Opening access to scenario planning tools

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Lincoln Institute of Land Policy


In the face of increasing complexity and uncertainty, planners, public officials, and community residents need new tools to anticipate and shape the future. Opening Access to Scenario Planning Tools examines the current state of scenario planning and scenario planning tools that can help communities and regions prepare for that future through a variety of visioning, land use, transportation, and other planning efforts. A unique opportunity presents itself to use the best and latest technology to help citizens visualize the future of their cities and regions, so that they might chart a course for sustainable growth. Decisions about the future are often controversial due to competing economic interests, different cultural values, and divergent views about property rights and the role of government. Broader and more effective civic engagement is needed to ensure community support for decisions about development and other land-related policies, and public investments. The traditional predict-and-plan paradigm is inadequate to address all of these challenges. The authors identify a clear need to develop and implement planning tools and processes that foster anticipation and adaptation. Three concepts will be critical to the scenario planning and tool-building process: collaboration, capacity building, and creation of an open environment for engagement. Collaborative problem solving facilitates resolution of interrelated issues that cannot be resolved by one organization alone. Capacity building is needed to enable individuals and organizations to apply scenario planning methods and tools effectively to their specific planning concerns. An open environment for information sharing and education will help accelerate the use and improvement of scenario planning tools in multiple settings. The emergence of new and improved scenario planning tools over the last 10 years offers promise that the use of scenario planning can increase and that the goal of providing open access to the full potential of scenario planning tools is within reach. This report recommends seven immediate actions that could be implemented quickly to facilitate this goal.