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Four approaches to anticipatory climate governance: Different conceptions of the future and implications for the present

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In times of accelerating earth system transformations and their potentially disruptive societal consequences, imagining and governing the future is now a core challenge for sustainability research and practice. Much social science and sustainability science scholarship increasingly engages with the future. There is, however, a lack of scrutiny of how the future is envisioned in these literatures, and with what implications for governance in the present. This article analyses these two aspects, building on the concept of “anticipatory governance.” We understand anticipatory governance to broadly mean governing in the present to adapt to or shape uncertain futures. We review perspectives within public policy, futures studies, social–ecological systems, environmental policy and governance, transition studies, science and technology studies, and responsible research and innovation literatures. All these literatures engage explicitly or implicitly with the notion of anticipatory governance, yet from distinct ontological and epistemological starting points. Through our review, we identify four approaches to anticipatory governance that differ with regard to (a) their conceptions of and engagement with the future; (b) their implications for actions to be taken in the present; and (c) the ultimate end to be realized through anticipatory governance. We then map onto these four approaches a diverse set of methods and tools of anticipation that each engages with. In concluding, we discuss how these four approaches provide a useful analytical lens through which to assess ongoing practices of anticipatory governance in the climate and sustainability realm. This article is categorized under: Policy and Governance > Multilevel and Transnational Climate Change Governance
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ADVANCED REVIEW
Four approaches to anticipatory climate governance:
Different conceptions of the future and implications for
the present
Karlijn Muiderman
1,2
| Aarti Gupta
1
| Joost Vervoort
2,3,4
| Frank Biermann
2
1
Environmental Policy Group,
Department of Social Sciences,
Wageningen University and Research,
Wageningen, The Netherlands
2
Environmental Governance, Copernicus
Institute of Sustainable Development,
Utrecht University, Utrecht, The
Netherlands
3
Environmental Change Institute,
University of Oxford, Oxford, United
Kingdom
4
Research Institute for Humanity and
Nature, Kyoto, Japan
Correspondence
Karlijn Muiderman, Environmental Policy
Group, Department of Social Sciences,
Wageningen University and Research,
Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Email: karlijn.muiderman@wur.nl
Funding information
Fondation BNP Paribas, Grant/Award
Number: Climate Initiative
Edited by Heike Schroeder,
Domain Editor, and Mike Hulme,
Editor-in-Chief
Abstract
In times of accelerating earth system transformations and their potentially dis-
ruptive societal consequences, imagining and governing the future is now a
core challenge for sustainability research and practice. Much social science
and sustainability science scholarship increasingly engages with the future.
There is, however, a lack of scrutiny of how the future is envisioned in these
literatures, and with what implications for governance in the present. This arti-
cle analyses these two aspects, building on the concept of anticipatory gover-
nance.We understand anticipatory governance to broadly mean governing in
the present to adapt to or shape uncertain futures. We review perspectives
within public policy, futures studies, socialecological systems, environmental
policy and governance, transition studies, science and technology studies, and
responsible research and innovation literatures. All these literatures engage
explicitly or implicitly with the notion of anticipatory governance, yet from dis-
tinct ontological and epistemological starting points. Through our review, we
identify four approaches to anticipatory governance that differ with regard to
(a) their conceptions of and engagement with the future; (b) their implications
for actions to be taken in the present; and (c) the ultimate end to be realized
through anticipatory governance. We then map onto these four approaches a
diverse set of methods and tools of anticipation that each engages with. In con-
cluding, we discuss how these four approaches provide a useful analytical lens
through which to assess ongoing practices of anticipatory governance in the cli-
mate and sustainability realm.
This article is categorized under:
Policy and Governance > Multilevel and Transnational Climate Change
Governance
KEYWORDS
anticipation, anticipatory governance, climate change, climate policy, foresight
Received: 20 February 2019 Revised: 11 June 2020 Accepted: 1 July 2020
DOI: 10.1002/wcc.673
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided
the original work is properly cited.
© 2020 The Authors. WIREs Climate Change published by Wiley Periodicals LLC.
