Backcasting provides opportunity for a group to analyze alternative futures, with particular regard to how the most desirable end point/s can be attained. Working backward from a desired future end point to the present, participants can determine the feasibility of a particular future and the policy measures - from this present forward - required to attain that end point, usually 25 to 50 years in the future. While similar to Visioning, Backcasts are not intended to reveal what the future will be, but rather to assess a number of possible futures, determine implications and preferable options, then plan necessary steps.
The process can also provide indication of the relative feasibility and implications of different policy goals and planning strategies. Backcasting is based on criteria of social or environmental desirability, but will provide no estimate of likelihood, nor does it seek to discover underlying structural features of the world that would cause a particular future to occur.
Process: To undertake a Backcasting analysis:
- Define future goals and objectives, projecting 25 - 50 years into the future
- Specify the scenario by analyzing the technological and physical characteristics of a path that would lead towards the specified goals
- Evaluate the scenario in terms of physical, technological and socioeconomic feasibility, policy implications
- Brainstorm ways this desired endpoint can be achieved, working backwards to the present