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Guide to applying scenarios

Guide to applying scenarios

This page provides guidance to assist you to apply scenarios with your own organisation.

Why you should use it

To explore how multiple drivers of change can come together to shape the different futures and what this means for your strategy and decision making.

To help stakeholders envisage and engage with multiple futures, providing a way to move from theoretical to more realistic assessments of strategy impact.

To identify a preferred scenario/s that can be used as a desired future/s that the strategy can work towards achieving.

What it involves

You have the option of creating your own scenarios or using existing scenarios.

Creating Your Own Scenarios

There are a wide range of different ways to develop scenarios, depending on what you are wanting to achieve.

Generally, scenario planning involves defining the question you want to consider, identifying and analysing the drivers of change, constructing scenario frameworks based on different assumptions about the drivers of change, and developing the story lines for each scenario.

Good scenarios cover multiple futures not just one future, are plausible and non-linear, are provocative and explore assumptions, are concise and clear, and create an immersive experience.

When considering what type of future is emerging it is important to think broadly about what is shaping that landscape. These ideas can be organised as arenas or domains, with many developments occurring in each. Some arenas and developments you will be familiar with, others you will need to learn more about. Consider how developments within each arena may support or hinder a particular future, and what other challenges and opportunities they present.

A simple scenario template to follow is

  1. Scenario title
  2. Headline – concise summary of this future
  3. Setting - where and when does the scenario take place?
  4. Driving forces - what are the key developments and events shaping this future?
  5. Priorities – what are priorities and opportunities for sport and recreation?
  6. Responses – what is implemented to address the priorities, and who is involved?
  7. Unintended consequences – what unintended consequences result, and what conflicts are left unresolved

Once the scenarios are developed, they can be applied to test the robustness of existing strategy, provide a context for new strategy or policy development or identify uncertainties that need to be monitored.

Four box method

Four basic scenarios can be generated reasonably rapidly by choosing two critical uncertainties that will be most impactful to plans and combining them in a matrix. The result is a description of four operating contexts that may plausibly be encountered through the pursuit of the plan and against which it may need to adjust.

Using Existing Scenarios

As well as generating your own scenarios, you can use scenarios developed by someone else to explore possible futures and apply it to your policy. (See the reports section for examples of scenarios)

What you will get out of it

Helps challenge the status quo and discuss questions that may otherwise be uncomfortable to discuss.

Helps create a shared understanding of opportunities and threats in different futures and how best to prepare and respond.

Ideal circumstances for use

You need to first identify the drivers of change to inform the development of your scenarios.

Scenarios are best applied through a group process to achieve organisational and system learning.

There is senior stakeholder demand for the scenarios and appetite (and concrete planning) to use the scenarios once they are developed.


It's difficult and time consuming to draw up credible and useful scenarios – they should draw on a wide range of robust data and diverse perspectives, be developed iteratively and tested rigorously.

Scenarios can be mistaken for predictions or forecasts of the future.

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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