What is Transformative Scenario Planning?

Submitted by Nicholas Reay | published 18th May 2017 | last updated 27th Jun 2017
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To achieve impact in different levels of society, and across four regions, ASSAR engages with a wide spectrum of stakeholders from communities, the private sector, civil society organisations, research institutions, governments and non-governmental organisations through Transformative Scenario Planning (TSP).

TSP is an approach that brings concerned stakeholders from different, often conflicting, perspectives together. People work discuss pressing sets of problems to build stories that illustrate a range of potential futures that could come from taking different paths. By doing this, the people involved  learn more about their present situation, and what dynamics in a specific situation are serving to help or hinder progress toward a more equitably and climate resilient future.

By guiding these stakeholders through participatory scenario planning processes, ASSAR helps to build a common understanding of current adaptation needs and past adaptation failings. ASSAR works in collaboration with REOS Partners to promote the co-production of adaptation responses that can yield appropriate, tangible and lasting benefits.

If you need to quickly explain what TSP is about, you might find this brief introduction helpful - download the full brief from the right-hand column.

More detailed resources on the TSP Method can be found under the Further Resources section below.

The TSP Method

Sometimes social systems get stuck. There is not enough agreement among leading actors about what is happening or what could or should happen, for the system to be able to move forward. Confusion and conflict impede progress and create the risk of regress. In such contexts, transformative scenario planning can be useful.

This process enables politicians, civil servants, activists, businesspeople, trade unionists, academics, and leaders of other stakeholder groups to work together to construct a shared understanding of what is happening and what could happen in their system, and then to act on the basis of this understanding.² The focus of transformative scenario planning is the development, dissemination and use of a set of two, three or four scenarios (structured narratives or stories) about what is possible. These scenarios provide a shared framework and language for strategic conversations within and across stakeholder groups about the situation they are part of and what actions they can, must, and will take to address it. Transformative scenario planning thereby offers a way for social systems to get unstuck and to move forward.¹

How TSP Works?

In a transformative scenario planning process, actors transform their problematic situation through transforming themselves. The aim is to assist participants to see the system, and their roles in it, from different angles. The process increases trust between participants and allows more empathy to work more efficiently in a team.

  • Transforming Understanding: The scenario team transform their understandings by seeing the current system, and their role in the current system, with fresh eyes and a shared perspective.
  • Transforming Relationships: The scenario team transform their relationships with one another by working together as a cross-system team. Team work builds trust, empathy and an ability to work together.
  • Transforming Language: Through the scenario process, the scenario team develops a common, shared language. The stories each convey key messages which are expressed by certain words and phrases that the scenario team need to create.
  • Transforming Intention: By transforming their understanding and relationships, the scenario team see what they as individuals and potentially as a team can and must be done to tackle the problematic circumstances of the present.
  • Transforming Actions: Based on the transformation of understandings, language, relationships and intentions, scenario team members transform their actions and thereby, transform their situation.

Further resources


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