The highest level(s) of influence this method typically matches with on the IAP2 public participation spectrum is…


To provide the public with balanced and objective information.


To obtain public feedback on analysis, alternatives and/or decisions.


To work directly with the public throughout the process.


To partner with the public in each aspect of the decision.


To place final decision making in the hands of the public.

Main Focus
Collect and compile input
1 - 2 Days
Moderate (3 - 4) staff members
Low cost (under 10k)
Medium scale (25 - 75)

Futures thinking describes a package of mini methods that can support long term strategic thinking. Futures thinking can help groups gather intelligence about the future, identify gaps, explore dynamic and complex systems, describe ideal future states and test approaches to policy and strategy.

What you'll need

Virtual Delivery

  • Video conferencing software
  • Data capture software – for recording futures thinking inputs
  • Facilitator
  • Runsheet

In-person Delivery

  • Appropriate and accessible venue for interactive session
  • Extensive kit of workshop materials (paper, pens, templates, maps, posters stimulus materials etc)
  • Facilitator
  • Runsheet
  • Visioning props and stimulus materials (if using)

How to guide

Futures thinking is a creative and exploratory process that uses divergent thinking, seeking many possible answers and acknowledging uncertainty. There are a range of possible futures and the future can be actively shaped by the decisions we take today. (NZ DMPC 2021)

Below you will find descriptions of several mini methods that can be applied as part of your futures orientated facilitation toolkit.

Gathering data about the future

Horizon scanning is a method that seeks to understand issues of the future as they may become more relevant than what policy is focusing on today. The aim is to adapt policy in response to identified future needs.

Driver mapping  is a method to Identify and chart drivers for change are fundamental to all futures focused work. Driver categories include political, economic, societal, technological, legislative, or environmental factors, otherwise known as PESTLE. Participants work together to brainstorm responses to each category.

7 Questions is a 60min interview technique for gathering the strategic insights of a range of internal and external stakeholders to identify conflicting or challenging views of the future, to look for policy concerns, prepare participants for a collective futures conversation. Questions include:

  1. What is the critical issue for the future of your domain?
  2. What might a possible, desirable future look like?
  3. What would you worry about if things went wrong?
  4. What would need to be changed to achieve the desired future?
  5. What historical reasons led to the way things are?
  6. What are the most important things that need to be achieved in the short term?
  7. What you would do in a perfect world, with no constraints?

Ideal future states

Scenario mapping is a 2-3 hour process that asks groups to create possible future scenarios from different and variable conditions and look at how policy could respond. Groups are asked to explore how different stakeholders might respond under different conditions.

Swot analysis is a short 60 min exercise, aimed to explore the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to different ideas for the future.

Backcasting helps groups explore the sequence of steps required to work backwards from the desired future state. Internal and external factors are also considered and how they may affect the timelines.

See also visioning and future search.