Sustainability Science

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 205–220 | Cite as

A novel approach for co-producing positive scenarios that explore agency: case study from the Canadian Arctic

  • Marianne FalardeauEmail author
  • Ciara Raudsepp-Hearne
  • Elena M. Bennett
Special Feature: Original Article Future Scenarios for Socio-Ecological Production Landscape and Seascape
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Special Feature: Future Scenarios for Socio-Ecological Production Landscape and Seascape


The planet’s social–ecological systems are expected to change in rapid and surprising ways in the coming decades, with consequences for ecosystems, ecosystem services, and human well-being. One way to support local communities and decision-makers at higher scales in addressing such surprising changes is to develop scenarios that are locally actionable and that can inform understanding of social–ecological dynamics across scales. This study focuses on three areas that require advances for developing globally relevant scenarios that support local action: (1) mobilizing Indigenous and local knowledge (ILK) in scenarios; (2) using scenarios to explore agency to affect the future; (3) probing a vast range of plausible positive futures. For scenarios to be relevant to communities in supporting positive change, approaches that engage with ILK to explore how human action, or agency, can shape the future are needed, as well as positive scenarios that feature a wide range of good outcomes for nature and people to inspire and guide action. We propose a novel set of methods for participatory scenario planning—developed and tested through a case study in the Canadian Arctic—designed to carefully explore what ‘positive futures’ could mean to different populations faced with growing impacts from environmental and social change, and how positive outcomes can be achieved even in light of these changing dynamics. This scenario approach provides direction to engage multiple ways of knowing in developing knowledge about future changes that can direct sustainable action.


Scenarios Participatory Indigenous and local knowledge Agency Positive visioning Knowledge co-production 



We thank the Ekaluktutiak Hunters and Trappers Organization (EHTO) for their guidance and help as we were developing this participatory scenario planning project. We are extremely thankful to the seventeen participants of the workshop, and to all the community members who contributed to interviews, surveys, and focus groups. We thank the community of Cambridge Bay for supporting this research. Thank you to the fifteen scientists who contributed to the expert opinion survey on regional trends for climate change. Thank you to the Marine Environmental Observation–Prediction and Response (MEOPAR) network and the Northern Scientific Training Program (NSTP) for funding support. Thank you to Polar Knowledge Canada (POLAR) for funding and in-kind support. We thank the staff of POLAR for their assistance throughout this project. MF received scholarships from the W. Garfield Weston Foundation, the Fonds de Recherche du Québec—Nature et Technologies (FRQNT), MEOPAR, and the NSERC CREATE program in Environmental Innovation. This project is also supported by an NSERC Discovery Grant and EWR Steacie Fellowship to EMB. We thank all the team of Elena Bennett’s laboratory for feedback during a test run for some of the scenario activities. We thank M. Les Harris, and professors Brent Else, James Ford, Murray M. Humphries, Donald McLennan, Jean-Sebastien Moore, C. J. Mundy, Garry Peterson, and Christopher T. Solomon for feedback and/or field support during this research. Thank you to the Inuit Circumpolar Council-Canada for giving a remote presentation at the workshop.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

11625_2018_620_MOESM1_ESM.docx (32 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 32 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Japan KK, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Natural Resource SciencesMcGill UniversitySte. Anne-de-BellevueCanada
  2. 2.McGill School of EnvironmentMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada

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