Methodology and Background

The future can be anticipated, explored and changed and scenarios help us prepare. They provoke and challenge our assumptions and help us reappraise our current strategic plans around, for example, health and social care integration, the role of professionals and leadership practices.

Imagining the Future is an 'enhanced scenario planning' project that explores ideas of care, support and social services, in Scotland, in 2025.

The scenario architecture has been drawn from the relationship between key drivers-of-change and the possible impacts of critical uncertainties discovered throughout the research phase of the project. This 'exploratory' method was enhanced through a 'normative' (visioning) scenario approach based on a range of values, hopes and aspirations for care, support and social services, expressed through community-based qualitative research.

Together, blending a 'normative' and 'exploratory' scenario process, Imagining the Future is a unique tool to help us make sense and understand both the structural and human dynamics of change within the social services sector and society more generally, across the coming decade.

The Imagining the Future scenario storylines are not exhaustive and are certainly not predictions. There is not one scenario held up as the preferred future. However, the storylines have been informed by extensive desk-based research, expert opinion, qualitative community-based research, analysis of the impacts and key drivers-of-change and the views and assumptions of professionals working in the sector.

Imagining the Future Scenario Planning Process

There were five key phases to the Imagining the Future project

Phase one

  • examination of three futures essay - the social services workforce, enabling technology, citizenship
  • seven questions for the future - expert interviews?
  • Launch and establish a reference group and project community

Phase two

  • Series of driver workshops with professionals working in the social services sector in Scotland
  • A week of community-based events including art-of hosting techniques and story telling

Phase three

  • Scenario architecture development
  • Scenario writing
  • Future leaders programme, immersing future leaders in the scenarios

Phase four

  • Scenario testing
  • Workforce profiling: Delphi exercise
  • toolkit / games development

Phase five

  • Scenario web-based design and development
  • Scenario data workbook completion
  • Scenario embedding

Phase One

The starting point for the ITF scenario project was the analysis of three Iriss commissioned future-facing essays and how the contents of those essays might help us to understand what was driving change in relation to the workforce, enabling technology and citizenship.

These three reports are summarised in a short animation that offers a snapshot of life in 2025 for Alex Chisholm, a man in his 70s living alone with multiple conditions.

Using Shell's seven questions for the future method, the following experts took part in a series of telephone interviews:

  • Sir Harry Burns, The Scottish Government (at the time of interview)
  • Allison Trimble
  • Annette Bruton, Care Inspectorate
  • Anna Fowlie, SSSC
  • Joyce Lorimer, Moray Council

A data workbook was also created to record research, evidence, views, assumptions and inputs to the project. The workbook was not only a central repository for project material but also became the main source from which the final scenario storylines were written.

A project reference group was established to oversee and guide this project. This group was chaired by Mary Duffy and included:

  • Alan Baird, Chief Social Work Adviser, The Scottish Government
  • Nigel Henderson, Coalition of Care and Support Scotland (CCPS)
  • Professor Alison Petch, Director, Iriss
  • Gehan McLeod, Director, The GalGael Trust
  • Jim Clifford, Baker Tilly
  • Mike Docherty, SSSC

Phase Two

Five driver workshops were held in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Stirling. The objective of these one-day workshop was to identify and consider what we regard as the key drivers of change and the potential impacts of those drivers over the coming twelve years in relation to Scottish society and social care in 2025. Delegates were asked to consider the relative importance and level of certainty of each driver and the relationship between the different drivers.

Scores of drivers were identified throughout the workshops along with wide-ranging thoughts on the potential outcomes and impacts. However, the following drivers were seen, across the workshops, as the most important and critical uncertainties:

  1. Increasing availability of enabling technology
  2. Shrinking public finances
  3. Increasing inequalities
  4. Changing risk appetite
  5. Growing expectations of choice
  6. Changing nature of the workforce
  7. Increasing health and social integration
  8. Ageing population and increasing dependency on service
  9. Changing nature of relationships
  10. Constitutional change

Community research and perspectives

The ITF team then spent a week in Govan running a series of participatory events, workshops and discussion to better understand hopes, ideas and assumptions about the future of social services and community. Those who took part came from the community of Govan and from many other communities around Scotland. The learning to emerge from this week was captured in the project workbook.

Museum of the 3rd Horizon

The museum involved 40 people coming together and through the use of set design, lighting and actors, delegates were transported to 2034. From this lens they were able to review artifacts from a community in 2014 and formulate theories on why these artifacts were important to community and social services back in 2014. The Museum Brochure

Young people 'Ideas market place'

32 young people, mainly from South Lanarkshire and East Renfrewshire, came together to take part in an ideas market. Delegates considered what care and support meant to them, their families and communities. They considered what support they thought should be available to them in 2025 and why. The young people also wrote a 'care manifesto' – what they would do if they were the government.

Social justice public debate

102 people came along to the social justice debate in the Pearce Institute to consider what social justice meant and its part in how people are able, and enabled, to provide support for themselves. The debate was chaired by Lesley Riddoch and involved a range of community speakers. Sir Harry Burns, as keynote listener, draw the debate together. The full audio of the debate has been published by Iriss on

Health and social care providers' workshop

Using art of hosting techniques and storytelling, between 25 and 40 delegates came to each of the following workshops:

  • Health and Social Services providers
  • Local leadership for change in health and social care workshop
  • People receiving support for social care and health needs

Delegates were able to share personal stories of what support and social services meant to them and identify what challenges and opportunities have to be addressed in the coming years.

