Toolbox

Forecasting with hindsight: Backcasting

There are a number of different gurus that tell us to live in the present – this technique reframes our present against a desired future.  It involves setting a vision for a shared, preferred future state, considering current state and determining ways to move forward. It is differentiated from planning exercises that focus on the ‘next step’ as opposed to the step in the preferred direction. For this reason it is well suited to introducing radical change and creative approaches.

Key activities: Agree future vision.  Explore current state.  Determine paths towards desired state. Create agreed plan.

Useful for:  It is useful as a technique to expand thinking beyond the current issues and existing solutions.  It has a power in uniting diverse interest groups towards an agreed outcome. It allows for a scenario-based exploration of what the future could hold which supports active participation from multiple stakeholders and risk management. It is particularly useful in circumstances where the future is unpredictable and subject to multiple influences.

Examples:  Used by Amory Lovins in the development of his “Soft path” approach to energy management. http://www.rmi.org/rmi/Library%2FE77-01_EnergyStrategyRoadNotTaken

More information: http://www.naturalstep.org/backcasting or http://www.slideshare.net/mmilan/backcasting-ia-summit-2007-session-presentation

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