Institut de Gestion de l'Environnement et d'Aménagement du Territoire

Scenarios as Strategizing and Learning Tools

Learning has since long been highlighted as a crucial factor of change. Facing the environmental and SD challenges, this urge for learning appears in a new light and can be linked to the current call for more reflexive governance (Voss et. Al, 2006).

Nevertheless, learning through experience can sometimes be difficult, particularly when a long time-span elapses between action and results (Bood and Postma, 1997). Precisely, the scenario approach is presented as the ad hoc tool to address wicked problems (complex, LT, multi actors, mutli- level, etc. - Swart et al, 2004) and foster learning (see among other Korte and Chermack,2007). Scenario construction process indeed mobilize important amount of information, transferring knowledge from scientists and experts towards decision makers, and allowing the users to learn about the causal links, main drivers, uncertainties, etc. Further, scenario exercises seem to facilitate challenging mental models and therefore to foster higher order learning. How does this future-oriented tool function? And in which measure is scenario construction a helpful tool for environmental and sustainable development policy-making? are the two questions we will address in this paper basing on a two years Belgian research project exploring scenarios (and transition management) as new decision-making and planning tools for sustainable development. Concretely, we will present scenario functioning as the interrelation between five main components (i.e. Future-oriented thinking; Information; System thinking; Story-like approach; Dialogue interface) and focus on describing scenario exercises as learning and strategizing tool contributing to the development of a reflexive approach of environmental and sustainable development governance. We will also briefly complement this theoretical account with a practical example from the Consentsus scenario exercise on sustainable food consumption.


Mutombo E., Bauler T., (2009), Scenarios as Learning Tools. Nordic Environmental Social Sciences conference, 9-12 June 2009, London.

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