Arts and culture show and tell

Around 50 people came together at the Gal Gael Trust to explore how local arts groups, community and local culture was helping people find meaningful support in their lives.


The Govan week finished with a traditional ceilidh with music and song and a graffiti wall. Delegates were encouraged to express what community meant to them and how, through community, they were able to find mutual support and a sense of belonging.

The Govan week proved to be a hugely important part of the project for a number of reasons. It helped identify, hidden 'cues and clues'(as they are referred to) in the overall social services system. These hidden drivers-of-change took on special importance from a community perspective.

Phase three

The ITF team were then able to analyse the very rich materials to come from the research phase and identify new drivers of change; hidden cues within the system.

The eight new drivers to emerge were:

  • Increasing need for people to feel a sense of belonging
  • Changing ways in which people respond to and accept care
  • Newly emerging community-led spaces offering time and tools
  • Shifting professional values – from providers to enablers
  • Care increasingly being seen as a radical act
  • Increasing efficiency practices and reducing resources
  • Shifting trust and permission dynamics within the workforce
  • Changing role and approach to leadership with health and social services

These drivers, together with the original drivers were chosen to create the scenario architecture and form four scenario spaces to roll out. In July 2014, we reviewed all the evidence and started to consider the relationships between the hidden drivers-of-change. This led to the construction of an 'influence map' and the final architecture of the scenario spaces.The overarching scenario architecture can be seen here.

The four emerging worlds were titled:

The Post Welfare world, this title captures the key feature of this world, being a radical change in the relationship between state and citizen. While social care and welfare has been bound to ideas of 20th century industrialisation (welfare state, NHS etc), arguably this cannot continue with a decline in traditional industrialisation and the growing need / demand for support / services. Something has to give. This world has no welfare state and is economically driven by local commerce, a basic citizen's income for all citizens (as a utility), social justice and ideas of communitarianism.

The New Normal world is a term taken from the world of cancer care. When a terminal cancer diagnosis is given to a patient they are encouraged not to think 'well, that's it'. They are encouraged to think 'well, this is the reality of my life and my world now. That's the normal and I can get on with my life to the full'. There is no stigma, there is no fatalism, its just how it is. its normal; the new normal. The key features of this scenario are similar. This world sees a great culture change in how we accept and give care. There is no stigma for people accessing services - everyone does at some stages in life. It's completely normal and identity as providers, citizens, consumer and customer are inter changeable in this new normal world. People are getting on and social cohesion is strong.

Yesterday is another world is effectively a critique of the professional workforce. It is saying that one of the biggest barriers to change is professionals clambering to retain power and radicalism based on values of yesteryear. This title is a nod to the fact that to be radical and effective in the 21st century we have to abandon that mentality.

Fully integrated world: This is fairly obvious but the big surprise in this world is that while there is structural integration by 2025, the reality is that it is clinical, impersonal and a betrayal of the promise of integration a decade before. This is highly managerial, technology driven, cost saving world with poor leadership. This world reminds us of the humanity of care and about the human and emotional dynamics of change.

Scenario roll out

In August 2014, our creative writer wrote a storyline for each world. These storylines were based on the scenario frames, and the materials, evidence, views and assumptions contained within the data workbook.  Each scenario uses different literary devises to convey the key characteristics of the world and what it might be like to exist within that world.

Each storyline was then tested in four ways to ensure the treatment of the drivers, evidence and assumptions was consistent, as follows:

  • Internal consistency (have the original drivers of change been given appropriate treatment within each storyline?)
  • External consistency (have the original drivers been given appropriate treatment across all four storylines?)
  • Surprise – Do each of the four worlds contain a surprise element that the reader would not be expecting.
  • Gestalt – are the storylines, whether we like what is contained within the stories or not, plausible to the reader.

The scenarios were then tested, in workshops, by the following groups for plausibility and consistency:

Three-day leadership development programme

In June 2014, a cohort of nineteen people came together at Ardoch House, Loch Lomond to take part in a three-day leadership development programme. The cohort became a temporary leadership team of the future and was made up from the voluntary sector, the independent sector and the statutory sector. The team was immersed in each scenarios and asked to consider the implications of the scenarios for leadership in the sector. Their main task, based on the what they liked and disliked about the world-views offered, was to design a BIG challenge; something each delegate could try out post-programme within their own workplace. The results of their BIG challenges, the changes that have been brought about, and links to leadership ideas and theories are included as part of the published scenarios.

The programme helped the cohort to explore leadership and the four scenarios through:

  • Understanding personal leadership
  • Personal stories and reflections on leadership
  • Connected Leadership approaches – through whole systems thinking
  • System leadership practice
  • Leading change in human services – exploring the emotional dynamics of change
  • Peer consulting workshops
  • Personal authority and leadership impact workshops
  • Leading in a political environment session
  • Systems mapping session

Phase Four

Imagining the Future Scenario Game

A scenario offers a snapshot - a moment in some future time. They do not offer solutions and are not predictions but they do allow us to glimpse possible futures and help us to consider how best to prepare. To help in this and to help embed this kind of thinking and critical appraisal, the team developed a simple game that can be used to help people access the scenarios at the most relevant point and to encourage groups of people to use the scenarios as a tool to prompt discussions. This game 'Imagining the Future – Join us. Join in!' can be ordered from Iriss. Please send an email to or print your own version

Iriss is offering a free one-day facilitated workshop to any organisation wishing to use the Imagining the Future scenarios to consider its future.

We have only ten of these workshops on offer, so it's first come first served.

For more information and to book one of the ten slots, please contact