WIREs Clim Change. 2020;11:e673. wires.wiley.com/climatechange 1of20
https://doi.org/10.1002/wcc.673
1|INTRODUCTION
In times of accelerating earth system transformations and their potentially disruptive societal and distributional conse-
quences, sustainability research and practice is increasingly focusing on imagining and governing the future
(Vervoort & Gupta, 2018). The Paris Climate Agreement's aspirational 1.5targetto strive to keep average tempera-
ture increases to 1.5above pre-industrial levelshas given further impetus to anticipation processes and tools to
explore and realize plausible or desirable climate futures(Granjou, Walker, & Salazar, 2017). With the proliferation
of anticipation practices in diverse policy arenas, the (sustainable) future of our societies has become a central element
in scholarly and policy debate.
Numerous processes and practices are used today to imagine futures, to question assumptions about what futures
are possible, and to develop strategies for transformational change (Habegger, 2010). Such anticipation processes often
seek to broaden the boundaries of imagination, explore future directions under multiple drivers of change, and guide
sustainability transitions and policies under conditions of complexity and scientific uncertainty (Bourgeois, 2012;
Habegger, 2010; Pérez-Soba & Maas, 2015; Vervoort & Gupta, 2018)
Most formal approaches to anticipation relate to foresight, including qualitative and quantitative scenario planning,
visioning and backcasting, horizon scanning, anticipatory gaming, and other approaches (Swart, Raskin, &
Robinson, 2004; Turnpenny, Jordan, Benson, & Rayner, 2015; Wiebe et al., 2018). Other formal anticipation practices
include vulnerability and impact assessments. But anticipation also happens without formal methodologies and pro-
cesses; such informal attempts are also worthy of investigation.
The growing focus on anticipation in sustainability governance points to an important research agenda: to scruti-
nize the diverse conceptions of the future embedded with diverse perspectives, and how these shape present-day gover-
nance and policy choices. While important strands of social science scholarship, including in science and technology
studies, responsible research and innovation, geography, environmental governance, and futures studies, have long
pointed to anticipatory processes as sites of political negotiation (Anderson, 2007, 2010; Hulme, 2009, 2010; Mittelstadt,
Stahl, & Fairweather, 2015; Nordmann, 2014), a comprehensive analysis of distinct perspectives on anticipatory pro-
cesses, and their role in imagining, interrogating or seeking to realize diverse climate futures, remains timely, and
urgent (Vervoort & Gupta, 2018; Pulver & VanDeveer, 2009).
This is the aim of our review. We survey a range of social science and sustainability science perspectives here that
engage with conceptions of the future and associated present actions. The organizing concept for our review is the
notion of anticipatory governance,broadly understood as governing (or steering) in the present to engage with,adapt to
or shape uncertain futures (Vervoort & Gupta, 2018; see also Boyd, Nykvist, Borgström, & Stacewicz, 2015;
Fuerth, 2009b; Guston, 2010, 2012, 2014). We see anticipatory governance as part of long-standing debates on governing
for sustainability (e.g., Andonova, Betsill, & Bulkeley, 2009; Biermann, 2007; Bulkeley, 2012; Gupta & Möller, 2018) to
which it adds an explicit future-orientation. Understood as such, large swaths of literature in the social and sustainabil-
ity sciences engage directly or indirectly with anticipatory governance, regardless of whether the term is explicitly used.
Our aim here is to critically assess these perspectives, to unearth diverse conceptions of the future and implications for
governance in the present.
We proceed as follows: Section 2 describes in some detail the methodology we used to conduct our literature review.
In section 3 we highlight how social science and sustainability science scholarship engages, both explicitly and implic-
itly, with the notion of anticipatory governance. In section 4, we draw on this overview to identify four distinct
approaches to anticipatory governance discernible in the reviewed literature. Section 5 maps onto these four approaches
a range of methods and tools of anticipation that they utilize. In concluding, we highlight how the four approaches to
anticipatory governance that we identify in this review provide a useful analytical lens through which to assess the
ongoing practices of anticipatory governance now underway in the climate and sustainability realm.
2|METHODOLOGY
We explain here how we identified the literature to be reviewed, and how we conducted our review.
