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Barbieri Masini’s “Human and Social Futures Studies” Approach

Developed by Eleonora Barbieri Masini and used in various studies, the “Human and Social Futures Studies” approach is described succinctly by Barbieri Masini and Medina Vasquez in a article published as part of a special issue of Technological Forecasting and Social Change on scenarios, published in 2000 [1].

The authors state that, “This approach is considered appropriate for developing countries or for international organizations, above all those working on development. In this context, the scenarios must be adaptable, and above all, must represent a method of cultural mediation and conflict negotiation.”



  1. Build a database (description of the system chosen in the present).
  2. Delimit the system chosen and its general context (e.g., using interviews, questionnaires, specialist seminars, brain-storming sessions, etc.). Avoid widening the context too much.
  3. Describe the system and its components, in terms of: (a) internal variables; (b) external variables.
  4. Identify key variables (done by group of decision makers).
  5. Identify factors of breakdown (i.e., what might make the system fail to function as expected?).
  6. Identify the actors in the present, in the past, and in terms of their strategic decisions. This must be documented.
  7. Formulate key questions or hypothetical scenarios (in if X then Y format). Do not carry out this step at an earlier stage.
  8. Build scenarios and definition of the temporal horizon (e.g., trend, utopian, catastrophic, normative and, if necessary, contrasting scenarios).
  9. Identify the actions required by the various scenarios (including cost/benefit analysis).


[1] Barbieri Masini, Eleonora and Javier Medina Vasquez. 2000. “Scenarios as Seen from a Human and Social Perspective,” Technological Forecasting and Social Change 65, 49-66.