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Blog Series: Part 6

Ready to Deploy? Determining the Level of Maturity of Anticipatory Methods

Posted on 8th of December 2023 by Sara Marcucci, Stefaan Verhulst

Ready to Deploy? Determining the Level of Maturity of Anticipatory Methods
Ready to Deploy? Determining the Level of Maturity of Anticipatory Methods

Migration policy, characterized by its multifaceted challenges, presents a unique terrain where anticipatory methods can offer valuable insights. Globally, governments, international organizations, and research institutions are actively involved in devising strategies to anticipate and comprehend migration patterns. However, the practical effectiveness and relevance of these methods exhibit significant variations when applied in real-world scenarios.

This blog is dedicated to exploring the dimension of maturity within our list of methods (see our previous blog for the list). By doing so, it aims to capture the complexities and variations inherent in the practical implementation of these methods. 

It's important to note that the evaluation of maturity for these methods is subjective and context-dependent. The scores provided here are general assessments and may vary based on specific contextual factors.

Defining the Maturity Level of Anticipatory Methods

The level of maturity variable assessed the extent to which each anticipatory method had been developed, tested, and proven effective in forecasting or foresighting migration flows. Higher scores on this variable indicated well-established and mature methods, while lower scores denoted less mature methodologies. 

The scoring process involved assigning numerical values (from 1 to 5). More specifically, in the continuum of maturity scores, ranging from nascent development to the pinnacle of maturity, each level from 1 to 5 reflects the evolving stages of a method's growth and effectiveness based on its track record, theoretical foundation, practical implementation, and adoption and acceptance:

  • 1 = Nascent: The method is in its early stages, lacking a proven track record, a robust theoretical foundation, practical implementation ease, and widespread adoption. It shows potential but has not yet matured.

  • 2 = Developing: The method is progressing but has a limited track record, a somewhat established theoretical foundation, challenges in practical implementation, and modest acceptance within specific communities.

  • 3 = Maturing: The method has a moderate track record, a sound theoretical foundation, and moderate acceptance. It is on a path toward maturity but is not yet fully established.

  • 4 = Advanced: The method demonstrates a strong track record and a robust theoretical foundation. It shows practical feasibility, indicating a level of operational effectiveness that surpasses earlier stages.

  • 5 = Established: The method has a strong track record, a robust theoretical foundation, efficient practical implementation, and widespread adoption and acceptance.

Exploring the Level of Level Maturity

Understanding the maturity levels of methods employed in migration analysis can be crucial for assessing their effectiveness in addressing the specific and complex challenges posed by human migration flows.  In Table 1 below, we present a heatmap representing how mature the selected methods are, from lighter (less mature) to darker (more mature) shades of blue. As we delve into each maturity level, we examine how these methods progress from promising approaches to fully integrated practices within established institutional frameworks, reflecting the dynamic evolution of anticipatory methodologies in the field of migration policy.

As in the case of our examination of the timeframe of prediction, it is crucial to note that the allocation here proposed does not restrict the inherent capabilities of each method. Rather, it reflects a general trend identified through analysis and observation of:

  • The Repository of Cases:

    • Scores were allocated based on the inclusion of diverse use cases within the repository of cases associated with the method. It is important to note that the repository represents a limited sample and may not comprehensively reflect the entire method. The scores for the maturity level acknowledged that the evaluation extended beyond the specific cases included in the repository.

  • The Temporal Orientation as Described in the Literature:

    • Evaluation of how the methods are characterized in the literature with respect to their maturity and establishment. Higher scores are assigned to methods that are more consistently described as mature. Conversely, lower scores are given to methods characterized in the literature as being more experimental and nascent.

In particular, a series of criteria were considered, including:

  • Track Record:

    • The method's track record in providing meaningful insights or predictions. Methods with a proven history of accurate predictions or valuable outcomes receive higher maturity scores.

  • Theoretical Foundation:

    • The robustness of the method's theoretical framework. Well-established methods with a strong theoretical foundation are considered more mature.

  • Practical Implementation:

    • The ease of practical implementation and application of the method. Methods that have been successfully applied in real-world scenarios and are practical to implement receive higher maturity scores.