Our dominant methodology was to undertake a narrative-style interpretative review in order to identify diverse per-
spectives on anticipatory governance in a representative sample of social science and sustainability science literatures
that explicitly and implicitly engage with the term. We relied on qualitative methods that are suitable to our aim of
describing, synthesizing and furthering conceptual understanding of a key concept (in our case anticipatory
2of20 MUIDERMAN ET AL.
governance), rather than undertaking a comprehensive author-centered or article-centered review that draws on quan-
titative methods to build or test theory (Rowe, 2014).
While concepts such as anticipation, foresight, futures, and forward-looking governance are ever more widely used
in social science and sustainability science scholarship, the term anticipatory governanceis explicitly used by rela-
tively few strands of writing. We thus identified and reviewed studies that explicitly use this term but also those that
address related future-oriented governance.
2.1 Identifying and selecting literature
We identified the literature to be reviewed in three steps, aiming at a representative sample rather than at
comprehensiveness.
First, we searched for articles in the SCOPUS database that explicitly deploy the term anticipatory governance.
Specifically, we looked for articles that contained the term anticipatory governancein the title, abstract, or keywords.
We limited this search to journals in the social sciences and environmental sciences, as defined by SCOPUS. This step
yielded an initial set of 57 articles. Through scanning the titles and abstracts of these 57 articles, we excluded 10 that
were too far removed from the climate and sustainability domain (dealing, e.g., with health or security). This resulted
in 47 articles that covered topics such as anticipatory risk governance,”“anticipatory governance and foresight,
anticipatory governance for social-ecological resilience,”“anticipatory climate governance,”“anticipatory governance
of emerging technologies,and anticipatory governance of innovation.In a second step, we went through the cita-
tions and reference lists of these 47 articles, to identify any further articles that explicitly mentioned anticipatory gover-
nance (but may not have been captured in our initial search, because they were not categorized as social or
environmental sciences within Scopus; Verschuren & Doorewaard, 2010). This process yielded another 24 articles using
this term. In a third step, we scanned the references in these 71 articles to identify related literature that engages with
future-oriented governance, without explicitly using the term anticipatory governance. Here we looked for terms such
as anticipation,”“anticipatory planning,”“anticipatory knowledge,”“anticipatory democracybut also sociology of
the future,”“foresight,and scenarios.This yielded another 73 articles, resulting in a set of 144 articles that formed
the basis for our review. Through this approach, we sought to identify a broad, representative sample of relevant articles
in a large swath of social science and sustainability science scholarship that engages with anticipatory and future-
oriented governance.
2.2 Process and method of review
We then analyzed these 144 articles to unpack their understandings of anticipatory governance. We looked, specifically,
for three elements that often remain implicit and are under-analyzed in studies on future-oriented governance:
(a) diverse conceptions of and engagement with the future, including its knowability and manageability; (b) implications
for governance and policy actions to be taken in the present; and (c) the ultimate aim of engaging in anticipatory
governance. We had identified the first two elements as important to scrutinize in an agenda-setting article on anticipa-
tory climate governance (Vervoort & Gupta, 2018), which called for conceptual and empirical scrutiny of how often-
implicit conceptions of the future influence present-day policy choices. We thus included these two elements in our pre-
sent review, and added a third important and under-analyzed element, namely the ultimate aim of engaging with antic-
ipatory governance.
In scrutinizing the selected literature to ascertain diverse perspectives on these three component elements, we did
not prespecify their possible content. Instead, we read the literature in an open-ended manner, with an eye to identify
inductively the range of ways in which the future was being conceptualized and presented; the governance and policy
actions in the present to be taken; and the array of possible ends to be realized. Doing so allowed us to identify four
main approaches to anticipatory governance in the reviewed literature, with we present and discuss in detail in Sec-
tion 4, and synthesize in the form of Figure 1.
We also assessed the selected literature against a fourth element: the range of tools and methods of anticipation
relied upon in diverse approaches to anticipatory governance, as well as roles proposed for stakeholders. In section 5,
we outline diverse anticipatory methods and tools, and their alignment with the four approaches to anticipatory gover-
nance identified earlier. Figure 2 synthesizes and presents an overview of this aspect of our analysis.
