Tutorial 2: Building Scenarios
-- a university of arizona course on methods and approaches for studying the future

Scenarios are a way of developing alternative futures based on different combinations of assumptions, facts and trends, and area where more understanding is needed for your particular scenario project. They are called "scenarios" because they are like "scenes" in the theater - a series of differing views or presentations of the same general topic. Once you see several scenarios at the same time, you better understand your options or possibilities.

The number of scenarios should generally be kept small but not too small - four is my preferred number. If you have two, it suggests either or choice. Three suggests good, bad, and preferred. If you have 10 is to many to keep straight. Four is a good number because it gives enough diversity and avoids the problem of having two few. The length may vary, but a page or so is not bad - too short and there is too little content, too long and you get tired reading and trying to find the main point.

A very good set of scenarios might leave the reader wondering which is more likely or probably. That forces the reader to think more, and that is the whole point of a scenario - to learn more about alternative futures, so you can make better choices today. Of course, scenarios like this are difficult to build and the situation under study may not permit this cleaver approach. Finally, think up some cleaver names for your scenarios - so they have some style. Make your scenarios to educate, not to try an find the preferred future. A good set of scenarios would make it difficult for the reader to decide which is more likely or preferred.

Review the "building blocks" of scenarios
Paradigms, driving forces, wildcards and uncertainties
Putting the building blocks all together
Using the building blocks, generate your scenarios and make the report
Specific scenario building information
Frequently Asked Questions
Steps in the Art of the Long View (a short summary of GBN method)
Bibliography (from GBN)
Examples and approaches of scenario builders.
Further Reading
• Futures Research Quarterly, Summer 2001, 17 (2). Issue devoted to scenario building. Available from World Future Society
Finland Futures Research Centre - Seminar Papers on Scenario Building (pdf)
Go to Scenarios Main Page for examples

Return to "Anticipating the Future" course home page
Prepared by Roger L. Caldwell