Three Horizons of the future in the present

The Three Horizons framework is a model of longer-term change. The framework can be used for theoretical analysis as well as in workshops settings. One of the things that makes the framework so useful and comprehensible is the fact that it consists of three lines, that each represent a ‘horizon’. A picture of three lines scan be easily understood by many people and in a short amount of time.



The first Horizon, H1, represents the present dominant system. As the world and society change, H1 will gradually become out of place. Often we already see ‘weak signals’ of change that indicate that H1 might have to make way for new ways of doing things.

H3 represent the (farther) future, a radical new way of doing things. In H3 we often find hope, a vision of a new, desirable future. For this Horizon we can also identify ‘weak signals’ that point tot his new future. It is important to realise that H3 is always a shaping vision and not a predictive one.



H2 is the horizon in which H1 en H3 are connected, or in which we work towards a change from H1 to H3. In this Horizon we find innovations and changes that help the transition to the new way of doing things. We experiment, invent and pioneer alternatives.

The three horizons are always present and anyone can identify with each horizon. The signals of change that we order on the three horizons can be seen as ‘pockets’ of the future, that enable us to see the future in the present.

Thinking and working with three horizons gives structure to discussion about ‘where we are and where we want to be’. It is also a way to gain insight in the relevance of certain trends and weak signals. Apart from signals of change, actors and stakeholders can also be framed according to the Three Horizons. The framework can also be used as a check: do our scenarios or policy mainly represent H1, H2 or H3?



About Silke de Wilde

I am a foresight-expert and practitioner. As a freelancer, I help organisations think about the future and how to get there, for example by trendanalysis and scenarioplanning. As a facilitator I give workshops to inspire and help people think out of the box. I'm one of the co-founders of the Dutch Future Society. I also organise training in foresight at the School for Foresight. And in the time that's left I like getting into science fiction and working on my phd-research: Cities constructing futures. Yes, you might say I'm a future-fanatic, and I'm grateful that I'm able to make a living out of doing what I love. Thank you for visiting Futurista and please don't be a stranger!
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