Skills for Impact - Scenario Planning: Context and Application

Course Description: 

Skills for Impact Program, Elective module, MPA Year 1 and Year 2 Students

Russia’s annexation of the Crimea, the global financial crisis, Brexit, the Ebola epidemic, the election of Donald Trump among others, all caught experts and policy makers by surprise. It points to the fact that public policy is often ill equipped to better anticipate the future in times of growing complexity and uncertainty.

Scenario planning is one tool that allows policymakers and stakeholders alike to better anticipate and impact the future and consider the long-term implications of policy actions. Instead of trying to predict only one most likely or desired policy path policy practitioners, using scenario planning, seek to construct multiple histories of the future. Scenario planning can help to explore strategic reform options from the perspective of alternative futures in order to integrate potential threats and opportunities at an early stage to proactively shape the future.

The goal of this SFI module is to provide a very first introduction to the technique of scenario planning. The module is split into three parts: part 1 briefly explores our own mental and psychological barriers to, and possible catalysts for, thinking in a “scenario mode”. Part 2 provides a brief introduction to scenario planning theory and concepts. Part 3 is dedicated to a practical exercise that allows student teams to develop a scenario in a policy domain of their choice.

Learning Outcomes: 

By the end of this SFI module students should

  • Have developed a deeper understanding of the uncertainties and complexities that public policy encounters
  • Appreciate the purpose and rationale of scenario planning
  • Are acquainted with some of the basic tools and methods of scenario planning
  • Have built a scenario in a team setting
  • Class participation
  • Quiz
  • Building a Scenario