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How Scenario Planning Affects Regional and Local Plans and Planning Practices

An Empirical Analysis

Arnab Chakraborty and Stephen Averill Sherman

June 2020, English

This project investigated how regional scenario efforts can shape regional and local plans. Through document analysis of scenario efforts and selected plans in six regions, plus key informant interviews with regional planning officials and local stakeholders in three of those regions, we identified how scenario planning efforts shaped not only plans but also planning processes.

Scenario planning is an approach to consider future outcomes of present-day decisions, especially when working with multiple uncertainties and differing stakeholder values. Scenario planning can involve significant public engagement, detailed technical analysis of regional phenomena, and sophisticated forecasting practices. Yet scenario planning’s effects can be measured in the informal and formal relationships that the scenario effort itself help build. Through close study of selected cases, we identified strategies local and regional planning professionals can use within their scenario efforts in order to help ensure that the scenario effort has discrete, measurable, and positive impacts on planning practices and development outcomes.  In this report, we discuss the significance of this study, and our methodology, and identify recommendations for regional and local agencies, and the consortium, that can help move the practice forward.

This document is intended for regional and local planners interested in scenario planning processes. It addresses both regional agencies and their local stakeholders.


Community Development, Economic Development, Inequality, Infrastructure, Local Government, Planning, Scenario Planning, Stakeholders