The Mont Fleur scenario exercise was carried out in South Africa in 1991-92. The purpose of the exercise was to stimulate debate about how to shape policy over the next 10 years in the country. It brought together a diverse group of 22 prominent South Africans from across the political spectrum (including politicians, activists, academics and business people) to develop and disseminate a set of stories about what might happen in their country during this period. Its innovativeness and importance stemmed from the fact that, in the midst of a deep conflict and profound uncertainty, it brought people together from diverse organizations to think creatively about the future. The scenarios were widely publicized, being first published in 1992 in the South African newspapers, The Weekly Mail and The Guardian Weekly. The scenarios were reprinted in Deeper News, published by the Global Business Network (http://www.gbn.org) with an introduction by Adam Kahane, who facilitated the scenario process.
The participants agreed on four scenarios that they believed to be plausible and relevant:
Ostrich – in which a negotiated settlement to the crisis in South Africa is not achieved, and the country’s government continues to be non-representative;
Lame Duck – in which a settlement is achieved, but the transition to a new system is slow and indecisive;
Icarus – in which transition is rapid, but the new government unwisely pursues unsustainable, populist economic policies; and
Flight of the Flamingos – in which the government’s policies are sustainable, and the country takes a path of inclusive growth and democracy.
|Figure 2: The Mont Fleur scenarios
The group developed a narrative for each of these stories. A 14-page report was included as a supplement in a national newspaper, and a 30-minute video was produced. Furthermore, the scenarios were directly presented to more than 50 groups.
The Mont Fleur scenarios were not in themselves novel. The remarkable thing about the exercise was the involvement of such a heterogeneous group of important people developing and delivering the message. The scenarios were broadly understood and discussed in many circles. Through this process, it became clear that Flamingo was a feasible and broadly desirable outcome, although some of the decisions it implied were not in line with those that might have been proposed by some of the parties at the start of the exercise. Thus, the informal process of producing the Mont Fleur scenarios produced substantive messages, informal networks and changes in thinking about the challenges that the country faced.
A key lesson learned through the Mont Fleur process is that a successful scenario effort must be credible, informal, reflective and inclusive. The team needs to be respected, open-minded and representative of all of the important perspectives on the issues at hand.
Box 1: Other examples
The Democratic Dialogue Regional Project of the UNDP Regional Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean (RBLAC) has compiled a number of case studies and learning histories building on the Mont Fleur experience and similar scenario exercises, particularly in Colombia and Guatemala (see http://www.democraticdialoguenetwork.org/). Under the auspices of the Society for International
Development’s Future Searches programme, scenario exercises have been carried out in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania (see http://www.sidint.org/). A special issue of the journal Development (47.3, September 2004) was devoted these and other exercises. As part of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, several of the sub-global assessments also developed sub-national scenarios (see MA 2005a, particularly chapter 10).