Discussion Forums » Topic of the Month

Long-term thinking in Government - Making it happen

    • 124 posts
    February 25, 2024 11:38 AM GMT

    Our topic for February is 'Long-term thinking in Government - Making it happen'.



    We have frequently cited the need for better attention to long-term thinking in Government and we have some suggestions in our manifesto. This is an opportunity for a fuller look at what initiatives/changes would be needed to get Government and the ‘system’ to put long-term thinking on the same level as short-term.

    The agenda for our discussions is:



    Are there any examples of long-term thinking in current policies? Either for tackling issues, or taking advantage of opportunities?

    What are the barriers to long-term thinking in Government? How can we make it the norm?

    What do we really mean by long-term thinking? How does it relate to vision and ambition for the future? How does debt fit in? How does it relate to contingency planning?

    What are the dangers of short-term policies not set in the context of the long-term?  What examples can we think of?

    Does looking at root causes automatically lead to long-term thinking?

    Do we know how to do good long-term thinking?

    What specifics would we like to see have long-term policies associated with them?

    What mechanisms could be put in place to ensure Government (in the widest sense) can’t neglect the long-term?

    How do we educate the public on the importance of long-term thinking and investing in the future?



    This gives an insight into the Government view of long-term thinking: Futures thinking and foresight: a brief guide - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)


    ChatGPT thoughts

    The barriers to long-term thinking in the UK government, or any government for that matter, can be complex and multifaceted. Some of the common barriers include:

    Short Political Cycles: Politicians are often focused on short-term goals to secure re-election, which can lead to policies that provide immediate benefits but may not be sustainable or beneficial in the long run.

    Public Opinion and Perception: Governments are sensitive to public opinion, and decisions that may have long-term benefits but short-term costs can be politically unpopular. This can discourage leaders from pursuing long-term strategies that might not show immediate results.

    Economic Pressures: Economic pressures, such as the need to address immediate economic challenges or create jobs, can lead to policies that prioritize short-term gains over long-term sustainability.

    Lack of Institutional Memory: Frequent changes in government personnel and leadership can result in a lack of institutional memory. This makes it challenging to build on previous policies and maintain a consistent long-term strategy.

    Global Challenges: Issues like climate change, pandemics, and geopolitical conflicts require long-term, coordinated efforts. However, governments may struggle to prioritize these issues amid more immediate concerns.

    Budgetary Constraints: Limited financial resources can force governments to focus on immediate needs rather than invest in long-term projects, especially during economic downturns.

    Political Partisanship: Political polarization can hinder collaboration and consensus-building, making it difficult to implement long-term policies that require bipartisan support.

    Bureaucratic Inertia: Government bureaucracies may resist change or be focused on maintaining the status quo, making it difficult to implement new, long-term initiatives.

    Lack of Future Planning: Some governments may lack robust mechanisms for future planning and foresight. A lack of strategic planning can hinder the development and implementation of long-term policies.

    External Influences: Global events, economic fluctuations, and unforeseen crises can divert attention away from long-term planning as governments are forced to respond to immediate challenges.

    Addressing these barriers requires a combination of political will, public awareness, and institutional changes to foster a more conducive environment for long-term thinking and planning. This may involve reforms in governance structures, increased transparency, and efforts to educate the public about the importance of sustainable, long-term policies. 

    This post was edited by # Probably42 at February 25, 2024 11:51 AM GMT
    • 124 posts
    February 25, 2024 11:40 AM GMT

    Our discussion output on the topic is now available at:

    Long-term thinking in Government

    Note that we have turned the initial output into one of our 'Considered Proposals'.