Hawai’i’s Shared Futures By Vision Foresight Strategy

Four Scenarios of Hawai’i

Vision Foresight Strategy has a new sample set of scenarios considering how different Hawai’i’s futures could be. They use different frames of reference to set very different situations: Social, Economic, Environmental, and Political. The scenarios presented in the paper, like all good scenario analysis work, are intended to help groups explore how and why Hawai’i changes, and to consider agency (your or your organization’s role) in shaping those changes.

Thoughts: Scenario analysis work is one of the most readily recognized ‘futures studies’ tools employed to increase both foresight and common understanding about the complexity of world in which we live. ‘Scenario planning’ (something of an inaccurate title) is a particular employment of scenario analysis and was popularized by the Global Business Network in the late 1980s and 1990s and has now taken its place in the business lexicon.

Good scenario analysis work takes time and requires the participation of not only the ‘writers’, be they outside advisers or in house staff, but also of the ‘client’ group. The point to scenario analysis is really to engage decision makers and planners in a more systematic and challenging exploration of how and why the world may change. The most important results of these processes are the outcomes (new thinking, new insights, shared foresight) rather than the output (a story about the future). The futures are inherently unpredictable (see The Black Swan, below), so any method, especially one that is so commonly employed in intuitive and qualitative rather than quantitative ways, should be focused on improving critical thinking rather than enhancing predictive powers.


  • “How to Build Scenarios”: an article from Wired written by a GBN manager with four short scenarios. Be careful of the advice to focus on developing ‘robust’ strategies; the number of possible futures before you is infinite, and the exercise normally just looks at four, and in typical projects, four closely related scenarios.
  • The Black Swan: a new book by Nassim Nicholas Taleb which examines the role of change and randomness in life.
  • Limiting Urban Futures: an interesting critique of scenario analysis, with points that are valid, but also normally applicable to what we might call unsophisticated and uncritical use of scenarios in a planning process. It might also serve to caution public planners about process, transparency, and involvement.
  • Enabling the Information Society: a RAND study that employed scenarios for the future of European broadband networks.

Filed under: Built Environment, Hawai'i

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