One of the most well-known scenario exercises is the one that took place at the Mont Fleur centre in South Africa, in 1991-1992. At the time, South Africa was dealing with economic decline, social disintegration and political unrest (in this period the negotiations to end apartheid took place).
This particular scenario exercise is inspiring to practitioners and users of scenarios, because it helped create dialogue between people in conflict. The exercise brought together 22 people from different organisations and political and ideal landscapes. Adam Kahane facilitated the workshops.
Working on the Mont Fleur scenarios contributed to establishing a common vocabulary and mutual understanding. The meetings were informal, open conversations. The project did not deal with differences but focused on what the participants had in common: the future of South Africa. The participant reached consensus on ‘how South Africa worked’ and what would be needed to create a better future for South Africa.
A total of four scenarios were developed: Ostrich, Lame Duck, Icarus, Flight of the Flamingos. This clip provides a brief overview:
Choosing the metaphor of flying and referring to different types of birds (and ‘wannabe bird’ Icarus) for the scenario titles really helped with communicating the scenarios to a broad audience. The scenarios were published in several national newspapers. The stories are easy to comprehend and to remember because of the metaphor.
The scenarios were characterized as transformative scenarios. The participants decided that South Africa was caught up in a vicious circle of political instability, economic crisis and social unrest.
The ‘Flight of the Flamingo’ was obviously the preferable scenario. The team agreed that there are many types of policies that may lead to the flight of the flamingo’s. But there are three crucial elements, consisting of several bricks that are needed to accomplish that flight: economic, political and social element. The social, economical and political elements are, of course, interdependent.
With these elements in mind, different pathways (decision paths) were identified for the future of South Africa. The path that South Africa would take was dependent on three questions, according to the scenario team:
- Is a settlement negotiated? If no, we end up with the ostrich
- Is a transition rapid and decisive? If no, the lame duck will emerge
- Are the policies of the new government sustainable? If no, the Icarus scenario emerges. If yes: South Africa will find itself in the flight path of the flamingo
For more information on the Mont Fleur scenarios: