Developing Transformative Scenarios

Tools and Methods

Transformative Scenario Process is one of Reos Partners’ tried and tested methodologies, wherein diverse actors are able to see the different futures

Author Karen Goldberg is a Senior Consultant at Reos Partners, in South Africa.

that are possible and discover what they can and must do. We have developed a rigorous, creative and disciplined process for building these multiple stories of what might happen in the future, encapsulated in Adam Kahane’s book, Transformative Scenario Planning: Working Together to Change the Future. The book both outlines what preconditions must exist to consider a transformative scenario, as well as the five steps involved in the process.

Necessary questions

At the end of 2013, Reos Partners was approached by the Director of the African Climate and Development Initiative (ACDI) to join a research consortium focusing on adaptation to climate change in semi-arid regions. The idea was to adapt and apply the Transformative Scenario Process (TSP) in a regional context as a means of bringing researchers and the broader stakeholder community closer together.

The resulting research consortium was called Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions (ASSAR). ASSAR’s overarching research objective was to use insights from multiple-scale, interdisciplinary work to improve the understanding of the barriers, enablers, and limits to effective, sustained, and widespread adaptation to climate change out into the 2030s. Working in a coordinated manner across seven countries in India ASSAR’s research focused on integrating potential climatic, environmental, social, and economic change. The shifting dynamics of gender roles and relations formed a particularly strong theme throughout the project.
Central to our work in ASSAR were two questions, namely:

  • Can TSP, or a version of the methodology, be used to help build the capacity of local and regional actors living in semi-arid regions to adapt to a changing climate?
  • Can an adapted TSP still be relevant and useful, even if not all key actors agree that there is a problematic situation that cannot be solved unilaterally, and in the context of significant resource constraints?

Over the course of the project, Reos Partners guided, supported, and directly facilitated adapted scenario processes in Botswana (Bobirwa District), Ghana (Upper West), India (Bangalore) and Namibia (Omusati Region) and provided coaching support and guidance to a further two teams; one in Mali (Koutiala District) and the other in India (Jalna District, Maharashtra) who facilitated the entire TSP in the local language. The process required an openness and commitment by all parties to experimentation and adaptability to adjust to the needs, context, and constraints of each region.

Staying in and working things out in relationship with our partners, whether it was the consortium lead or the regional host or partner institutions tasked with facilitating TSP in the regions was crucial to finding our way forward together. Foundational to the success of the process was the good will, appreciation and trust between ACDI and Reos Partners, a mutual desire to explore opportunities for working together, and the agility to provide something useful to the ASSAR team with time and resource constraints. This mutual respect and trust created the foundation and container for the work that was undertaken in the regions.

The path forward

Initial indications reveal that the process worked to shift participants’ thinking and perspectives, strengthening existing relationships, developing new (and sometimes surprising) relationships, building new problem solving and interpersonal capacities, and catalyzing new commitments and actions. Whether these translate into better capacity to adapt to the future remains to be seen. An impact review of the project is scheduled for the first part of this year, which should be available by early March 2019.

This post was originally published as a Reos Partners blog.

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