Building Scenarios - Envisioning the future: An exciting tool for Planners

In January 2011, the new year began with an amazing three day interaction with Philippe Vandenbroeck, from Belgium, who conducted a workshop on Building Scenarios. He introduced to us the wonderful tool in which we, as Planners, can start envisioning what our cities, our neighborhoods can be, say 20 years from now! Of course, the envisioning happens in a structured and logical manner, where we look at current existing issues, policies, political and governance frameworks to understand and evolve the possibilities of "where will we be in 2030".

The Scenario Methodology, in the past 2-3 decades, has emerged to address the growing 'uncertainty' in knowing what the future can be. It is a way to address the realities of people and people behaviors in projecting a 'future', which cannot be accurately derived from data crunching. The process is participative, where citizens become a part of the envisioning process for their own cities. Unlike the 'non people oriented, data intensive planning projections that Planners are trying to do, facing massive projection failures and hence planning failures, particularly in cities of India.

Cities of India are a breed in themselves, evolving and changing every minute. People, cultures, rituals, customs, communities, families are central to living in India. Planners not only need to understand these, but also actively involve these in generating planning solutions for cities. Urbanization is a new trend and there is a need to come up with new and newer methods, tools and techniques to understand urbanization and plan for it. And most importantly, such innovative tools and their application can enable Planners to generate 'home grown solutions' to our cities than merely looking at western models of city planning and implanting them here.

I and my students are completely taken by the Scenario Building methodology. We not only enjoyed the work (despite it eating into our weekend :-)), but it gave us a sense of accomplishment, both creatively and logically. The process is creative, where we generated people and lifestyles of families in 2030 and is logical, derived from existing data and framework.

The students actually wrote stories, telling us what will 23 year olds think and do in 2030. They drew pictures and diagrams representing 2030, they transported themselves and us to envision futures that may be possible. Of course, the trick is to create Scenarios that are plausible and not become an envisioning process for a Sci-Fi movie.

As a next step of Building Scenarios, our Goa Studio (see my previous blog post) now moves into Goa next week (February 15 to 21, 2011), where we collectively, with a class of Swedish students from Stockholm, continue to work on site.

Till my next post update, for you blog readers, if you wish to know more about Scenario Building, please look up


  1. Good to know that students are exposed to these tools at this stage. This will induce strategic thinking and help them move beyond the tactical (jugad) thinking one is more comfortable with


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