Backcasting approach for sustainable tourism


This blog I want to use to introduce a technique called ‘backcasting’. Backcasting explores the feasibility of a specific future.  The approach is very much related to Covey-s, habit #2 is: “Begin with the End in Mind”. Backcasting is part of the family of future exploration and in that sense related or an alternative to Forecasting and Scenario planning. It can be seen as a planning method that begins with defining a desirable (sustainable) future vision followed by looking back at how this future could be achieved.

Enhancing innovative and creative thinking

What makes the technique especially interesting is the possibility to manage a large group of stakeholders, with different perspectives on a specific issue. The play-like elements added to the process can significantly improve the results of the process and stimulate engagement. It will also help generate innovative and creative solutions necessary for sustainable development.

The steps of backcasting

The backcasting approach consists of several steps. First of all, the participants have to choose an Avatar. This Avatar will allow for, but also guarantee, a level of anonymity. In the next step, the participants can choose a specific stakeholder perspective. This could be their own, authentic, perspective, but they could also choose a certain role. The moderator should try to get all or most stakeholder positions that are possible. The team will need to identify and describe a future in which the identified issues have been resolved.

Designing actions to reach desired future goals

Then, pairs or threesomes are created that apply two personas. The “narrative” has to be applied to help the actors slip into their roles. Both personas interview each other where one persona gives all the positive effects of a future situation and the other persona gives all the expected negative effects of the future situation. Furthermore, stakeholders design possible steps on how to reach the future vision from the present. All the ideas have to be written on post-it notes that can be transferred to large sheets for further discussion and analysis.

For more information on Backcasting or other future exploration techniques please contact Guido Aerts.