The Tools of Policy Formulation

The Tools of Policy Formulation

Actors, Capacities, Venues and Effects

New Horizons in Public Policy series

Edited by Andrew J. Jordan and John R. Turnpenny

A PDF version of this book is available for free in open access via the Elgaronline platform - Policy analysts are accustomed to thinking in terms of tools and instruments. Yet an authoritative examination of the tools which have been developed to formulate new policies is missing. This book is the first of its kind to distinguish the defining characteristics of the main policy formulation tools, and offer a fresh way of understanding how, why and by whom they are selected, as well as the effects they produce in practice.

Chapter 3: Scenarios: tools for coping with complexity and future uncertainty?

Marta Pérez-Soba and Rob Maas

Subjects: economics and finance, valuation, politics and public policy, european politics and policy, public administration and management, public policy


We cannot predict the future with certainty, but we know that it is influenced by our current actions, and that these in turn are influenced by our expectations. This is why future scenarios have existed from the dawn of civilization and have been used for developing military, political and economic strategies. Does the existence of scenarios help to accomplish the desired outcomes? It is fair to say that in most cases the answer to this question is no, simply because history is normally an open, undetermined process, where sudden and unexpected events can play a decisive, disruptive role. Could the French Revolution have been prevented if Louis XVI’s counsellors had had the imagination to develop a shock-scenario, foreseeing the impact of the volcanic eruptions in Iceland and Japan, and the consequent crop failures in 1784 and 1785 and food scarcity in France – often cited as a proximate cause of the French Revolution in 1789? This is debatable to say the least.