Foresight and System Mapping

Synchronous failure: the emerging causal architecture of global crisis

Authors:  Thomas Homer-Dixon, Brian Walker, Reinette Biggs, Anne-Sophie Crépin, Carl Folke, Eric F. Lambin, Garry D. Peterson, Johan Rockström, Marten Scheffer, Will Steffen, Max Troell
Publication:  Ecology and Society (2015)

Recent global crises reveal an emerging pattern of causation that could increasingly characterize the birth and progress of future global crises. A conceptual framework identifies this pattern’s deep causes, intermediate processes, and ultimate outcomes. The framework shows how multiple stresses can interact within a single social-ecological system to cause a shift in that system’s behavior, how simultaneous shifts of this kind in several largely discrete social-ecological systems can interact to cause a far larger intersystemic crisis, and how such a larger crisis can then rapidly propagate across multiple system boundaries to the global scale. Case studies of the 2008-2009 financial-energy and food-energy crises illustrate the framework. Suggestions are offered for future research to explore further the framework’s propositions.

"Mainstreaming" foresight program development in the public sector

Authors:  Scott Janzwood and Jinelle Piereder
Publication:  Foresight (2019)

This paper aims to develop a framework for benchmarking the maturity of public sector foresight programs and outlines strategies that program managers can use to overcome obstacles to foresight program development in government. The paper frames public sector organizations as “complex adaptive systems” and draws from other government initiatives that require fundamental organizational change, namely, “gender mainstreaming”. Nascent or less mature programs tend to be output-focused and disconnected from the policy cycle, while more mature programs balance outputs and participation as they intervene strategically in the policy cycle. Foresight program development requires that managers simultaneously pursue change at three levels: technical, structural and cultural. Therefore, successful strategies are multi-dimensional, incremental and iterative.

Systematically linking qualitative elements of scenarios across levels, scales, and sectors

Authors:   Vanessa Schweizer and Jude Kurniawan
Publication:  Environmental Modelling & Software (2016)

New scenarios for climate change research connect climate model results based on Representative Concentration Pathways to nested interpretations of Shared Socioeconomic Pathways. Socioeconomic drivers of emissions and determinants of impacts are now decoupled from climate model outputs. To retain scenario credibility, more internally consistent linking across scales must be achieved. This paper addresses this need, demonstrating a modification to cross impact balances (CIB), a method for systematically deriving qualitative socioeconomic scenarios. Traditionally CIB is performed with one cross-impact matrix. This poses limitations, as more than a few dozen scenario elements with sufficiently varied outcomes can become computationally infeasible to comprehensively explore. Through this paper, we introduce the concept of ‘linked CIB’, which takes the structure of judgements for how scenario elements interact to partition a single cross-impact matrix into multiple smaller matrices. Potentially, this enables analysis of large CIB matrices and ensures internally consistent linking of scenario elements across scales.

Early warning systems for drought and violent conflict—toward potential cross-pollination

Authors:  Lars Wirkus and Jinelle Piereder
Publication:  Current Directions in Water Scarcity Research (2019)

Among all natural hazards, drought is one of the most severe due to its long-lasting negative impacts such as loss of life and livelihoods, economic losses, and adverse effects on social and ecological systems. Droughts kill proportionately more people than other disasters and are particularly deadly in Africa, with over 800,000 deaths directly attributable to drought between 1970 and 2010. In addition to its severity, drought is a “creeping” or slow-onset disaster and usually affects larger land areas than other types of disasters, making mitigation and adaptation strategies difficult to implement. Many of the negative effects of drought often accumulate slowly and may persist for years after the event has ended.