MUIDERMAN ET AL.3of20
While broad categorizations are immanent to any literature review, we should note at the outset that our intention
here is not to imply strict boundaries between these four approaches. Nor do we seek to rigidly link the four anticipa-
tory governance approaches to specific authors, scholarly articles or research traditions in the social and sustainability
sciences. Instead, we view these as ideal-types, with our aim being to critically interrogate and broadly map diverse per-
spectives on an important phenomenon in the study and practice of sustainability: forward-looking anticipatory gover-
nance that engages with diverse visions of sustainable futures. We should also note that not all 144 papers we reviewed
are referenced in the article, instead, we chose representative writings to illustrate the four approaches we
identify here.
3|ANTICIPATING AND SEEKING TO GOVERN THE FUTURE: A BRIEF
OVERVIEW
Before presenting the four approaches to anticipatory governance in the following section, we first provide here a broad,
general overview of how the concept of anticipatory governance is addressed, both explicitly and implicitly, in the
reviewed literature. This broad overview provides the context for our more specific discussion of the four approaches to
anticipatory governance in Section 4.
3.1 Explicit engagement with the concept of anticipatory governance
To start with the notion of anticipatory governance is explicitly used in four influential strands of social science and sus-
tainability science scholarship.
First, an influential perspective on anticipatory governance has emerged out of a concern with possible disruptive
consequences of scientific and technological innovations (Barben, Fisher, Selin, & Guston, 2008; Guston, 2012;
Macnaghten et al., 2014; Stilgoe, Owen, & Macnaghten, 2013). This perspective connects science and technology stud-
ies, responsible research and innovation, and environmental governance literatures. David Guston, a leading scholar in
this tradition, defines anticipatory governance as a broad-based capacity extended through society that can act on a
variety of inputs to manage emerging knowledge-based technologies while such management is still possible
(Guston, 2014, p. 219). In this view, anticipatory governance is a nonpredictive approach to enhance present-day pre-
paredness, including through building capacities in foresight and multi-stakeholder engagement, all to steer away from
possible disruptive impacts of novel technologies in the future (Anderson, 2007; Barben et al., 2008; Guston, 2012, 2014;
Nielsen, Fredriksen, & Myhr, 2011; Stilgoe et al., 2013). The future is conceived here as being inherently uncertain but
which can nonetheless be acted upon in the present, with a focus on building society-wide capacities to anticipate and
navigate future trajectories.
Second, anticipatory governance is explicitly addressed in national security policy analyses, particularly in the
United States. Anticipatory governance is envisioned here as governance that can manage crises ex ante to prevent their
destabilizing effects (Boston, 2017; Fuerth, 2009b; Fuerth & Faber, 2013; Ramos, 2014). Building on Toffler's (1970b)
notion of anticipatory democracy, some scholars in this tradition argue for developing new forms of representative gov-
ernance that can operate proactively in the face of crushing decisional overload, or political future shock
(Toffler, 1970a, p. xii, see also Bezold, 2006, p. 36; Ramos, 2014). Anticipatory governance is seen here as a way to
address future challenges posed by the accelerating rate and complexity of social change. Such perspectives on anticipa-
tory governance focus on the adaptive capacity of national planning systems (Fuerth & Faber, 2013), among others
regarding climate change. Studies in this tradition imply that the future can be governed and risks prevented as long as
anticipatory governance is enabled through a system of institutions, rules, and norms that provides a way to use fore-
sight, networks, and feedback for the purpose of reducing riskas a means of engaging with the future (Fuerth, 2009a,
p. 29). Thus, the future is conceived of as containing reducible risks, which can be acted upon and mitigated through
improved planning processes in the present.
A third strand of writing that explicitly engages with the concept of anticipatory governance has emerged in sustain-
ability science, for instance in the area of climate adaptation and resilience (Bates & Saint-Pierre, 2018; Boyd
et al., 2015; Hurlbert & Gupta, 2019; Serrao-Neumann, Harman, & Low Choy, 2013). This research engages with extant
4of20 MUIDERMAN ET AL.
notions of anticipatory governance (e.g., Fuerth, 2009b; Guston, 2014; R. Quay, 2010) by seeking to provide an
alternative planning approach to address the adaptation challenge(Serrao-Neumann et al., 2013, p. 441 see also
Boyd et al., 2015). This approach seeks to develop proactive strategies to adapt and build the necessary resilience to
contend with uncertain environmental futures (Boyd et al., 2015). The novelty lies in seeking to steer away from
short-term decision-making to longer-term policy visioning in ways that can anticipate change and help realize
more sustainable futures. Such perspectives also highlight the role played in anticipatory processes by local com-
munities and a diverse array of stakeholders (Boyd et al., 2015; Serrao-Neumann et al., 2013; Tschakert &
Dietrich, 2010).
Fourth, there is a more critical line of research with explicit reference to anticipatory governance in global envi-
ronmental governance and environmental policy literatures (Gupta, 2001, 2004, 2011; Jansen & Gupta, 2009;
Mittelstadt et al., 2015; Talberg, Thomas, Christoff, & Karoly, 2018; see also Low, 2017). Anticipatory governance is
understood here as the attempt to govern under conditions of extreme scientific uncertainty and normative conflict
over the very existence and nature of future environmental and technological risk and harm (Gupta, 2001, 2004,
2013). These studies in global environmental governance emphasize the need for critical scrutiny of anticipatory
practices as contested sites of politics.
3.2 Implicit engagement with the concept of anticipatory governance
In addition, three broad fields of study in the climate and sustainability domain engage with processes of anticipation
and foresight, without using the term anticipatory governance explicitly.
The first is futures studies with its strong methodological focus on anticipating and imagining futures, including in
a sustainability context. While a lack of critical social science scrutiny of future-oriented anticipatory practices, such as
scenario building, is noted to be an important research gap (Vervoort & Gupta, 2018), scholars in future studies have
spearheaded the study of anticipatory practices and data on which other research communities have relied. Such antici-
patory practices are often closely connected to policy to support long-term planning on complex and uncertain issues,
such as climate change. Scenario thinking first picked up steam in futures studies in the 1960s, owing to publications
such as The Year 2000 by Kahn and Wiener (Kahn & Wiener, 1967; also Wack, 1985) and the launch of a specialized
journal Futures in 1968. Since the late 1960s and early 1970s, envisioning environmental futures have been a matter of
global concern, due to publications such as Limits to Growth by the Club of Rome in 1972 (Meadows, Meadows, Ran-
ders, & Behrens, 1972) and the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm (Granjou
et al., 2017). The growing concern with long-term thinking and assessments of futures has also been taken up in fora
such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Reports, including its Shared Socio-Economic
Pathways (Riahi et al., 2017), as well as in integrated assessment models (O'Neill et al., 2014), UNEP's Global Environ-
mental Outlook, the Millennium Ecosystems Assessment and other assessments (Bell, 2001; Kok, Biggs, & Zurek, 2007;
van Vuuren, Kok, Girod, Lucas, & de Vries, 2012).
As a result of decades of such global scientific assessment work, of which scenarios are a key component
(Loveridge & Street, 2005; van Notten, Rotmans, van Asselt, & Rothman, 2003; Vervoort, Bendor, Kelliher, Strik, &
Helfgott, 2015), futures studies offer extensive research and insights on anticipatory methods to explore climate-
impacted futures (Swart et al., 2004). It focuses on imagining and representing multiple alternative climate futures to
guide climate mitigation and adaptation decision-making, under conditions of complexity and uncertainty (Sova
et al., 2015; Vervoort et al., 2015). All strands of futures studies include anticipatory objectives (Rossel, 2010) but they
are characterized by different epistemologies (Ramírez & Selin, 2014; Wilkinson & Eidinow, 2008). Some strands of
futures studies are concerned with probabilistic foresight, which assumes that probabilities can be assigned to multiple
futures. In this view, by analyzing how present-day driving forces steer future outcomes, one can guide policy planning
and determine policy measures and investments. Other strands of futures studies are more concerned with viewing
futures and the plausibility assigned to them as socially constructed (Ramírez & Selin, 2014; Wilkinson &
Eidinow, 2008)
A second research field can be broadly defined as focusing on transformations and systems resilience (Feola, 2015;
Folke, 2006). Within this diverse and interdisciplinary space, anticipation is often seen as a way to advance the transi-
tion of complex systems toward more sustainable trajectories (Loorbach, Frantzeskaki, & Avelino, 2017; Rotmans &
Loorbach, 2009). Here, anticipatory engagement with potential futures is seen as essential to support sustainability
MUIDERMAN ET AL.5of20
transitions and transformations (Hansen & Coenen, 2014; Mok & Hyysalo, 2018), where processes of anticipation act
as harbingers of the futureto support pro-active, long-term planning of societal innovation, including through deliber-
ation (Loorbach, 2010; Rotmans & Loorbach, 2009, p. 190). Related literature on resilience sees anticipation as part of
proactively governing social-ecological systems towards sustainability (for a review of conceptual approaches to trans-
formations, (Chaffin et al., 2016; see Feola, 2015; Patterson et al., 2017). Also here, anticipation is seen as a prerequisite
for transformations. This includes both anticipation of the unintended consequences of social and technical innovation
as well as possible opportunities for changing the system (Chaffin et al., 2016; Hebinck, Vervoort, Hebinck, Rutting, &
Galli, 2018).
