Scenathons: Interactive Scenario and Development Pathway Planning

Scenathons were conceived at IIASA as participatory decision-making exercises that integrate models, stakeholders, and technology to collectively solve complex, large-scale multi-objective problems.

The Food, Agriculture, Biodiversity, Land, and Energy (FABLE) Consortium has applied the Scenathon concept to answer questions concerned with sustainability transformations of food and land use systems. Within this setting, the Scenathon process allows country teams to progressively align national pathways with the global FABLE targets and to balance trade flows.

Country teams frame their individual development pathways in the land use space, using the FABLE calculator, which is an Excel based accounting tool. The FABLE calculator was developed at IIASA, and includes national level data from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) as well as default scenarios. Following its development, the calculator was further refined in close collaboration with the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN). Country teams are able to adapt the FABLE calculator to their national circumstances by refining and validating data input and customizing scenarios.

Customized FABLE calculators from the participating countries are uploaded to a LINKER tool, which is a web-based data platform that extracts and aggregates reporting variables and assesses performance in relation to global targets. Country teams can view the results in the dashboard of the LINKER tool. To allow for a global aggregation, national FABLE calculators are complemented by regional ones that cover those countries that are not played individually. The regional calculators are played by members from the FABLE Secretariat. Multi-sectoral teams, representing 17 countries and also covering the EU, participated in the first Scenathon. The initial results are presented in the 2019 Report of the FABLE Consortium: Pathways to Sustainable Land-Use and Food Systems.

While it is currently being applied to the food and land use system, the concept of the Scenathon could be used in a wide variety of contexts and tailored to different scales. In general, the aim is to strengthen the integration of bottom-up perspectives in modeling efforts of complex systems. This will allow a move from homogenous towards more heterogeneous scenarios, which are more cognizant of diverse contexts and allow for a distributed decision-making framework, where each participant makes informed decisions on their discipline, sector, region, or country. Action setting is based on shared predictions and aspirations of future states rather than derived from normative rules such as optimal behavior measured by universal profit maximization.

Stakeholders are brought together by sharing overarching targets, which are of collective relevance. The aim is to progressively converge towards pathways that meet collective and individual aspirations of the stakeholder groups through iterative processes.

While the project team is currently focused on exploring and developing the concept, it is a long-term aspiration to establish an analytical environment that facilitates collaboration and improves decision making on complex development problems, such as the sustainability of our food and land use systems. 

Scenathon-Website_Schematic © IIASA

Figure. Schematic of the Scenathon: Multiple stakeholder teams seek to achieve in an iterative process collectively agreed goals, while also realizing individual targets. The FABLE Consortium has applied the Scenathon to food and land-use questions. (Sour