Scenario Building

In policy development, scenario building is considered a method for foresight (Fradfield et al, 2005; Geschka and Hammer, 1997; Mietzner and Reger, 2005). According to Geschka, it provides a "systematic, participatory, future intelligence gathering and medium-to-long-term vision building process aimed at present-day decisions and mobilising joint action" (Geschka, 1978). An example of such future vision scenario is e.g. developed in Kahn and Weiner in 1967 for the year 2000 (Kahn and Weiner, 1967).

Scenario building is inherently flexible in terms of design and construction. Scenarios help stimulate different internally consistent alternatives of a specific situation and its settings concerning a specific policy issue. Focus of scenarios in foresight exercises and policy planning is on the identification and description of impact factors as well as on cause and effect interdependencies.

Scenario building hardly grounds on literature review. It focuses on stakeholder involvement, instead (Wimmer et al., 2012). Scenarios are often built by groups of experts or stakeholders in workshops. Hence, scenarios support the communication among the participants thereby bringing down the level of conflict and facilitating cooperation. The participatory process can help build consensus as the different policy alternatives, and the consequences of those alternatives, are shared and discussed by all. With these assets, scenario building can contribute to achieve the good governance principles. Precondition for successful application of scenario technique to engage stakeholders is a well-designed process, which stimulates reflection and learning among all participants (Johnson et al., 2012).

Related terms: Stakeholder engagement, Method


Bradfield, R., Wright, G., Burt, G., Cairns, G., & Van Der Heijden, K. (2005). The origins and evolution of scenario techniques in long range business planning. Futures, 37(8), 795–812. doi:10.1016/j.futures.2005.01.003

Geschka, H. (1978). Delphi. In Bruckmann, G. (Ed.), Langfristige Prognosen: Möglichkeiten und Methoden der Langfristprognostik komplexer Systeme. Würzburg, Germany: Physica-Verlag.

Geschka, H., & Hammer, R. (1997). Die Szenario-Technik in der strategischen Unternehmensplanung. Strategische Unternehmensplanung. In Hahn, D., & Taylor, B. (Eds.), Strategische Unternehmensplanung. Strategische Unternehmensführung. Stand und Entwicklungstendenzen (pp. 464–489). Heidelberg, Germany

Johnson, K. A., Dana, G., Jordan, N. R., Draeger, K. J., Kapuscinski, A., Schmitt Olabisi, L. K., & Reich, P. B. (2012). Using participatory scenarios to stimulate social learning for collaborative sustainable development. Ecology and Society, 17(2), 9. doi:10.5751/ES-04780-170209

Kahn, H., & Weiner, A. J. (1967). The year 2000: A framework for speculations on the next thirty-three years. New York, NY: Macmillan.

Mietzner, D., & Reger, G. (2005). Advantages and disadvantages of scenario approaches for strategic foresight. International Journal of Technology Intelligence and Planning, 1(2), 220–239. doi:10.1504/IJTIP.2005.006516

Wimmer, M.A., Scherer, S., Moss, S. & Bicking, M. (2012) Method and Tools to Support Stakeholder Engagement in Policy Development. The OCOPOMO Project. In: International Journal of Electronic Government Research (IJEGR), 8 (3), pp. 98-119

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