Uncertain Futures

Lincoln Institute Announce Winners of RFP Focused on Equity and Low-Growth Scenarios
By Emma Zehner, Julho 29, 2020


In the coming year, MN350, a Minnesota-based climate justice organization, will work with the city of Bemidji, nonprofit groups, residents, and three tribal nations—Leech Lake, Red Lake, and White Earth—to explore what an equitable transition away from fossil fuels could look like. The scenario planning project aims to uncover lessons applicable to other U.S. cities located in proximity to tribal nations and is one of eight projects selected for support by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy to develop new applications of scenario planning. The projects will focus on two major challenges: stagnant or declining population, and spatial inequity.

Each recipient will receive $10,000 to conduct original research and develop new methods for applying scenario planning, a practice through which communities plan for uncertainty by exploring multiple plausible futures. Completed projects will range from a working paper to case studies to a guidebook for practitioners to model decline or low-growth scenarios.

In addition to the MN350 planning initiative, the Lincoln Institute will support the following projects:

  • In Boston, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council will undertake a literature review, stakeholder engagement, and modeling exercise to create a framework for forecasting the racial makeup of particular neighborhoods, with no ‘correct’ forecast, but a range of segregation scenarios against which policies can be tested.
  • Cascadia Partners will research equitable technologies for scenario planning, with a particular focus on public engagement in a post-pandemic world.
  • Center for a New Economy will produce a working paper focused on San Juan, Puerto Rico, with new data that practitioners can use to determine the impact of disasters on socioeconomic segregation, urban decay, housing affordability, gentrification, and residential displacement. The center will share the research through workshops and webinars with practitioners and decision makers at FEMA, HUD, the Puerto Rico Department of Housing, and municipal governments.
  • Officials in Vancouver will write a case study on how they are deploying scenario planning with an equity lens and how they are altering the process to respond to the COVID-19 crisis.
  • The City of Youngstown, Ohio is using scenario planning to explore how their comprehensive plan for land use over the long-term might hold up amid various population trends in the future.
  • Arnab Chakraborty, professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Illinois, will create a toolkit for communities undertaking scenario planning in low-growth geographies.
  • Ian Varley, planning manager at City Explained, will develop case studies and a guidebook, adapting the CommunityViz software as a demonstration tool to model low-growth geographies.

The projects are supported by the Lincoln Institute’s Consortium for Scenario Planning and Legacy Cities Initiative. The Consortium aims to improve the practice of scenario planning and broaden its use across disciplines in communities of all sizes through research, peer-to-peer learning, training, and technical assistance. The Legacy Cities Initiative, a new program of the Lincoln Institute, seeks to promote sustainable and equitable revitalization of post-industrial cities by convening networks, facilitating the exchange of ideas and practices, and researching and advancing new policy approaches.

Together, these projects will help to broaden the applicability of scenario planning, an increasingly popular tool in urban planning, said Heather Sauceda Hannon, the institute’s scenario planning manager.

“Scenario planning is a mechanism for purposeful decision-making and is often used to measure impacts of transportation and land use through a variety of metrics,” said Hannon. “The social implications of decision-making and planning are often more difficult to identify and measure. However, scenario planning can be an effective framework through which planners can explore the potential impacts of decisions on historically marginalized communities. In addition, scenario planning has historically been used with high-growth projections and we want to show how it can be used for areas that have seen decline or low growth.”

The Lincoln Institute is also exploring how practitioners can make the process of scenario planning itself more equitable by, for example, undertaking activities to reach historically underrepresented populations, according to Jessie Grogan, associate director of reduced poverty and spatial inequality for the institute and leader of the institute’s Legacy Cities Initiative.



Emma Zehner is communications and publications editor at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.

Photograph creditJ. Stephen Conn/Flickr.