Systemic Practice and Action Research

, Volume 27, Issue 6, pp 551–573 | Cite as

Application of Scenario-based Approaches in Leadership Research: An Action Research Intervention as Three Sets of Interlinked Practices

  • Shankar SankaranEmail author
  • Bob Dick
  • Kelly Shaw
  • Colleen Cartwright
  • Alan Davies
  • Jacqueline Kelly
  • Barb Vindin
Original Paper


This article illustrates how scenario planning (SP) and scenario analysis as can be conceptualised as practices contributing to an action research (AR) investigation of leadership development. The project described in this article was intended to strengthen leadership capacity in Australia’s rapidly changing aged care and community care sector. A research team comprising academics from three universities and managers from two faith-based not-for-profit organisations providing aged and community care participated in this study. As part of the research, two sets of scenario-based workshops were held: the first, to identify possible futures using SP; and the second, to deal with plausible scenarios these organisations are likely to face with the changes happening in the aged care environment in Australia by using scenario analysis. Although the researchers did not consider a link between practice theory and AR during the SP phase, practice theory became useful during the scenario analysis phase. The article includes a brief literature review followed by a discussion on the relationship between AR and practice theory. The processes used in the two sets of scenario workshops are then described in detail along with the data collected and analysed. The article concludes with some reflections on the use of scenarios in practice as well as an acknowledgment that practice theory would be useful in investigating leadership capability development.


Scenario planning Leadership development Not-for-profit organisations Practice-based research Faith-based organisations 



The study to which this paper relates was funded by a grant from the Australian Research Council’s Linkages Program. The research team included researchers from Southern Cross University (SCU), the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), University of Southern Queensland (USQ) and Industry Partners Lutheran Community Care (LCC) and Baptist Community Services (BCS). An earlier developmental version of this paper was presented at the 12th EURAM conference, 6th–8th June, Rotterdam to seek feedback. The authors thank the anonymous reviewers of the conference and Systemic Practice and Action Research for their valuable comments that has helped in improving this article. Permission has been obtained by EURAM to publish this paper in this journal.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shankar Sankaran
    • 1
    Email author
  • Bob Dick
    • 2
  • Kelly Shaw
    • 2
  • Colleen Cartwright
    • 2
  • Alan Davies
    • 2
  • Jacqueline Kelly
    • 3
  • Barb Vindin
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of Design Architecture and BuildingUniversity of Technology, SydneyUltimoAustralia
  2. 2.Southern Cross UniversityLismoreAustralia
  3. 3.Lutheran Community CareBrisbaneAustralia

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