Framing Community Issues With Scenarios

Conducting values research helps to understand what your community really wants; the next step is to frame your community's issues with scenarios that explore options for how your region can provide those things.

Answering the basic question, "What does my community need, or what am I afraid my community will lose in the decades ahead?" is part of setting up a successful scenarios planning process.


It helps to think of this question in terms of IF/THEN statements: IF a community does X, THEN Y occurs. IF community does not do X, THEN Z happens. Like values laddering, IF/THEN statements are also thought of in terms of positives and negatives.

Understanding key issues as well as their relationship to community values helps communities have productive conversations and explore the right questions to include in a scenarios planning process.

Lets look at a few examples of using IF/THEN statements to frame issues

wastach-if-thenThe proximity of the Wasatch Mountains to the Salt Lake Valley can be seen in the image below. The Wasatch Mountains are a natural amenity that has made life in this arid mountain valley possible by providing water year round, timber, and other critical resources. More recently the recreational opportunities afforded by the Wasatch Range have become a major economic driver in the region. In a recent planning effort, the management of the Wasatch Range was framed with the following IF/THEN statement:

IF/THEN statements not only identify core issues, but they also identify why these issues matter and can be tied to a community's values. The issues in the first example relate to values for economic security, time for family and personal growth, and health.

  • IF our population doubles and we protect our watershed, THEN we enhance our recreational opportunities and preserve our drinking water.
  • IF we don’t protect our watershed THEN we compromise our drinking water and love our canyons to death.

cache-if-thenEnvision Cache Valley is a two county regional visioning effort that was facilitated by Envision Utah in the Northern part of the state of Utah along the border with Idaho. This valley is growing rapidly and the communities are concerned with the impacts of development on quality of life. Their issue was framed with this IF/THEN statement

  • If we double our population and don’t change our growth pattern THEN we will lose the character and quality of life we enjoy in our valley.
  • IF we double our population and change our growth pattern THEN we will preserve our character and quality of life in Cache Valley.

Another example from Blueprint Jordan River


  • IF we restore and revitalize the Jordan River, THEN we create a vibrant corridor that links the Salt Lake Valley.
  • IF we do not restore the river, THEN we lose a connection to the natural world and the corresponding environmental and recreational benefits.