Scenarios: A social learning case by Joost Vervoort
Scenarios: a social learning case
Joost Vervoort, Scenarios Officer, CGIAR programme on Climate Change, Agriculture
and Food Security, Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford
Inclusive social learning in policy
• Need to engage with and learn with uncertainty
• Need for inclusive decision-making processes
• Decision-making to be linked across levels and
• Knowledge: multiple perspectives to help tackle
• Legitimacy: the voices of vulnerable, less
powerful to be heard
• Action: those who can make change to learn
• Scenarios are multiple
• What-if stories about the
future, to be told in words,
• Scenarios explore crucial
future uncertainties – context!
• Not predictions - complex
Scenarios as a social learning tool
“Survey and interview data indicate that (..) participatory scenario
workshops built and strengthened relationships, enhanced
participants' understanding of other perspectives, and triggered
Johnson et al. 2012
CCAFS scenarios program
• Combined socio-economic and climate scenarios developed for six
global regions: East and West Africa, South and Southeast Asia, Andes
and Central America
• Stakeholder-driven; quantified through agricultural economic models;
linked to IPCC community’s Shared Socio-economic Pathways
• With 240 partner organisations including (and supported by) FAO,
UNEP WCMC, Oxfam, regional economic bodies, regional and national
• Goal: scenarios help decision-makers develop better national and
regional policies, investments and institutional structures, supported
by key global and regional actors
Chaudhury et al. 2013, Vervoort et al. 2014
Social learning in the scenarios program
• The scenarios include diverse actors, are based on their
collective inputs; new groups of people review, criticize and
adapt the scenarios
• Learning by using and experimenting
• Participants report broader systemic understanding, sharing
of perspectives, ability to explore future uncertainties and
• Are we doing things right? (testing plans)
• Are we doing the right things? (exploring options, priorities)
• What is the right thing to do? (new roles, networks,
institutions) Wilkinson and Eidinow, 2008
The scenarios program as social learning
• From two-factor to multi-factor approach
• From developing scenarios to using scenarios
• From single intervention to diverse demand-
driven impact pathways (81 globally)
• From centrally organized to growing regional
• Responding to a need expressed by regional and
national actors to develop internal strategic
capacity (ECOWAS, Cambodia, Pakistan, Peru,
• Learning across regions
• More emphasis on social learning
• Vervoort, J. M., ., P. Thornton, P. Kristjanson, W. Förch, P. J. Ericksen, K. Kok, J. S. I. Ingram, M.
Herrero, A. Palazzo, A. E. S. Helfgott, A. Wilkinson, P. Havlík, ., D. Mason-D'Croz, and C. Jost. accepted.
Challenges to scenario-guided adaptive action on food security under climate change. Global
• Chaudhury, M., J. Vervoort, P. Kristjanson, P. Ericksen, and A. Ainslie. 2013. Participatory scenarios as
a tool to link science and policy on food security under climate change in East Africa. Regional
Environmental Change 13:389-398.
• Kristjanson, P., B. Harvey, M. Van Epp, and P. K. Thornton. 2014. Social learning and sustainable
development. Nature Climate Change 4:5-7.
• Johnson, K. A., G. Dana, N. R. Jordan, K. J. Draeger, A. Kapuscinski, L. K. Schmitt Olabisi, and P. B. Reich.
2012. Using participatory scenarios to stimulate social learning for collaborative sustainable
development. Ecology and Society 17.
• Wilkinson, A., and E. Eidinow. 2008. Evolving practices in environmental scenarios: A new scenario
typology. Environmental Research Letters 3:045017.
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