Identifying Critical Uncertainties

What are the key factors influencing climate and sustainability (action)?

Mapping the landscape

The bigger picture: STEEP (social, technological, environmental, economic and political) factors relevant to CSAW

  • What STEEP factors can impact how climate and sustainability (action) could evolve? Can you identify some emerging trends, events, signals or other drivers of change? What is emerging, what is subsiding? what is being abandoned/being seeded?

Discuss each of the STEEP categories separately as they relate to the climate and sustainability. 

  • S – Social (and cultural): demographics, lifestyles, traditions, arts and design, health, religion, education…
  • T – Technological (and scientific): research, innovation, materials, energy, transport, licensing…
  • E – Economic: markets, trade, growth, consumption, production, supply chains, stasis, depression…
  • E – Ecological: ecosystems, climate, natural resources, food, water, soil, weather, biodiversity, pollution…
  • P – Political (and legal): government, legislation, funding, infrastructure, the military…

Summarise the factors (signals/trends/drivers of change) in clear, specific and concise statement, like a headline. One per (post-it) card.

Work in breakout groups of 4-5 people, 10-15 mins per category (or group of categories, e.g. social and political, economic and technological). If it's important that all participants have the opportunity to discuss all categories, you can use a hosting technique like the world cafe.

At the end of the last round each group selects maximum 3-5 key trends/drivers of change per category. Focus on:  

  • Where do you experience a world that is ending or dying?  
  • Where do you experience a world that is wanting to be born? 

Place the cards/post-its on a board or table. End with 'Dot voting'. Give everyone in the group 2-3 sticky dots. The participants can add their dots on the topics that resonate the most. 

  • Question: What are 2-3 of the most interesting topics that you see emerging? Topics that would engage for the whole campus community at large.

The outcome is a 'heat map' of the topics (individual and collective) that the group gravitates toward.

Collect 10-15 topics that have the most dots (i.e. 'hottest topics')

Identifying critical uncertainties

(alt. critical actions, interventions, impact…)

In this exercise the goal is to rank topics by importance and uncertainty (for the success of CSAW). In this context “uncertainty” means that some factors are likely to remain more or less fixed, constant and 'certain', like demographics, while others are more variable and unpredictable, like public opinion.

The quickest way to facilitate this exercise is to work with people's 'gut feeling' without too much discussion. 

  • Write 10-15 'hot topics' on separate cards/post its. 
  • Rank the topics based on their importance for CSAW (or for climate and sustainability (action) in general)
  • You can rank the topics on a scale from 1–10 from least to most important. Alternatively you can use a more relative measure (e.g. drawing a horizontal line and place the topics from left to right): 
  • important → very important → extremely important → critical

We often use sociometry for this exercise - draw the line on a whiteboard and have the post-its arranged in a column on the left underneath 'important'.  Call out the topics one by one and invite participants to arrange themselves in the room from left to right depending on how important they think the topic is. You place the post-it on the line approximately where the majority of the group is standing. If there is no majority (and hence no consensus), put the post it approx. in the middle of the line. 

  • Pick the five most important, i.e. critical topics.
  • Rank the chosen topics based on their uncertainty 
  • Repeat the ranking as in the previous round. You can rank the topics on a scale from 1–10 or use a more relative measure if that works better.

If you'd like to visually connect the two rounds, you can draw a diamond, with importance as one axis and uncertainty as the second one. The most important and uncertain drivers will be in the top tip of the diamond, so it becomes visually apparent which topics 'scored' the highest. 

Ideally by the end of this exercise you will have one critical uncertainty that everyone can agree on.

Framing the theme

Testing the boundaries of the critical uncertainties → French “tâtonnement” is more in line with what this exercise is meant to do than “testing” - it's more about 'feeling around' the boundaries 

  • Discuss the outcome - what topic(s) emerged as critical uncertainties? Do any of these topics point towards an interesting theme for the CSAW pilot? Why (why yes/why not)?
  • Group discussion about possible topics, where their edges are, what's in/out of the boundary - designing the 'frame“ in which the theme design can happen
  • End with a listening round - how does each of the participants feel/what do they think about using the identified critical uncertainty as a theme for the event.

Summarise the discussion outcomes into a proposition, share the proposition with the group, continue the discussion and decision making online, and if possible in another co-present session.

  • csaw/critical_uncertainties.txt
  • Last modified: 2021-04-14 09:30
  • by maja