Participation level:

  • High (Stakeholders participate in decision)

Innovation level:

  • High (Innovative)

Facilitator skill level, and other support required:

  • High (Specialist skills)
  • Medium (Computer & other expertise)

Can be used for:

  • Showcase product, plan, policy
  • Engage community
  • Develop community capacity
  • Develop action plan

Backcasting allows a group of people to weigh up the implications of different future options or policy goals.

Backcasting will provide one preferred option from a number of future possibilities, and a series of ways that the desired endpoint can be achieved.


  • Backcasts are not intended to reveal what the future will likely be, but to indicate the relative feasibility and implications of different policy goals.
  • Suggests the implications of likely futures, chosen not on the basis of their likelihood but on the basis of other criteria defined externally to the analysis (e.g. criteria of social or environmental desirability)
  • Determines the freedom of action, in a policy sense, with respect to possible futures.

  • No estimate of likelihood is possible.
  • Does not seek to discover the underlying structural features of the world that would cause the future to come about.


Organizing Backcasting

How many people to organize?

  • Medium (2-12 people)
  • Individual

Time required:

  • Medium (6 weeks-6 months)


  • High (> AUD$10,000)
  • Medium (AUD$1,000-AUD$10,000)

  1. Define future goals and objectives, projecting 25-50 years into the future.
  2. Specify the scenario by analyzing the technological and physical characteristics of a path that would lead towards the specified goals.
  3. Evaluate the scenario in terms of physical, technological and socioeconomic feasibility and policy implications.
  4. Brainstorm ways this desired endpoint can be achieved, working backwards to the present.





"Backcasting is a method of analysing alternative futures, often energy futures. Its major distinguishing characteristic is a concern with how desirable futures can be attained. It involves working backward from a desired future end point or set of goals to the present to determine the physical feasibility of that particular future and the policy measures that would be required to reach that end point. End points are usually chosen for a time 25 to 50 years in the future." (from Paehlke, see References)

Backcasting is similar to Visioning, however backcasts are not intended to reveal what the future will be, but rather to weigh up a number of possible futures, and decide the implications and preferable options, then to map out steps along the way (see the case study linked at the bottom of the Community Fair page).

This page originally copied with permission from the Citizens Science Toolbox

Category Practice




This is a living story of the Process Arts, including many particular Process. Anyone can browse; if you'd like to edit things, or add a process, you may request an account.






All cards

all cards


  • You can open and close cards in place. Just click on ~1383/3259.png or the card name.
  • To get to the page (and web address) for a card, click on ~1709/3792.png.
  • When you're editing, to create links within the website (even to a card that doesn't yet exist), put double square brackets around some text, like this.

To learn more see the Wagn documentation.


If you have questions, contact the Process Arts wiki support team. We may also be online live, or you can just ask your question here and someone will answer it shortly:

see where we are also listing similar practices

  --Michel Bauwens (Not signed in).....Sun Jan 31 00:53:33 -0800 2010

The Bohm Dialogue, especially Collective Reflection has significance for me in terms of artistic critique and dialogue.

If one wanted to connect this to Jungian thought I'd relate to that.

  --Srule Brachman (Not signed in).....Mon May 21 17:09:16 +0000 2012





Wheeled by Wagn v. 0.15.6