Each of the French regions has, in addition to a regional council (Conseil régional), which debates and votes on policies, a consultative body on economic and social matters (a Conseil économique et social régional, CESR) which brings together representatives of professional and voluntary organizations, trade unions, as well as individuals with relevant knowledge and experience, so that it can in some sense be said to reflect the views of civil society. The CESRs are indeed less obsessed with short-term considerations or involved in the jockeying for power that affects other bodies, and in recent years, following the example of the CESR for the Île-de-France (the area around Paris) and of the National Economic and Social Council, they have put considerable effort into thinking about the future.
The chairman of the Île-de-France CESR explains here why and how an "outlook and planning section" was created within his authority; he describes the main topics that it has been working on, its working methods and the key conclusions reached so far. He provides much more than just a description of the section's activities, and shows how much this kind of future-
oriented group within a consultative body can contribute to current research into new forms of participative democracy and to stimulating further public debate about the major challenges of governance reform.
Jean-Claude Boucherat goes a step further, pointing out the special contribution and usefulness of futures studies when drawing up public policies. He stresses how important a group like the CESR's outlook and planning group can be both in anticipating the issues that regions are likely to have to face and in creating a "vision" that can, without ignoring the conflicting views represented, unite the energies of all those who are ultimately responsible for shaping the future of the French regions.