Scenarios Thinking In Action


For most spatial planners, scenario planning is associated with an approach demonstrated in projects like Envision Utah, Sacramento Region Blueprint, and Imagine Austin. Much like traditional alternatives analyses, this approach asks participants to evaluate a set of scenario options (usually three, with a trend scenario as a fourth) and choose one as a preferred scenario or develop a preferred scenario by combining elements from each scenario.

In Engaging the Future, Uri Avin compares this approach to another form of scenario planning that developed within the business and military worlds. The latter approach, which emphasizes the uncertainty of outside forces that might affect the future, has been less widely adopted in planning circles. MWCOG’s Big Moves: Greater Washington 2050 Scenario Thinking Workshop is a notable example of this approach applied to regional planning.

Because much of the actual scenario creation and evaluation happens in a series of work sessions, it can be difficult to convey the dynamics at play in this form of scenarios thinking. Fortunately, Leatid Europe recently uploaded a video that documents that process during a 4-day workshop on alternative futures for a group of Romanian Jewish professionals (Leatid Europe is the training arm of the JDC-ICCD, a Jewish humanitarian assistance organization at Oxford University). While some of the content isn’t directly applicable to regional planning issues, the structure of the workshops and scenarios thinking transfers remarkably well to planning.  And at only 5 minutes, it serves as a great overview of scenario planning in action.

PS: If you know of other examples where this approach to scenarios has been applied to planning projects, let us know!


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