The scenario kit can be useful as a way to start new conversations and bring different stakeholders and perspectives together. Some tough and sticky issues can be much easier to discuss once you move them from the immediate future into a more distant one as we let go of the hesitations and practical limitations of the here and now.
This guide is just one example of how you can use the scenario kit to kickstart discussions in a diverse group of stakeholders. It is written for a facilitator, acting as a guide to the future. It uses a handful of design tools that we’ve found to be helpful over the last couple of years working with futures. We encourage you to bring together a diverse group as it gives the most interesting discussions. The exercises are, however, designed for groups who are investigating the future of the same “thing”. The tools work much the same whether you’re interested in the future of a company, the future of your city, or the future of book clubs.
The following process will guide you through the four alternative futures. You will experience the four scenarios, reflect on their implications for your eco-system, and discuss potential ways forward. It is recommended you read through all three steps before you embark on your expedition.
Like with any other trip, you need to do a few things before you head off into the future. This short section will make sure you and and your group are ready. It will ask you a few questions to think about before you move on, give you some background on the scenario kit, and tell you what materials to prepare.
Try and answer the following questions before getting started. Make sure everyone else is one the same page before you begin.
Once you’ve identified the area of interest go through the different stories from the scenarios and pick out your lineup of narrators. We recommend about three speakers per scenario and using the same speakers in all four scenarios to really highlight the contrasts.
The scenario kit is built around four scenarios: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta. Each representing an alternative version of a society in 2050. Each scenario ultimately aims to give visitors a glimpse of another human experience: What it feels like living in this world rather than only describing the large-scale implications.
The scenarios are themselves based on a 2×2 matrix with two dimensions. A popular approach, adapted from strategic foresight and scenario planning. Each axis in the matrix represents a major uncertainty about the future. Two questions we don’t know the answer to:
If you draw up both either/or-questions as two dimensions on the matrix you’re left with four quadrants with four unique combinations: The four scenarios.
The underlying matrix — click image to expand.
Different dimensions would yield different scenarios. This can make some people hesitate: “What if the future is nothing like any of the scenarios? Where is the data?”
We tend to answer that the future, most likely, won’t be anything like any of the scenarios we’re visiting. But that is besides the point. We’re not trying to project the most probable future; we’re trying to use alternative plausible futures to stimulate new perspectives on the present.
For your coming session you’ll need two resources for your group: Reflection cards (A5 size) for everyone as well as a scenario poster (system variant, A1 size) for each group. If you’re interested in going one step further, we also recommend using the system map pieces (A4 size, cut out beforehand) and the important stakeholder cards (A5 size)
You can find all four under “downloads”. They can all be downloaded and printed out but none are so complicated, however, that they cannot easily be recreated either by hand (i.e. on paper, a flip-over, or on a whiteboard) or digitally (i.e. shared document, virtual whiteboards, or similar).
You might also want:
* The additional tools are useful for visually mapping the system you’re discussing. The system mapping pieces work almost like a board game where you map out the network using different pieces, while the important stakeholder cards invites people to get into the shoes of different actors in the system. The tools add some complexity but are well worth it if you have the time.
The simplest way to experience the scenarios is to sit down together and go through one scenario at a time, listening to the stories you find interesting.
For this part of the journey you’ll need your reflection cards. One set per participant.
We recommend the following approach:
After you’ve had a chance to reflect on the stories you’ve listened to, it’s time to put them to work. For this guide you’ll use two design tools; the scenario poster and the initiative cards (which could easily exchanged for sticky notes).
The following exercise works best in groups but it can also be completed solo. You’ll need a scenario poster for each group.
If you haven’t already, prepare your scenario posters (1 per group). Either print out the one included in the Living Futures Scenario Kit or recreate it on a whiteboard, a flip-over, or similar. Get some markers ready as well as some post-its (it might help to get people involved — sometimes writing directly on the poster can feel daunting).
Get people into groups of about 3-6 people
Fill Scenario Poster
Groups are free to start where ever they want but the goal should be for each group to fill out all the boxes on the poster. Try to give the groups at least 60 minutes to get through it all.
Describe important stakeholders
(Optional, add 1 hour) If you’re interested in going deeper, use the stakeholder cards to get a human perspective on the important agendas in the eco-system. Ask the groups to pick one important agenda for each scenario and use the important stakeholder cards to describe a person with a specific point of view on the issue. Aim for one stakeholder per scenario but encourage groups to make more if they have the time.
Have each group present (parts of) their poster. Depending on your number of groups, it might be a good idea to have one group present one scenario each and let others comment instead of having everyone presenting everything.
Have an open discussion on the themes that emerge.
Recap & follow up
After your workshop make sure to capture and process all the input and share it with your group along with your thoughts on what to do with it.