Scenarios for transition management: Micro-level analysis of an attempt to include ethics in a scenario model

Anna Leinonen, Corinna Casi

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference abstract in proceedingsScientific


Tackling sustainability issues in socio-technical systems calls for a multi-stakeholder coordinated change and systemic solutions. Transition management (TM) has been proposed as a governance approach for promoting sustainability transitions (Rotmans et al. 2001; Kemp et al. 2007; Rotmans&Loorbach 2009). Important elements of transition management are long-term thinking, systemic approaches, focus on learning and open-endedness in terms of means and solutions. Thus, scenarios have been proposed to be a well-functioning tool for TM due to their future-oriented, participatory, and systemic characteristics (Wiek et al. 2006).
Scenario creation is often conceptualized as a multiphase process, where scenarios emerge through the application of methodological approaches varying from collective intuitive imagination to mathematical formality. One theme that previous studies have overlooked is the high degree of social determination and flexibility of knowledge creation, which is inherent in scenario processes. These characteristics may conceal some ethical aspects, which are critical for produced knowledge and its use in the context of TM. In this paper, we examine a scenario process applying a formal morphological analysis method (Richey 2011), in a multidisciplinary research project aiming at knowledge creation for TM. We use the process as an illustrative case for arguing the challenges of including ethics in future-oriented knowledge creation for transformative systemic changes.
Through micro-level process-oriented analysis (Langley 1999), we show how ethically important factor was included in a scenario model in the beginning of scenario process in an open project workshop, but later in the process it was excluded from the model. Analysis shows that this happened in three phases: 1) diminishing the importance of ethical concept due to inadequate understanding of the concept, 2) attachment of new meanings and categorization, and 3) invoking methodological rules to erase the topic. The appearance and disappearance of an ethically important factor in scenario-making was an outcome of the combined effect of social and methodological aspects, including communication and meaning making in the social process of scenario construction, and methodological limitations in combining ethics and formal scenario method.
The micro-level analysis of a scenario process provides understanding on the social foundations of scenario method and shows what kind of challenges may occur in formal scenario studies trying to involve ethical thinking. Through the analysis we can propose improved approaches to include ethics in future-oriented knowledge creation. We aim to contribute to knowledge creation approaches for transition management, which are more inclusive in regard of ethical aspects.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication22nd Futures Conference
Subtitle of host publicationBook of abstracts
PublisherFinland Futures Research Centre
Number of pages1
ISBN (Electronic)978-952-249-576-1
Publication statusPublished - 2022
MoE publication typeNot Eligible
Event22nd Futures Conference: Planetary Futures of Health and Wellbeing - Turku, Finland
Duration: 15 Jun 202217 Jun 2022


Conference22nd Futures Conference
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