Scenario Testing

Description: Scenarios develop future-based alternatives based on a selection of combinations of assumptions, facts and trends. They are called 'scenarios' because they are like 'scenes' in a play: a series of differing views or perspectives of the same general topic. When participants see several scenarios at the same time, they better understand the next steps or possibilities.

This can be used to showcase a product, plan or policy; engage community; discover community issues; develop community capacity; develop an action plan.

Objective/s: Scenario testing is a way to test alternative (hypothetical) futures so as to make better choices today. This technique avoids having to model complex situations; allows the facilitator to alter combinations and play 'what if'' games (i.e. change the assumption and see what happens); and also provides participants with enhanced understanding of potential outcomes arising from particular actions. For example, primarily positive trends identified in relation to the scenarios would suggest a positive future outcome.


  1. Invite participants who have knowledge of, or are affected by, the proposal or issue of interest

  2. Ask participants to identify the underlying paradigms or unwritten laws of change; i.e. particular trends or driving forces, and assign categories: economic, socio/political, etcetera); and also wildcards or uncertainties

  3. Consider how these factors might affect a situation, either singly or in combination, using these steps:

    1. review the big picture

    2. review general approaches to future studies

    3. identify what you know and what you don't know

    4. select possible paradigm shifts and use them as an overall guide

    5. cluster trends and see which driving forces are most relevant to your scenario

  4. Create alternative scenarios (similar to alternate scenes in a play) by mixing 'wildcards' with trends and driving forces; keep the number of scenarios small (four is ideal because it avoids an 'either/or' choice

  5. Write a brief report that includes all assumptions and the future framework generated by the scenarios created by participants and also provides observations and conclusions, gives a range of possibilities and focuses on the next steps coming out of the assessment. Each scenario should be about one page.

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