Using Scenario Visioning and Participatory System Dynamics Modeling to Investigate the Future: Lessons from Minnesota 2050

TitleUsing Scenario Visioning and Participatory System Dynamics Modeling to Investigate the Future: Lessons from Minnesota 2050
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsOlabisi, Laura K. Schmitt, Kapuscinski Anne R., Johnson Kris A., Reich Peter B., Stenquist Brian, and Draeger Kathryn J.
JournalSustainability
Volume2
Pagination2686 - 2706
Date Published8/2010
Keywordsenergy, multiple futures, participatory modeling, scenarios, water
Abstract

Both scenario visioning and participatory system dynamics modeling emphasize the dynamic and uncontrollable nature of complex socio-ecological systems, and the significance of multiple feedback mechanisms. These two methodologies complement one another, but are rarely used together. We partnered with regional organizations in Minnesota to design a future visioning process that incorporated both scenarios and participatory system dynamics modeling. The three purposes of this exercise were: first, to assist regional leaders in making strategic decisions that would make their communities sustainable; second, to identify research gaps that could impede the ability of regional and state groups to plan for the future; and finally, to introduce more systems thinking into planning and policy-making around environmental issues. We found that scenarios and modeling complemented one another, and that both techniques allowed regional groups to focus on the sustainability of fundamental support systems (energy, food, and water supply). The process introduced some creative tensions between imaginative scenario visioning and quantitative system dynamics modeling, and between creating desired futures (a strong cultural norm) and inhabiting the future (a premise of the Minnesota 2050 exercise). We suggest that these tensions can stimulate more agile, strategic thinking about the future.