Most scenario studies include a classification scheme for their own scenario set. Also,
there have been several attempts to create generic classification schemes.
There are at least two benefits to classification schemes: broadening
the thinking of the scenario developers themselves and communicating the results
of the exercise to an outside audience. The very need to fill in a box
on a classification grid can prod scenario developers to expand their thinking.
Also, a classification scheme can succinctly summarize the purpose or worldview
underlying a scenario.
A recent comprehensive
classification scheme was developed by researchers at the International Centre
for Integrative Studies (ICIS). They created a Scenario Cartwheel that
can be used to put scenarios in broad categories. (They also list detailed categories,
which are not included here.) To use the Scenario Cartwheel, place the scenario in the
appropriate sector on the outermost circle. For example, a simple, intuitive, exploratory
scenario would go in the top right segment in the outermost circle.
A different approach to classifying scenarios was followed by the Global Scenario Group
in its report Branch Points.
The GSG divides broad scenario story lines into classes and variants, with
a special focus on sustainability scenarios.
Their scheme is summarized in the table below.
|GSG Scenario Structure|
Adapted from: Gallopin, G., A. Hammond, P. Raskin and R. Swart. 1997.
Branch Points: Global Scenarios and Human Choice. PoleStar Series Report no. 7.
Stockholm: Stockholm Environment Institute.
Continuity of institutions and values, rapid economic growth, convergence toward
industrialized country norms
Mid-range population and development projections, typical technological change assumptions
Strong, comprehensive and coordinated government action to achieve greater social equity
and environmental protection
Social, economic and moral underpinnings of civilization deteriorate, as emerging problems
overwhelm the coping capacity of both markets and policy reforms
Unbridled conflict, institutional disintegration, and economic collapse
Elites control an impoverished majority
and manage critical natural resources, while outside the fortress there is
repression, environmental destruction, and misery
Visionary solutions to the sustainability challenge, including new socio-economic
arrangements and fundamental changes in values
Bio-regionalism, localism, face-to-face democracy, small technology, and economic autarky
|New Sustainability Paradigm|
Seeks to change the character of urban, industrial civilization and to
build a more humane and equitable global civilization
Outside of the more elaborate classification schemes, there are two classifications
that seem universally applicable: the relative weight of narrative vs.
number and whether the scenario is a
forecast or a backcast. These
options are discussed in their own sections.