Future workshop (Scenario building)

Future workshop can be conceptualised as storytelling which is based on the analysis and understanding of current and historic trends and events. It includes a consistent description of possible future situations (visions, rather than desired future states). The development of sets of narrative scenarios helps to identify possible pathways towards a vision of the future. The workshop unfolds in three stages: critique, visioning, and implementation.

Basic Information on the Method
Mode of communication
Group size
1-5, 6-30
Geographical scale
Public space, Neighbourhood, City
Skills required
Average, Advanced
Resources needed
Low, Medium
Level of Involvement
Level of involvement
Involve, Collaborate
Type of knowledge enabled
Divergence (Small groups)
Additional Criteria
Planning phase
Planning & Design
Methodological approach

How to use the method

  1. Decide on the topic of the workshop and prospective participants. Future workshop is a creative process, which urges for a dialogue between team members. Therefore, the optimum number of team members is 5. If you have more participants, consider running pultiple parallell sessions.
  2. Decide on the time and venue. Depending on the complexity of the issue in focus and the quality of the expected outcomes, the workshop may take from a couple of hours to one full day. The location should have a flexible table/chair setup, allowing to group chairs around medium-sized, preferably, round tables. Secure the refreshments and a skilled moderator.
  3. The workshop opens with an introduction about the issue in focus. Find one or several speakers, who could inspire participants with short presentations.
  4. The workshop unfolds in thee consecutive phases:
    • Critique phase, which involves a detailed analysis of the current situation producing a holistic and critical understanding of the ongoing trends.
    • Visioning (or fantasy) phase, in which visions and scenarios are build upon the issues raised in the first phase.
    • Implementation phase, where the visiens undergo a “reality check” and turned into action plans: who does what, where, when and how?
  5. The workshop ends with teams presnenting and discussion the results of their work.

What are the outcomes

Diverse (and divergent) scenarios (visions) about the probable futures.

Skills required

Skills required from participants - Average, Advanced

  • Requires general knowledge on the subject, as well as good critical thinking and team work skills
  • The more competent and creative are the participants the more interesting and surprising future visions they may produce

Resources needed

Resources - Low, Medium

  • Depending on the duration and the number of participant the resources may vary from low to medium
  • Expenses related to the venue, refreshments, moderators, materials (paper, coloured pens, sticky notes, etc.)
  • From one to thee months planning

Strengths and weaknesses

  • May aid participants in overcoming the bias in relation to specific technology and encourage them to hypothesise about the furure development paths and applications of the technology
  • May be used to explore polar or opposite trends and their potential consequences
  • Helps to shape the understanding of possible threats and opportunities
  • Depends on the group dynamics, in other words, may be dominated by the vociferous individuals
  • May produce trivial and boring visions
  • Produces probable future visions, rather than desired futures states

Use cases

Estonian human development report 2019/2020: Estonian living environment in 2050

Four scenarios were developed to illustrate a range of possible futures: (1) Estonia voluntary forced into cities, (2) one-hour Estonia, (3) Estonia of rogues and rascals and (4) self-sufficient Estonia. Exploratory scenarios differ from other types of scenarios (forecasts and normative scenarios) in that they focus on the combined effects of different variables and do not specify a specific objective that must be achieved in all scenarios. The role of exploratory scenarios is to illustrate the possible extremes of each axes (1) rural life - urban life and (2) invividual space - shared space, which need not materialise. More information available here: https://inimareng.ee/en/estonia-2050-scenarios.html.

Try one of these tools & resources

  1. Grišakov K. & Kaevats M. (2020) Estonia 2050 scenarios. Estonian human development report 2019/2020. Available at:https://inimareng.ee/en/estonia-2050-scenarios.html.
  2. Engage2020 (2015) Action Catalogue. Future workshop. Available at: http://actioncatalogue.eu/method/7391.
  3. Participedia (n.d.) Future workshop. Available at: https://participedia.net/method/4796.
  4. Widler S. (2020) Sustainable Sanitation and Water Management Toolbox. Scenario building. Available at: https://sswm.info/planning-and-programming/decision-making/situation-and-problem-analysis/scenario-building.