Exploring the potential of combining participative backcasting and exploratory scenarios for robust strategies: Insights from the Dutch forest sector

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Literature critiques current predictive scenario approaches applied in the forest sector. Backcasting -a means to create normative scenarios- seems promising, but sparsely used. Combining backcasting with exploratory scenarios (combined scenario approach) seems appropriate to address these critiques. We performed such an exercise with the participation of Dutch forest sector stakeholders. A one-day was successfully executed, in terms of process, results, and participant satisfaction. A robust strategy was formulated, consisting of cross-scenario actions related to marketing, public opinion, and education. Novel methodological elements were included, related to the desired end-point, visually represented by ecosystem services ladders. Although the method requires the capacity to prepare, use and learn from scenarios, which is not easily attained, the main added value lies in the 'soft' results. It fits in with the government's shifted focus towards policy approaches that include social engagement, effectiveness and social support. It provides structured accounts of informed decisions towards ownership, transparency, legitimacy and accountability, and thus aids in grasping increasing complexity and uncertainty. We recommend continued testing the usefulness of the combined scenario approach (and thus tapping in to the diversity of participative methods offered by future studies), carefully choosing the duration of the workshops, applying broad stakeholder involvement, and continuing the use of ecosystem services ladders.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-282
JournalForest Policy and Economics
Issue number2
Early online date2017
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017



  • Exploratory and normative scenarios
  • Indeterminism
  • Policy-making
  • Stakeholder participation
  • The Netherlands
  • Uncertainty

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