Local perspectives and global archetypes in scenario development

Chloe B. Wardropper, Sean Gillon, Amber S. Mase, Emily A. McKinney, Stephen R. Carpenter, Adena R. Rissman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Contrasting social-ecological scenarios can help stakeholders envision potential futures and navigate change and uncertainty. Scenario developers integrate stakeholder perceptions into storylines to increase scenario relevance and plausibility while relying on archetypes of change from scenario literature to enrich narratives. This research examines the contributions of local perspectives and global archetypes to scenario development through a case study of a regional scenario project, Yahara 2070, in Wisconsin, USA. Interviews with 50 Yahara watershed stakeholders and 5 members of the project's scenario development team were examined to compare themes from scenario archetypes with local perspectives on how change is expected to occur. We next examined how these two sources of inspiration for trajectories of change were used in the development of the Yahara 2070 scenarios. Both global archetypes and local stakeholders emphasized social values, market forces, and policy reform as influences in determining the future, which were reflected in Yahara 2070. However, stakeholders were less likely to mention institutional breakdown, an important theme from the global scenarios literature that was included in Yahara 2070. This research offers a new approach to analyzing similarities and differences between scenarios’ narratives and local perspectives. Scenario development may involve tensions between the goals of reflecting stakeholder views and including narratives from the global scenarios literature that may be useful for creating divergent model trajectories and addressing dramatic change into the future. To improve scenario development, scenario projects should document the development process in academic and nonacademic venues, explicitly highlighting sources and constraints in storyline development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number12
JournalEcology and Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Scenario archetypes
  • Scenario development
  • Social and environmental change
  • Stakeholder perspectives
  • Watershed futures

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology


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