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Our Futures process

How we get there

Futures thinking (also known as strategic foresight) is all about being better prepared to respond to future change and help create a more sustainable future for generations to come.

Scroll down to find out more about our sequential process.


First, we start by identifying the domain or topic to be explored. This might cover geographic scope, time horizon and the areas to be covered.

Our topic is the future of recreation and sport in New Zealand in 2030.

Domain Map

This is a visual representation of the boundaries and key categories to be explored and monitored. 

Systems Map

This is a visual depiction of the boundaries and key categories of the sport and recreation system and highlights the interconnections between them.  It is intended to provide a simplified conceptual understanding of our system, to help us understand the multiple interconnections that can occur.

Scanning – Signals of change and reconsidering assumptions

This is all about awareness and learning. First, we must try to understand where we came from and where we are. We then explore trends, issues, developments and events that may impact the future. They represent uncertainty – things often beyond our control that could disrupt our planning. We also examine our assumptions and mindsets, both powerful in shaping our thinking.


What is the history of recreation and sport in New Zealand? What are the key events that have led to the present?

Sport NZ has mapped the key shifts in direction and transition points that have occurred in sport and recreation in New Zealand since 2002.


Scanning explores all trends, issues, developments and events that may impact the future. This includes significant changes or trends where we can use history to assist in forecasting possible future impacts, and emerging issues or weak signals - issues that have not been influential or important in the past, or may be suggestive of a larger change, but that might be influential in the future.

Scanning helps understand what is driving change. Sport NZ has produced 12 environmental scans that explore likely drivers of change, and the possible implications of these drivers.


Assumptions are statements about what we believe to be true, shaped by our experience, education, ideology, religion and culture. We may be aware of them or not.

Making assumptions about the present and the future is natural and necessary. However, unexamined and mistaken assumptions can give a false sense of certainty, preventing a false sense of how the future may unfold. Scanning and use of other futures techniques helps us examine our assumptions more closely.

Sport NZ monitors confidence levels in the assumptions commonly made about the future of sport and recreation.

See April 2024 assumptions monitor (DOC 67KB)

Anticipating – possible and probable futures

Having scanned the environment and identified our assumptions, next we analyse what we are seeing and extrapolate the relevant trends, consider the way they may interact to create more change, and anticipate plausible, probable and possible futures – alternative futures to the future we assume will occur.


This is about exploring the consequences of the disruptions on the longer-term. Once emerging issues/disruptions have been identified, the next step is to discern possible implications.

Assumed future

The assumed future (also referred to as the baseline or business as usual future) is made by taking the current state and applying some predictable trends to arrive at a future state. This is called the baseline future because it is the expected future with no surprises. It’s a good place to start before developing more interesting alternative futures.

The Collaborative sector futures process developed this baseline future for the sport and recreation sector.

Alternative futures (Scenarios)

The future we assume will occur is unlikely to. Just think back to expectations in 2019 before the Covid-19 pandemic emerged. Multiple plausible futures could occur given the rapid changes happening across society. To avoid being surprised, it is important to explore alternative futures.

Scenarios are a common way of describing alternative futures. They are stories, based on the trends and changes that we see happening now, that are plausible enough to invite further exploration, rather than immediate dismissal. Scenarios are less about predicting what will happen, but more as an aid to help you think beyond the obvious.

The key benefit of scenarios are the conversations and questions they provoke that help us make better decisions about the future, today. They allow analysis of changes in direction, shifts in the environment, new perspectives, and enable insights which can then be used as a catalyst for strategy development and action.

An example is scenarios we developed for the future of high performance sport. The four scenarios were developed by exploring the opposites of two uncertainties playing out – the trajectory of the pandemic and the degree of global fragmentation.

Visioning – choosing a preferred future

This is about the future we aspire to achieve.

This part of the futures process involves analysing the possible and probable futures and identifying a set of actions to avoid bad outcomes and achieve good ones, based on our resources and goals.

Identifying a preferred future is a powerful anchor point to direct strategic thinking and decision-making.

The preferred future

The preferred future is typically captured as a vision. It paints a picture of an outcome that people can get excited about and strive for. A clear, desirable, ambitious but achievable vision is a powerful motivator for people and organisations.

Here you can see the preferred future which was identified by a diversity of organisations across Aotearoa. Underpinning this preferred future are five pou, markers that help to guide decisions and actions we take to move closer to this scenario.

Acting – taking steps toward preferred future

This involves identifying and responding to the implications from the alternative futures, including the preferred future. We do this by answering the following question. “If this future happens, what does it mean for us?”

The goal is to gather insights that are worth paying attention to and reflecting these in our strategy and decision-making.

This involves prioritising issues and opportunities, typically by asking:

  • How likely is the future?
  • How big an impact would the future have?
  • How unprepared are we for that future?
  • What steps can we take to create this future?

Monitoring and adapting –monitor change and adapt

Ongoing monitoring

Arriving at a preferred future provides a useful starting point and anchor for strategic thinking and decision-making. However, change is ongoing, and we need to respond and adapt to these changes.

It’s important to know what drivers of change could impact us as early as possible so we can navigate the waters to the future as best we can. Monitoring helps us to adjust our planning and strategy where we need to.

Sport NZ monitors this change, including providing a quarterly disruptor scan to capture movement in the disruptors that could impact the future of recreation and sport. 


There are many factors that can impact our future. They include trends, change drivers, weak signals and wild cards (unexpected events, like pandemics). These represent uncertainty – things beyond our control that could disrupt our planning.

These disruptors will be continuously updated and added to as our understanding of disruptions grow. Collectively, they provide a comprehensive overview of the implications from plausible, probable and possible futures.

If you require an accessible version of any content on the site please contact us and we will be happy to assist.

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