Scenario Planning for Urban and Rural Areas Explained

Considering whether it can help your work.

What is it?

Scenario Planning is a decision making process, often involving diverse professionals, the public, and other stakeholders. It identifies various “alternative futures” based on the current reality and driving forces of change. A “desired future” can be selected from the alternatives, which then sets a specific end goal for direction setting. Alternately, the group may acknowledge that since the future is inherently unknown, it makes more sense to select actions or initiatives appropriate under certain conditions. Indicators of change or “triggers” can be identified to set certain courses of action in place as time passes. 

What can it do?

It may focus on trends and “horizon scan” to hone in on what forces may drastically alter the current reality in the future.  It can be used to understand the interconnectivity or interdependency of various urban and rural systems, anticipate unintended consequences, or educate the public on tradeoffs.  Scenario Planning is first and foremost a process, a way of thinking and structuring decision-making among a group of people.  A number of software tools can be used during a Scenario Planning process to keep track of large amounts of information, leverage data, and quantify specific elements.

Is it only for professionals working on urban and rural improvements?

Scenario Planning crosses numerous disciplines, and each has their own way of extracting usefulness.  The Consortium for Scenario Planning is focused on benefiting urban and rural professionals, such those working in urban and rural planning, urban and rural development, or in city operations, to expand capacity in and understanding of Scenario Planning processes and software tools.   As environments become increasingly complex, funds remain limited, and the future remains uncertain, Scenario Planning helps groups of decision-makers navigate challenging terrain.