Policymaking is, to a large extent, about predictions. As policy decisions are based on how decision-makers expect the future will unfold, these implicit or explicit expectations are forecasts. In this respect, every policymaker is a forecaster.

However, good forecasting is difficult, especially in multidimensional environments like international relations and geopolitics, where little is certain, information is always incomplete, and surprises are commonplace. Will the United States pass a comprehensive digital privacy law this year?

Will the EU and/or the US impose sanctions on China for circumventing economic sanctions against Russia? Will the Republican party control the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate following the elections on November 8, 2022?

To forecast these and more such questions, the Bertelsmann Stiftung, in collaboration with the Bertelsmann Foundation in Washington DC, has launched a new platform called RANGE (Rethinking Assumptions in a New Geostrategic Environment), which follows an innovative approach to thinking about the future.

Crowdsourced Forecasting: A New Way to Think About the Future

Crowdsourced forecasting is the ongoing collection of forecasts (typically in the form of a probability) from a large, diverse group of people, which are aggregated into a “crowd” or “consensus” forecast about a future event. These crowd forecasts are often more accurate than that of any one individual, as this technique reduces error and bias through aggregation and machine learning.

As J. Peter Scoblic and Philip E. Tetlock have pointed out in their Foreign Affairs article entitled “A Better Crystal Ball. The Right Way to Think About the Future”, crowdsourced forecasting is based on a combination of two different approaches to thinking about the future: scenario planning and probabilistic forecasting. Both approaches have their strengths and weaknesses and are often seen as incompatible, given their different assumptions and goals.

Yet Scoblic and Tetlock have shown that they can be successfully combined by “developing clusters of questions that give early, forecastable indications of which envisioned future is likely to emerge.” Our new RANGE platform follows this methodological approach.

RANGE (Rethinking Assumptions in a New Geostrategic Environment)

RANGE is a newly launched crowdsourced forecasting platform focused on critical topics like systemic rivalry with China, climate change, technology, democracy, geopolitics, trade, and economics. It looks at these topics from the perspective of the transatlantic relationship.

Its goal is to build a diverse community of forecasters to infuse new, ongoing, accurate, and insightful perspectives into analysis and recommendations for policymakers.

The forecasts are crowdsourced from a community of

  • Transatlantic experts
  • Experienced policymakers
  • And the informed public

and are being curated by RANGE as a new source of input for analysis, publications, and elevating the public discourse.

RANGE creates a new opportunity for tapping the wisdom of a much larger and more diverse community than we do in our traditional research. The results and insights will be shared with decision-makers and the wider think tank community. We believe the think tank and policymaking community will find the new collective insights we generate useful and actionable. We invite anyone interested to join the platform as a forecaster.

Become a Forecaster

For you personally, participating in RANGE presents an opportunity to use a new type of analysis in your own work. You’ll be able to practice and improve your decision-making skills, test your assumptions and sharpen your views on the critical issues we study. Your benefits, in the long run, will include:

  • Forecast alongside your peers and leading researchers from around the world representing think tanks, university programs, and forecast enthusiasts;
  • Have a direct conduit to analysis being shared with policymakers in the U.S. and Europe; and
  • Improve your skills in forecasting, rational thinking, and argumentation by comparing your forecasts and having them regularly scored.

It is not necessary to give forecasts on all questions and topics, the platform can be freely calibrated to specific fields of interest and your individual willingness to commit time.

Try your hand at forecasting

To get started, simply sign up at rangeforecasting.org and make your first forecast.

About the authors

Mark Fischer is a Senior Project Manager co-heading the Project Sovereign Europe at Bertelsmann Stiftung. He is an expert on transatlatnic relations, EU and NATO Enlargement, European foreign and security policy, as well as development cooperation issues. 

Jasmin Ruhnke has worked for the Bertelsmann Stiftung since 1994 in varying responsibilities focusing on international events, communications, and outreach. Since April 2020, she has been with the Europe’s Future Program. 

Peter Walkenhorst is Senior Project Manager in Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Europe’s Future Program, where he works on transatlantic relations and European-Chinese relations. Previously, he was a member of the foundation’s Germany and Asia Program, responsible for projects on the systemic conflict with China and social cohesion in Asia. 

Background Reading on some of the Topics RANGE will cover:

The war against Ukraine – 5 take-aways for China and their implications for the EU

3 Things to Watch for in the EU’s Plan for Energy Independence

China’s evolving presence in Africa