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Scenario Workshops

Scenario Workshops are used by the Danish Board of Technology in order to generate a plan for local action. These Workshops last two days, and include time for brainstorming, discussion, presentation, and voting. The aim of a Scenario Workshop is twofold: to form a basis for local action and to gather knowledge about how participants view future developments.

How does a Scenario Workshop work? First, a current topic is chosen, for example, how Danish urban systems should be altered so that they will satisfy the Bruntland criteria for sustainability within 20 years. Next, experts draw up a base scenario that describes the current situation in the region within which the Workshop is to be organized. At the same time these experts draw up four alternative future scenarios, each of which portrays the use of multiple technologies in structuring future life and addresses fundamental questions about who should act (citizens, government, etc.) and what they should do (adopt a high-tech strategy, adopt a low-tech strategy, etc.). Finally, Workshop participants are selected; normally a group of 25 to 30 local government officials, technical experts, business people, and knowledgeable residents attends the Workshop.

The two-day Workshops include three distinct phases. The first of these is the “criticism phase”, during which the group provides positive and negative feedback on each scenario. The task during the “criticism phase” is not to choose between the scenarios; rather, the group uses the scenarios to generate new visions about the future, often combining elements from the different scenarios to generate these visions. The group’s ideas are articulated during the second phase of the Scenario Workshop, the “vision phase”. The final phase of the Scenario Workshop is the “realization phase”, during which the group devises a plan by which their visions might be realized. As they formulate this plan, the group identifies any barriers standing in the way of the plan’s enactment and develops strategies for overcoming these barriers.

The Scenario Workshop model is being adapted for the United States by the Loka Institute. The Loka Institute is a non-profit research and advocacy organization that focuses on the social, political, and environmental repercussions of science and technology. Loka Institute founder Richard Sclove believes that Scenario Workshops provide an opportunity to assess the effect of technological choices and changes on democratic processes. Although we now use democratic procedures in making decisions about technologies, these procedures “omit the equally important question of whether technologies are substantively democratic – that is, whether a technology’s design and use is compatible with perpetuating democratic social relations”. Sclove hopes that an adapted version of Denmark’s Scenario Workshops would give citizen participants the ability to select and refine multiple democratic criteria for use in evaluating the combined effects of multiple technologies.

Contact Group: Loka Institute

Address: P.O. Box 355
Amherst, MA 01004-0355

Phone: 413-559-5860

Fax: 413-559-5811

Email: loka@loka.org

Web site: www.loka.org/idt/intro.htm, www.tekno.dk

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