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Sustainable Future Scenarios Working Group

Sustainable Future Scenarios Working Sustainable Future Scenarios Working Group

Sustainable Future Scenarios Working Group

Project Summary

scenarios meetingUrban sustainability and resilience are increasingly important guiding visions for cities. Urban ecology can bring useful knowledge and perspectives on the future development of cities, but requires collaborative approaches to address city planning and management needs. We co-develop scenarios to explore alternative social-ecological-technological futures using three distinct methodological approaches (focused on adaptive, strategic, and transformative futures). Adaptive futures are developed in response to extreme events. Strategic futures are projected forward using existing municipal goals and targets. Transformative futures are backcasted from radically transformed visions of sustainability. This project integrates plausibility-based futures (what is most likely to happen) and desirability-based futures (what we would like to happen).

Through collaborative workshops with community, municipal, and academic stakeholders, we co-identified key priorities and strategies that decision makers are using to frame urban development and address climatic extreme events (i.e., flood, drought, and heat). We also identified systems and normative conflicts and trade-offs within the distinct future pathways. Development of these scenarios allows us to contrast diverse alternative future pathways and explore interacting strategies for urban sustainability and resilience. This project demonstrates how scenario construction can enhance research and decision-making capacity for long-range sustainability planning.

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Participant Institutions:

  • Arizona Forward
  • Arizona Interfaith Power & Light
  • Arizona State Climate Office
  • ASU representatives (Central Arizona-Phoenix-Long-Term Ecological Research, Decision Center for Desert City, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, Sustainability Cities Network, UREx Sustainability Research Network)
  • Municipalities of Goodyear, Mesa, Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe
  • Departments of Planning, Public Works, Environment and Sustainability, and Water Resources from the cities of Scottsdale, Phoenix, Mesa, Tempe, and Goodyear
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • Inter Tribal Council of Arizona
  • Keep Phoenix Beautiful
  • Maricopa Association of Governments (Department of Public Health, Department of Transportation)
  • Maricopa Flood Control District
  • Sonoran Institute
  • St. Luke’s Health Initiative
  • United States Department of Housing and Urban Development
  • University of Arizona Cooperative Extension
  • Valley Permaculture Alliance
  • Watershed Management Group

Workshop Series

We bring together a diverse group of social and environmental leaders from across the Valley to explore the unique challenges and opportunities we face in our urban desert environment. The scenario development and exploration process focuses on the collaboration of decision-makers, researchers, and practitioners as full partners. Together we develop scenarios that explore challenges and solutions to issues such as future population growth, urban development and open space, diminishing resources, increasing heat, extreme events, and the diverse conditions important to our well-being. The series of participatory scenario development workshops incorporate: causal loop and systems mapping, actor-oriented narratives, design-based exploration, land use/land change scenario development, quantitative modeling exploration (i.e. water use, water availability, regional and human-scale heat, energy, carbon storage, emissions, flood vulnerability), multi-criteria sustainability and resilience assessments, and data visualization co-production for broader engagement.

February 2014: Initial Scoping Meetings:

Two scoping meetings took place in early 2014 to:

  • Explore: What are scenarios? What are sustainability scenarios? Why should CAP-LTER be doing scenario development?
  • Identify a pool of sustainability challenges and visions for the region
  • Link problem-based & solution-oriented approaches
  • Identify high priority challenges and visions (i.e., high interconnectivity, impact, uncertainty, relevant and salient to decision-makers, and data availability)
  • Discuss stakeholder mapping and participatory setting

November 2014: Initial Pool of Scenario Components:

Begin building the participatory scenario development team, discuss processes and project objectives, and start the first participatory phase of our scenario development.

  • How to think about the future: mega-trends, status-quo trajectories, and desirable possibilities
  • Mega-trends and adaptive strategies focusing on extreme events: drought, flood, heat
  • What is transformational change?
  • Rapid prototyping a large pool of scenarios:
    • Elicitation of key variables from scenario logics (adaptive, strategic, transformative scenarios)
    • Develop systems maps and relationships
    • Sustainability and resilience appraisals
    • Craft actor-oriented narratives for each of the scenarios

March 2015: Defining the Scenarios:

Fully co-develop and contrast the first iteration of the 6 scenarios (Adaptation-drought, Adaptation-flood, Adaptation-heat, Transformative x3):

  • Establish consensus on the scenario’s transformative goals (for transformative scenarios only)
  • Co-develop main storylines and components for each scenario
  • Identify strategies (levers) and interventions needed to achieve scenario targets (projected pathways for adaptive scenarios and backcasted pathways for transformative scenarios)
  • Enhance the temporal specificity of all the scenarios (all scenario components added to timeline)

July 2015: Detailing and Visualizing the Scenarios:

Add specificity to the scenarios and reviewing the scenario components to serve as model inputs.

  • Establish consensus on the distinct features of each scenario
  • Enhance the spatial specificity of the scenarios (visualized in design-based vignettes (drawings) and spatially explicit land use land cover maps at a fine spatial resolution)
  • Enhance the social, ecological, and technological specificity of the scenarios

December 2015: Scenario Validation I and Co-designing Multi-criteria Assessments:

Quantitative exploration and assessments to further refine the scenarios.

  • Scenario review (and revisions) based on design-based vignettes, land use / land cover maps, and model outputs
  • Identify indicators to use in sustainability and resilience multi-criteria assessment of the scenarios
  • Brainstorm project outputs and dissemination products

April 2016: Scenario Validation II and Co-producing Dissemination Products:

  • Scenario review and revisions based on model outputs: review of the main trends, outcomes, and uncertainties of each scenario
  • Multi-criteria assessment in this phase will be used for a final refinement of the scenarios
  • Development of final visualizations and narratives to be used for broader engagement and as communication and decision-making tools by our partners.

May 2018: South Phoenix scenarios workshop in conjunction with the Urban Resilience to Extremes Sustainable Research Network (UREx SRN):

  • In conjunction with the Urban Resilience to Extremes Sustainable Research Network , we hosted a futures scenario workshop focused solely on the South Mountain Village that explored themes from a community perspective including heat resilience, water flows from the South Mountain to the Salt River, transportation and connectivity, equity, and green gentrification.

May 2019: Designs for a Better South Phoenix:

  • Using data from the scenarios developed the year before, we invited community stakeholders once again to prioritize among the main strategies that were identified at the workshop. Using designs developed with the Urban Design IRT, participants ranked strategies based on how desirable, practical, and transformative they were using Q-methodology.