Participatory scenario planning

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1. Maike Hamann (biography)
2. Tanja Hichert (biography)
3. Nadia Sitas (biography)

By Maike Hamann, Tanja Hichert and Nadia Sitas

Within the many different ways of developing scenarios, what are useful general procedures for participatory processes? What resources are required? What are the strengths and weaknesses of involving stakeholders?

Scenarios are vignettes or narratives of possible futures, and when used in a set, usually depict purposefully divergent visions of what the future may hold. The point of scenario planning is not to predict the future, but to explore its uncertainties. Scenario development has a long history in corporate and military strategic planning, and is also commonly used in global environmental assessments to link current decision-making to future impacts. Participatory scenario planning extends scenario development into the realm of stakeholder-engaged research.

In general, the process for participatory scenario planning broadly follows three phases.

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Can foresight and complexity play together?

By James E. Burke

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James E. Burke (biography)

What is foresight and how does it differ from prediction? What role can complexity play in foresight? Does Cynefin® offer a possible framework to begin integrating foresight and complexity?

In this blog post, I describe how:

  • Foresight identifies clues for the future and integrates them into forecasts
  • Complexity theory offers ways to understand how the future emerges
  • Cynefin® gives us a framework of domains that allows us to better understand trends and forecasts.

What is foresight?

Foresight starts from a place of humility—we cannot predict the future—and an acceptance of ambiguity.

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Detecting non-linear change ‘inside-the-system’ and ‘out-of-the-blue’

Susan van ‘t Klooster and Marjolijn Haasnoot

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1. Susan van ‘t Klooster (biography)
2. Marjolijn Haasnoot (biography)

Change can be expected, envisioned and known, and even created, accelerated or stopped. But change does not always follow a linear and predictable path, nor is it always controllable. Novelty and surprise are inescapable features of life. Non-linear change can involve threats or opportunities.

Although it defines the world we live in, who we are, the outlooks we have and what we do, we often do not relate to non-linear change in a meaningful way. What is holding us back from engaging with it? How do we deal with non-linear change? And what are promising ways forward?

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Designing scenarios to guide robust decisions

By Bonnie McBain

Bonnie McBain (biography)

What makes scenarios useful to decision makers in effectively planning for the future? Here I discuss three aspects of scenarios:

  • goals;
  • design; and,
  • use and defensibility.

Goals of scenarios

Since predicting the future is not possible, it’s important to know that scenarios are not predictions. Instead, scenarios stimulate thinking and conversations about possible futures.

Key goals and purposes of scenarios can be any of the following:

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Managing deep uncertainty: Exploratory modeling, adaptive plans and joint sense making

By Jan Kwakkel

jan-kwakkel
Jan Kwakkel (biography)

How can decision making on complex systems come to grips with irreducible, or deep, uncertainty? Such uncertainty has three sources:

  1. Intrinsic limits to predictability in complex systems.
  2. A variety of stakeholders with different perspectives on what the system is and what problem needs to be solved.
  3. Complex systems are generally subject to dynamic change, and can never be completely understood.

Deep uncertainty means that the various parties to a decision do not know or cannot agree on how the system works, how likely various possible future states of the world are, and how important the various outcomes of interest are.

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Scoping: Lessons from environmental impact assessment

By Peter R. Mulvihill

peter-mulvihill
Peter R. Mulvihill (biography)

What can we learn about the role and importance of scoping in the context of environmental impact assessment?

“Closed” versus “open” scoping

I am intrigued by the highly variable approaches to scoping practice in environmental impact assessment and the considerable range between “closed” approaches and more ambitious and open exercises. Closed approaches to scoping tend to narrow the range of questions, possibilities and alternatives that may be considered in environmental impact assessment, while limiting or precluding meaningful public input. Of course, the possibility of more open scoping is sometimes precluded beforehand by narrow terms of reference determined by regulators.

When scoping is not done well, it inevitably compromises subsequent steps in the process.

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