  • Adoption and Acceptance:

    • The level of adoption and acceptance within the relevant professional or academic communities. Methods that are widely accepted and adopted receive higher maturity scores.

Before delving into the heatmap, it is important to reiterate that, depending on how each method is applied for specific circumstances, its maturity will change. Thus, this heatmap serves as a visual representation of the prevalent usage patterns found in literature and practical applications, and it is not prescriptive of the exclusive maturity level of each method. It is also important to note that this classification only refers to the field of anticipating migration, and is not reflective of the maturity of the method per se. For instance, the score given to Focus Groups Discussions (FGDs) refers to the maturity of FGDs for anticipating migration, and not of FGDs in general. 

Narrative Interviews

Wildcards Analysis 

Participatory Action Research

Cross-Impact Analysis

Expert Panels

Expert Interviews

Citizen Panels

System Dynamics Modeling

Stress Testing

Futures-creative Models

Early Warning Systems

Horizon Scanning

Red Teaming


Technology Roadmapping

Simulation and Modeling

Risk Assessment

Delphi Method

Weak Signal Analysis

Environmental Scanning

Morphological Analysis

Innovation Workshops

Game Theory

Scenario Planning

Science Fiction Narratives

Counterfactual Analysis

Trend Analysis

SWOT Analysis

Focus Group Discussions


Table 1: Heatmap of Maturity Level of Selected Methods.

  • (1) Nascent: It is worth noting that none of the methods listed are categorized as entirely nascent. This is because, as mentioned in our previous blog, the list of selected methods here considered prominently features traditional methodologies, as they form the bedrock upon which innovation is built through the use of innovative tools and data sources, enhancing their capacity to address the intricate challenges posed by human migration flows. 

  • (2) Developing: While not yet fully institutionalized, these methods offer promise and flexibility in addressing migration challenges. For example, the Mixed Migration Centre conducted around 20,000 interviews in 2021 and 2022 with migrants from various regions, to investigate the relationship between climate change and migration. The results indicate that, while environmental factors are rarely the primary reason for migration (1-5% of respondents), 20-40% of individuals acknowledge their influence in their decision to move, primarily through their impact on safety and economic well-being, highlighting the nuanced nature of climate-related migration, with specific community and individual variations. Being able to answer questions about the impact of climate factors on the aspiration and capability to move allows for a better-informed discussion around resilience and adaptation, and to develop policies that will meet the needs of populations that may be impacted by climate change in the future.

  • (3) Maturing: This category includes methods that are in the process of expanding from smaller-scale applications to broader or more extensive implementations. For instance,  the "EWARS in a box" project by the World Health Organization showcases the practical use of Early Warning Systems, providing timely alerts for potential migration-related risks in remote areas with limited resources, facilitating swift and proactive responses. 

  • (4) Advanced: Methods categorized as Advanced are typically methods that have progressed beyond foundational and maturing stages, showcasing a heightened level of sophistication and effectiveness. For instance, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) of the European Union in Malta employed expert interviews to identify key factors to think through the future of migration and asylum law in alternative scenarios. 

  • (5) Established: This category encompasses methods where anticipatory methods have become fully integrated into established institutional frameworks related to migration. These documented instances demonstrate how certain anticipatory methodologies have evolved beyond experimental phases and have been adopted as standard practices within government agencies, international organizations, or other institutional entities. For example, the International Futures Programme (IFP) of the OECD is a multidisciplinary research and policy analysis program offering long-term strategic thinking and horizon scanning since 1990. The program aims to provide improved monitoring of the long-term economic and social horizon, with early warning on emerging domestic and international issues, as well as more accurate pinpointing of major developments and possible trend breaks. The Programme aims to offer a platform for policy makers to confront their visions and concerns about the future, seek the views of others, and engage in a stimulating dialogue to gain a better understanding of the issues at stake. 

As we move forward in this series, we'll continue to delve deeper into these methods, exploring their real-world applications and relevance to migration policy.

If you haven’t already, check out the previous blogs on the blog series webpage and stay tuned as we uncover innovative approaches to address the complexities of migration!

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