Last Updated 07 Dec 2022

Alternative Scenarios/Future Analysis & Delphi Technique

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The way word ‘dynamic’ has qualified itself, to describe current affairs, implies that future is getting more uncertain now. Radical changes in the past have made present more autonomous; and future more unpredictable. Need to understand and define the future have made it more demanding for the analysts to outline different trends curtailing to specific events, wonder what might happen next, and make strategies to control the future. Before stepping into the world ‘about to come’, it is important to understand that future is not prediction, there’s nothing rationale known about future, and tomorrow would not be like today.

Studying future needs a systematic approach that involves identification of past trends, study of current scenarios, and exploring possible alternatives, given possible scenarios. Alternative Future Alternative future analysis is critically an assessment approach that provides large scale long term perspective of a problem that could be divided into different alternative, each curtailing to any one sub-perspective. It helps translate different visions and goals into alternatives, which could be assessed by the experts/analysts. It provides the policy makers with a ‘vision’ to follow, in case any scenario/alternative is realized.

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As all these alternatives are critically evaluated socio-economically, ecologically and rationally, chances of their sustenance is far better than many other future predicting techniques. There are two main ways the alternative future analysis process operates (Steinitz 2003 and Theobald & Hobbs 2002). Firstly, it is the formation of numerous alternative plans, assessing their consequences, and then following the most desirable one. It involves geometrical, pre-dominant and political interests of people. This approach is simple, but, simplicity is also a limitation (Steinitz 2003).

Secondly, it is the identification of ‘most’ important issues, pertaining to policy and decision making. Concluded scenario reflects the inputs of different people, reflected from the choices made for it (Steinitz 2003). Scenario Analysis Scenario analysis is a strategic tool, designed impeccably to design strategies, based on multiple outcomes or complex competitive situations (Sandmore, 2005). Selection of scenarios/outcomes is based upon the probabilities assigned to them, in response to values attained from different related factors. These responses help analysts develop contingency plan that covers many different possibilities.

Moreover, they can identify potential threats, and can evaluate current strategy, working under the similar model. The analysis starts with the assumption that some future state has been achieved; now the work starts backwards. It helps identify all those factors and their probable affect, until a ‘base case’ is prepared. Now those variables are altered to consider the changes in the output. So it gives analysts more control over the variables, and helps decision makers identify different variables, with respect to their impact and urgency. It is important to understand that it does not predict future, it just gives a possibility.

Its success is very much dependent upon the level of details or factors involved are identified by the analysts, and how correctly they have related those factors to the scenario. Those factors could be political, technological, economical or social in nature. It also helps analysts understand different scenarios, and make best use of it by controlling most effective variable. Consequently, it increases the decision making time, that could result in change of some factors or scenarios over time. Moreover, external impacts could not be controlled, and their happening is not easily predictable.

It also increases the chances of errors, and questions the dependability of analysis. Delphi Technique Derived from a Greek’s oracle, Delphi is the best known qualitative, structured and indirect future prediction method in use today (Woudenberg, 1991). It consists of a sequence of steps adopted for provoking and refining opinions of different experts (Brown, 1968). This technique was adopted by multiple disciplines and each altered it to its use; hence we have three different techniques in use today. Conventional Delphi is used for forecasting and estimating unknown parameters up to a level of consensus.

Policy Delphi is used to generate most opposite ideas or opinions to identify the two extremes (Bjil, 1992). Decision Delphi, on the other hand, is utilized to reach decisions amongst experts, with all contributing in the solution. While following Delphi approach, firstly, all the participants are informed, informally, about issues to be discussed. Secondly, a questionnaire regarding issue is distributed. This part includes great involvement of monitoring team, as this must elicit convergent and divergent points. Thirdly, more questionnaires are distributed, each with the knowledge about the previous one.

This helps them refine their opinions, and could mold the respondents’ answers to a particular direction. It is repeated, until and unless a final consensus is achieved. Finally, the coordinating team pulls together all the responses and consensus into a final report (Masini, 1993). The most unfortunate development in the end of nineteenth century was the formation of Al-Qaida that has threatened most of the developed economies, especially United States of America and United Kingdom. In 1998, Osama Bin Laden, the leader of Al-Qaida, announced that his league will be in pursuit of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).

Since then, many American and European countries have put hands together to fight against the increasing influence of these terrorists. After the most drastic terrorist attack of 9/11, US forces, in support of many European forces, attacked Afghanistan, the biggest suspect of Al-Qaida home-base. Later, in 2003, US forces invaded Iraq. Here the culprit was Saddam Hussein, who was declared an agent of Al-Qaida. Since then, North Korea, Iraq, Syria and Pakistan have been the targets of US in its war against terrorism. This war, one way or the other, is weakening both Al-Qaida and US economy.

In retaliation to US invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, Al-Qaida’s race to get hold of WMD have intensified. What this war has in stored for our future is a big question mark for us. To understand what different experts have to say about it, a project is initiated, in which diplomats, critics, politicians, journalists and policy makers will be surveyed, using Delphi technique. First of all, through emails, letters and visitors, all these participants will be selected, based upon their availability, level of involvement in current affairs, especially war against terrorism, critical insight and reputation amongst the colleagues.

Once their participation will be confirmed, all of them will be officially communicated about the issue to be discussed, which is the sensitivity of WMD, and possible targets of Al-Qaida attacks in US. Major research will carry around: the importance of WMD; whether or not Al-Qaida has one of it; possible target of Al-Qaida’s attacks in US; security levels in US; and response of US nation towards US policy of war against terrorism. Major assumptions will be taken based on the trend analysis, by monitoring team.

Major targets will be nominated based upon following factors: Location (geographically and strategically); Importance (economic and defense); Security (national and nominal); Population (distribution and class); Impact (economically and socially); and Urgency. These factors will further be classified based upon the response from the experts. All the participants will be allowed to make any assumptions, which should be communicated before the submission of questionnaire. Major questions for the first round will be: 1. Is Al-Qaida a threat to US, or a ticket to failing states?

2. Are Weapons of Mass Destruction in safe hands? 3. Does Al-Qaida have Weapons of Mass Destruction? 4. Are Al-Qaida attacks consequences of US policies? 5. What could be the purpose of Al-Qaida’s attack in US? 6. Can US sustain Al-Qaida’s attacks? 7. What could be the possible target of Al-Qaida? 8. Is US national strong enough to stop Al-Qaida’s attack? 9. How concern is US nation about terrorism? 10. Is Al-Qaida making its roots in Americans? References Bjil R (1992). "Delphi in a future scenario study on mental health and mental health care" in Futures Vol 24, No 3, pp 232-250

Brown B (1968). Delphi Process: A Methodology Used for the Elicitation of Opinions of Experts Santa Monica: The RAND Corporation Foreign Policy (2010, January 25th). Al-Qaida’s pursuit of Weapons of Mass Destruction. August 9, 2010, from http://www. foreignpolicy. com/articles/2010/01/25/al_qaedas_pursuit_of_weapons_of_mass_destruction Masini, E (1993). Why Futures Studies? London: Grey Seal Steinitz, Carl (2003) Alternative futures for changing landscapes. USA: Island Press Woudenberg F (1991). "An Evaluation of Delphi" in Technological Forecasting and Social Change Vol 40, pp 131-150

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