Making scenario interventions matter : exploring issues of power and rationality

Cairns, George and Wright, George (2019) Making scenario interventions matter : exploring issues of power and rationality. Futures & Foresight Science, 1 (1). e10. ISSN 2573-5152 (

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In this article, we consider prospects for long-term impact from scenario projects, specifically for sustained positive change. We outline scenario methods intended to actively engage scenario development team members who will be directly impacted by the ‘focal issue’ of the scenario exercise, in particular those who are remote and by and large excluded from the central decision making processes of the powerful. We consider possibilities for building capacity for them to envisage and enact alternative futures for themselves and their communities. However, we see a need to consider how current powerful actors might respond to the wishes and actions of less powerful stakeholders, positing that the potential for action by these less powerful groups may be disrupted by the rationality of the more powerful, where any intended action is against the latter’s interests. We argue that understanding and appreciating issues of power and rationality are central to how such participatory approaches might elicit coordinated and articulated action in response to positive scenarios. We discuss this issue by reference to contemporary interpretations of Aristotelian phronēsis, or ‘practical wisdom’. We outline steps involved in enacting an augmented scenario model that responds to this critique.