By Anna Maria Orru and David Relan
A scenario narrative is a snapshot of a possible future. The evolution of a scenario depends on whether its protagonists favour a short or a long term perspective. We think of the short-term perspective as “passive,” because it adopts the attitude of “business as usual.” The long-term perspective is “active,” as it “cooks” short-term goals in long-term visioning.
An actively constructed future strives towards equilibrium, where consideration of the past and planning for the future provide a balancing effect on the present. It is about actively taking responsibility and fostering diversity. An active future incorporates a kaleidoscope of solutions, visions and participants. For example, considering current environmental and social conditions, this could mean a gradual shift to renewables, sound food security measures, meeting the basic needs globally for all people, etc.
A passive future is based on denial. The “business as usual” approach does not create long-term goals or fertile conditions for future generations, but focuses on short-term, quick returns. Implementation of systemic changes remains on the back-burner, while past and present activities continue as they have in the past, without regard for changing conditions. This is the case in some political and corporate systems today: the short-term benefits are positive, but the long term consequences include depleting resources, increasing poverty gaps and rendering runaway climate change a continuous threat. Think of organisations setting “sustainability” targets to a distant 2030 or 2050, but planning strategies for only one to five years. A passive future is about thinking only of the present and immediate future, leading to inaction when it comes to long-term planning.
FIGURE 6 – Two Types of Futures