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Alternative directions of EU markets

Three Finnish ministries

In 2018, the Finnish government was preparing for its upcoming presidency of the Council of the European Union. One of the goals of the government during the presidency was the promotion of a thriving digital business environment within the Union to increase both the competitiveness of the EU and the wellbeing of its citizens. Due to major shifts in the EU in recent years (such as migrant crisis, Brexit, and the dominance of global commercial giants), the future of its digital markets was highly uncertain.

We worked with three different ministries to create a shared view of alternative futures for the digital markets in the EU. In particular, the goal was to identify the uncertainties that would be the most critical from the perspective of competitiveness and citizens' wellbeing, and to prioritize initiatives for strategic actions to target these uncertainties in beneficial way. 

Success criteria


  1. Engage a number of experts from three different Finnish ministries, technology industry, NGOs, and the academia.

  2. Create a shared view of causal relationships between the uncertainties shaping the digital markets in the EU.

  3. Identify the right actions to foster a thriving business environment and promote wellbeing among EU citizens.


We built a causal network model to create shared narratives for alternative futures of the EU markets, and used the model to ideate actions to maximize positive impacts on competitiveness and well-being.   


We gathered information about relevant uncertainties affecting the EU markets through extensive stakeholder interviews and a back-office study. Based on this analysis, we identified the key uncertainties and their alternative development paths. Using qualitative data and expert judgment, we developed a causal network model between these uncertainties to build narratives for alternative directions that the EU markets could take. Based on these narratives, we developed four alternative market scenarios: the most likely future, dystopia, utopia in terms of competitiveness, and utopia in terms of wellbeing. 

We also used the network model to identify the most critical uncertainties from the viewpoint of ensuring the global competitiveness of the EU and the wellbeing of its citizens. This work facilitated the ideation of strategic actions that could be targeted to these critical uncertainties to maximize the positive impact on both competitiveness and wellbeing. 

The outcome was an eye-opener for the project members, and established common ground to discuss the topic further.

The scenarios developed in the project were an eye-opener for the project members in that they spanned a wide variety of futures for the digital markets in the EU. These scenarios, together with a list of prioritized initiatives for strategic action helped establish common ground to discuss the topic further, and ultimately agree on a joint agenda for the presidency. The process created trust between stakeholders from various of different roles and organisations, and facilitated high-quality discussions about the future.

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