Scenario Background

Why Scenarios?

Scenarios are stories of the future, but by communicating different visions of the future and providing a focus for discussion about the course of society, they inform decisions made today. They can be used to:

  • Provoke debate
  • Expand the range of options
  • Expose contradictions in thought
  • Clarify and communicate a technical analysis
  • Expose uncertainties for future developments
  • Evaluate policies in the face of an uncertain future

As coherent stories of possible futures, scenarios can engage people’s imaginations. They give the future a flavor and a “personality” that people can respond to and hold in their minds. In doing so, they can lead people to act differently than they might otherwise have done.

Also, the process of scenario development engages the imagination of participants. It can bring them to new insights and expose contradictions in their thinking. One striking example is the Mont Fleur scenarios for South Africa, in which the contradictions between a populist economic policy and long-term financial stability were exposed in the Icarus scenario.

Finally, scenarios provide a record of coherent narratives of possible futures, providing guiding documents that people can return to over time.