Audience Dialogue

Scenario Network Mapping
Thesis by Dennis List

This is the contents page for the online version of my PhD thesis, which was accepted by the University of South Australia in December 2005. The full title is Scenario Network Mapping: The Development of a Methodology for Social Inquiry. For a quick overview, Chapter 1 is a good starting point.

As the subtitle suggests, the thesis is an account of the work I undertook in developing a new method for scenario-building - though in fact, the method, as it developed, ended up closer to causal layered analysis than to scenario planning. (The term "methodology" here refers to the procedure I used for developing the scenario method.)

For those working in the area of foresight, the method developed may be a useful alternative to the standard scenario planning process. Compared with the common scenario planning approaches, small non profits and even large firms or a single practising San Diego DUI lawyer or hotel management student can all benefit from a new method of social inquiry.

Scenario Network Mapping (SNM for short) is designed to be easier to do by non-experts, more flexible, and more suitable for small organizations, industries, and regions. It involves four half-day workshops, plus some preliminary and follow-up work. However, it requires the participation of a very wide range of stakeholders.

When I set out to develop SNM, I expected to be able to find a standard methodology for developing a new method of social inquiry, specifically a qualitative method. After all, plenty of qualitative inquiry methods have been developed in the last few decades, and it seemed reasonable to assume that some of those who had done so had recorded their methodological development process in detail. But after several years tracking down the origins of social inquiry methods, I found only one thesis that covered the development of a similar method: that of David Cooperrider, the developer of Appreciative Inquiry. Disappointingly, it didn't go into the specifics of how the method was developed. (And almost at the end of my thesis work, I discovered the World Café method of Juanita Brown, but again, it lacked the detail I needed.)

Therefore, I had to design a development method from scratch, using action research and formative evaluation. For those who might feel foolhardy enough to want to develop another new method of social inquiry, it might save you considerable time to use or adapt the methodology described in this thesis. In short, the steps are:

  1. Use the relevant literature to select a set of criteria by which your new method will be judged (as in chapter 3 of this thesis);
  2. Design a multiple case study, with a wide range of cases, which should uncover any problems with your method. Explicitly include action research cycles, with multiple points for reflection on the development of your new method (as in chapter 6);
  3. Undertake the case studies, with a short pause between each (chapters 7 and 8);
  4. After each case study, evaluate it against the selected criteria.If any criterion is not met, either modify it (and reapply the modification to previous case studies) or make suitable changes in the method for the next case study (chapter 9);
  5. Keep adding new cases until no more major problems appear (chapter 10).

The development methodology sounds very simple when expressed like that, but it took me a long time to disentangle it from the multitude of other possibilities, so hopefully it will save time for others who intending to develop a new social inquiry method.

The entire thesis (almost 500 pages in total) can be downloaded here: one Acrobat PDF file for each chapter; each opens in a new window. If you want the whole thesis in a single file, it's available as a PDF, click scenario network mapping thesis to download it.



Preliminaries (18 pages) - full contents, glossary, abbreviations, summary, acknowledgements

Chapter 1: Introduction (9 pages) - argument, scope, structure, summary

Chapter 2: A critical review of futures methods (41 pages) - literature review and looking ahead

Chapter 3: Evaluation criteria for anticipation methods (42 pages) - selection of suitable criteria, critiques, and selected criteria

Chapter 4: Towards a conceptual framework of futures (40 pages) - theories of the future, causation, and a layered model

Chapter 5: Development of the initial scenario mapping process (45 pages) - stages of the process

Chapter 6: Methodology (29 pages) - action research as a development method

Chapter 7: Fieldwork design (26 pages) - selection of sample, fieldwork method, use of cycles

Chapter 8: Case studies (37 pages) - pilot case and 6 main cases

Chapter 9: Evaluation of cases against criteria (47 pages)

Chapter 10: Discussion and review (16 pages)

References (44 pages) - 892 of them, mainly on foresight, methodology, and evaluation



Appendix 1: Reviewing hindsight to sharpen foresight: scenarios of 2000 (27 pages)

Appendix 2: Agenda for a set of scenario mapping workshops, and Appendix 3: Evaluation questionnaire (4 pages)

Appendix 4: Details of the case studies (68 pages)

Appendix 5: An initial manual for Scenario Network Mapping (24 pages)