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Three Horizons to support systems change

What is the Three Horizons tool?

Three Horizons is a tool that can be used to plan for a viable future – where system transformation is needed.

“It helps groups explore systemic patterns to identify which of the dominant patterns are no longer fit for purpose, how the emerging trends can shape the future, and what visionary action is needed to collectively move us towards a viable future” (3HUni).

Three Horizons frames our thoughts into three perspectives (horizons):

Horizon 1: the current system and business as usual

If you want to transform a system you need to first analyse the one you have – how it currently functions (or doesn’t), what the barriers to change are and which elements you might want to keep.

Horizon 3: your vision of the future system

To transform a system, you need think about how you want the new system to be – you envision the perfect system – this is Horizon 3 and will become the new normal. How does it feel? How does it look?

Horizon 2: the route planning and innovation needed to get us from H1 to H3

To get from the system not fit for purpose (Horizon 1) to the transformed system (Horizon 3) you need to go through a process of change – this is Horizon 2. Change can be messy and ideas won’t always work. It can be tempting to latch onto ideas that are really only amended versions of the current (Horizon 1) system – these can drag you back to where you started. The trick is to find the ideas that take you forward to Horizon 3. If you look closely, you can find evidence of other people pushing boundaries and heading for the Third Horizon. These are your people – the visionaries, the revolutionaries, the entrepreneurs and the fixers.

Transforming the Yorkshire food system for people and planet

Using the powerful Three Horizons futures process, FixOurFood captured 1400 insights from 113 different experts from 55 organisations through surveys and workshops about challenges in the present, desired future food systems and how transformation can be supported.

Download our report to read about our initial findings

You can find out more about Three Horizons from these short videos produced by our collaborator, Future Stewards: