may also act as moderators or have other roles in connection with the hearing.
The hearings follow the Board’s normal concept of parliamentary hearings. Immediately after each hearing, the future panel, the background group and the secretariat meet to evaluate what was learned at the hearing, and using this insight, plan the next hearing. A newsletter is also published after each hearing and sent to Parliament.
Following the 4 hearings, the future panel, steering group and the Danish Board of Technology hold a concluding seminar to produce a joint report on the political challenges posed by the theme of the hearings.
The work of the future panel is documented in a report which is published on www.tekno.dk and in the Board’s report series. The report includes:
In addition, reports will be drawn up for each of the 4 hearings and will contain a summary and a transcript from the hearing as well as written presentations by the hearing’s experts.
Parliament and the government are the most important target groups for the project, the results of which will be relevant to many of the legislature’s committees. In addition to the hearings, other activities can be arranged for concerned citizens, the press, experts and other interested parties. This can lead to a greater public awareness about a particular problem.
Presentation of results
The reports are distributed among MPs, hearing participants, government ministries, research institutions, interest groups and other interested parties. A summary will be published in the newsletter, From the Board to the Parliament, and there will also be project results that will prove suitable for use in general education and study groups.
The future panel will also include ongoing discussions between politicians and other interested parties. This allows project ideas and suggestions to emerge into the public debate during the course of the project.
The method is well suited to far-reaching problems, where there is a desire to act proactively. The subject theme should also require central political initiatives and action.
The price does not include the cost of the Danish Board of Technology’s secretariat work.
Examples of the method within the framework of the Danish Board of Technology
The ageing society (2000)
Denmark’s future energy system (2005)
Last update: 07-02-2006