Scenario planning is a process of strategic visioning, an analysis of alternative potential futures to help us make wise decisions in the face of uncertainty. We don't know the future, but scenario processes enable planning for the best route forward in uncertain circumstances. Scenario planning is not forecasting or predicting, but rather a strategy to preserve the best options to get to where a community wants to go. Visioning through scenario planning helps us, in the midst of change, preserve what we love while improving our communities.
What is Regional Visioning?
There isn't a "one size fits all" solution for scenario planning. Although scenario planning is especially effective in high growth areas, a handbook by the Environmental Protection Agency outlines how it can also be effective in slow-growth or no growth environments where growth in outlying areas can leave behind existing homes, neighborhoods, and underused infrastructure. Growth in many rural areas is so gradual that it is not always perceived as a concern, but, as increased development and traffic start to change a community's character, many residents may start to oppose growth. In these circumstances, scenario planning can be a helpful process to create guiding principles for these future potential conditions. These principles become a basis for scenarios. A clear set of principles developed through a broad community process and incorporated into the comprehensive plan can provide a framework for determining whether proposed developments fit with the desired community character and help achieve the community's economic, environmental, and social goals.
Scenario planning is a flexible approach that should be tailored to best address local conditions and build on other concurrent or recent planning efforts.
Scenario planning helps the public and today's decision makers understand the long-term consequences of the choices they make now. Exploring alternative future scenarios helps identify and challenge assumptions about the future, discuss trade-offs, and guides us to make the right decisions now, to make our communities better. We use scenario planning processes to ensure options and a desirable future for those who come after us.