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Multiple pasts, converging presents, and alternative futures

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DOI: 10.1016/s0016-3287(03)00140-x
  • Political Science


Abstract This paper introduces a variant of scenario planning, supported by some related new concepts in futures studies. The traditional snapshot and chain portrayals of scenarios are replaced by a network, which enables the consideration of multiple views of the present and the past, occurring in multiple systems (e.g. global and local). A fractal “leaf of goals” metaphor is developed, illustrating the argument that activities, events and objectives lie on a continuum: any one event is itself a composite of an indefinite number of component events. Using this concept, network scenarios are developed, consisting of nodes (representing events) and links (representing influences). Because events are socially constructed, each node can be seen as an end-state summary of a smaller network scenario. The networks are created (typically in workshops with participants from the systems being studied) using modified versions of the futures wheel and backcasting, as well as a new variant entitled middlecasting. By working iteratively between past and future events, the networks are steadily refined. A further departure from conventional scenario planning is that scenario networks do not begin at the present time, but extend about as far into the past as they do into the future. By beginning in the past, the roots of network fragments can be identified more clearly in the context of their multiple presents. The method is illustrated with an example of a project to democratize public radio in Indonesia. A scenario network was successfully created, but the delineation of multiple pasts and presents turned out to need further clarification.

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