Thinking our way into the future - scenarios and visioningScenarios are stories about how the future environment might unfold for our organizations, our issues, our nations, and even our world. They are not predictions, but rather act as plausible descriptions of what could happen. They are stories built around carefully constructed plots, based on drivers, events and ‘trends’. They assist in the selection of future strategies, they reveal uncertainties opening up lateral thinking and initiating a learning process. In this way they are part of the planning process, and need to be incuded as part of the wider plan, act, reflect cycle. The following links describe scenario and visioning descriptions, steps and examples. They show how there are different approaches, and indicate which are better suited to different aims.
- Overview of scenario thinking concepts This very useful overview of scenario thinking is excerpted from GBN’s publication, What If? The art of scenario thinking for nonprofits . It highlights that scenario thinking is both a process and a posture. It is the process through which scenarios are developed and then used to inform strategy. After that process itself is internalized, scenario thinking becomes, for many practitioners, a posture toward the world—a way of thinking about and managing change, a way of exploring the future so that they might then greet it better prepared.
- Using scenarios This short web paper from the UK-based Prime Minister's Strategy Unit provides a good introduction to scenario development in practice. The authors begin by outlining the different roles that scenarios can be used for, and then go on to outline the common steps in development. Another short introductory paper is the Scenario development as strategy planning by CARE's Michael Drinkwater. This report highlights how scenario development can be used either to assist the set up of a new strategy, or as a review mechanism, perhaps as part of an AOP planning process, of an existing strategic plan. This chapter outlines how scenario planning originated, what it is, and how it could be used within CARE. Some examples from both CARE’s and external experience are drawn upon as illustrations. The Global Change scenarios provide yet another example.
- Scenario Development: A Typology of Approaches In "Think scenarios, rethink education", Philip van Notten (2006) makes a classification of scenario methods based on contemporary scenario practices. He draws on some 100 studies of scenario applications carried out since the mid-1980s by institutions and private businesses in a wide cross-section of sectors such as in environment, energy, transport, technology. He illustrates the variety of today's scenario development approaches, and seeks to identify common characteristics and prerequisites for successful scenario work.
- Future Search This is the name for a 3-day planning meeting that enables people to cooperate in complex situations. It was started by Marvin Weisbord and Sandra Janoffis. The key principles underlying the process involve getting the “whole system in the room”, exploring the wider system before trying to fix the parts, emphasising common ground and future action, treating problems and conflicts as information - not action items. and having people accept responsibility for their own ideas, conclusions, and action plans.People follow a generic agenda, regardless of topic which consists of 4 or 5 half day sessions on the past, the present, the future, common ground, and action planning. The techniques used — time lines, a mind map, creative future scenarios, common ground dialogue — are all managed to support the principles.
- Generic scenarios: A strategic futures paper This paper by Ruth Cousens, Tom Steinberg, Ben White and Suzy Walton presents summaries and provides links to generic scenario sets. The purpose is to provide background materials to help those interested in using scenarios for their own projects. A table (on page one) provides a framework showing which of these scenarios are useful for which areas of policy study. It also helps readers distinguish between those scenarios which advocate certain futures (value driven) and those which simply describe them.
- What If? The Art of Scenario Thinking for Nonprofits This online book by Diana Scearce, Katherine Fulton aims to better prepare nonprofit leaders for the future by familiarizing them with scenario thinking. The material presented here derives from the institutional knowledge of Global Business Network and from GBN's multi-year partnership with the David and Lucille Packard Foundation's Organizational Effectiveness and Philanthropy Program, launched in early 2001 with the goal of raising awareness of scenario thinking among nonprofits. The guide was intentionally designed to be read either whole or in sections, with each chapter addressing a specific aspect of the art of scenario thinking for nonprofits.
- Narrative Driven Scenarios In this short paper, Eric Kemp-Benedict describes how to link narrative and numbers in scenario development. He points out that scenarioss have two components, a qualitative analysis – the narrative -- and a quantitative analysis – the numbers. While it might seem surprising, the m odel employed in most scenarios is actually contained in both components, which compliment and support each other. The quantitative component is usually explicit, while the narrative component is usually implicit. The narrative component reflects the shared mental model of its authors. Such a combined narrative and numerical model is often preferable to a purely quantitative model when studying social system s. The challenge in scenario development is to combine narratives with formal mathematical analysis in a way that builds on the strengths of the two approaches.
- Visioning scenarios - show the future This page from ODI describes scenarios as a way of developing alternative futures based on different combinations of assumptions, facts and trends, and areas where more understanding is needed for your particular scenario project. They are called 'scenarios' because they are like 'scenes' in the theatre - a series of differing views or presentations on the same general topic. Once you see several scenarios at the same time, you better understand your options or possibilities (seminar on Futures Techniques, available on the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences website at: http://ag.arizona.edu/futures/tou/tut2-buildscenarios.html. The site also shows the broad steps involved, and provides links to related resources. Another description and links page is provided by the World Bank's Scenarios and Visioning page.