Scenario thinking and usage among development actors

Scenario thinking is a strategic planning method that organisations use to make flexible long-term plans

Abstract

This helpdesk report addresses the following questions:

  • What approaches to scenario thinking are in use among development actors, private sector and governments?
  • What are their pros and cons?
  • How are the findings used and to what effect in programming, operations and implementation?

Scenario thinking is a strategic planning method that organisations use to make flexible long-term plans. Recent discussions of this method offered by the Foresight Horizon Scanning Centre (2009) define scenario thinking (they refer to it as scenario planning) as ‘a futures technique for medium to long-term strategic analysis and planning used to develop policies and strategies that are robust, resilient, flexible and innovative’.

This help desk review provides an overview of academic, policy and practitioner literature that examines scenario thinking. Whilst there exists’ a broad consensus that scenario thinking can play a useful role in developing organisational strategies, there is debate as to which scenario thinking approach is most appropriate, and how to avoid a number of common pitfalls associated with the use of scenarios. It is important to highlight that the term ‘scenarios’ has a broad application, receiving different levels of attention from various academic, policy and practitioner communities

K4D helpdesk reports provide summaries of current research, evidence and lessons learned. This report was commissioned by the UK Department for International Development.

Citation

Avis, W. (2017). Scenario thinking and usage among development actors. K4D Helpdesk Report 221. Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies

Scenario thinking and usage among development actors

Published 1 October 2017