Scenarios on Demand

Flooding in Ho Chi Minh City

In facing complicated and difficult policy decisions, people often bring their own mix of values, policy preferences, and expectations about the future, and they tend to think about these factors altogether. Highlighting them separately, though, can be useful when analyzing such policies. This separation can help people better understand their own views, and to more easily reach consensus with others. However, separating these factors can also prove particularly difficult, especially under conditions of deep uncertainty, in which even the best available scientific information is insufficient to confidently predict the future.

RAND developed an online Scenarios on Demand tool to demonstrate an approach for addressing these challenges. Given a proposed policy, the tool stress-tests the policy over thousands of plausible futures and then identifies the combination of a small number of uncertain factors that best distinguish those futures where a proposed policy meets and misses its goals. The tool then uses these factors to display for the user a scenario that illuminates the vulnerabilities of the proposed policy. "Success" for a policy is determined based on a goal chosen by the user. Thus, users can explore the ability of different policy options to meet different goals under various future conditions. Because users can generate scenarios for many combinations of policies and goals, we call this tool "Scenarios on Demand."

Our initial tool generates Scenarios on Demand for a particular policy challenge: flood risk management in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. However, the basic idea and tools displayed will be widely applicable to many policy challenges.

For more information about how to apply Scenarios on Demand to other areas of policy uncertainty, contact the lead researcher, Robert Lempert.

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