A third, critical domain of thinking on anticipation focuses on interrogating the normative claims underlying antici-
patory processes and the potential disconnect between anticipating futures versus making present-day choices in gover-
nance. For example, Bell emphasizes that futurists have done a great deal of practical methodological work on the
prediction problem, but they have done less to justify their judgments of preferable futures(Bell, 2001, p. 72). Recent
writings have emphasized how reflexivity about the politics of future-oriented anticipation processes is missing in most
futures studies, particularly regarding how the future is framed and what power such frames have over present gover-
nance (Vervoort & Gupta, 2018).
Such critical thinking on anticipation is also a mainstay of research in science and technology studies, sociology
of the future, and responsible research and innovation (Bellamy, 2016; Jasanoff & Kim, 2015; Jasanoff &
Markle, 2008; Nordmann, 2014; Selin, 2008). A key focus in such writings is on how practices of anticipationand
the ideas of the future expressed thereinare sites of political conflict and negotiation. For example, Selin (2008,
p. 1892) suggests that as social scientists begin to weave their own accounts of futures, they should pay attention to
the politics of such rendering.Writings in this vein also engage with the notion of sociotechnical imaginariesby
Jasanoff and Kim (2009, 2015), who define such imaginaries as collectively held, institutionally stabilized, and pub-
licly performed visions of desirable futures, animated by shared understandings of forms of social life and social
order, and attainable through, and supportive of, advances in science and technology(Jasanoff & Kim, 2015, p. 4).
This line of research then interrogates how such sociotechnical imaginaries frame the possibilities for action in the
present and have performative effects by casting some futures as more desirable, attainable, or even imaginable than
others. For example, Esguerra (2019) investigates the socio-material politics of different future objects.Ander-
son (2010) offers an analysis from the perspective of geography about how the future is problematized as indetermi-
nate or uncertain, and investigates different ways of engaging with such problematicfutures, including through
reliance on, inter alia, pre-emption, precaution, and preparedness.
4|FOUR APPROACHES TO ANTICIPATORY GOVERNANCE: DIVERSE
CONCEPTIONS OF THE FUTURE, ACTIONS IN THE PRESENT, AND
ULTIMATE AIMS
With this broad overview of both explicit and implicit understandings of anticipatory governance in the literature, we
now turn to distill similarities and differences across them, in terms of: the conceptions of the future, implications for
present actions, and ultimate aims to be realized. This allows us to delineate four distinct approaches to anticipatory
governance in the reviewed literature.
In distilling diverse conceptions of the future, we scrutinized assumptions about the knowability and manage-
ability of the future. Our review yielded four (ideal-typical) ways in which the future is being conceptualized and
engaged with in the literature: (a) assessing probable (and improbable) futures; (b) contending with multiple plau-
sible futures; (c) imagining diverse pluralistic futures; and (d) scrutinizing the performative potential of future
imaginaries.
In distilling associated actions in the present, we inductively identified four ideal-typical categories of present-day
actions flowing from diverse conceptions of the future. These included: (a) formal planning and strategy development;
(b) building broad-based societal preparedness and capacities; (c) mobilizing diverse actors; and (d) interrogating dis-
cursive and material effects in the present.
Finally, with regard to ultimate aims, we inductively identified the following four ideal-typical ends to be realized
through engaging with anticipatory governance: (a) to mitigate or reduce future risk; (b) to reflexively navigate diverse
6of20 MUIDERMAN ET AL.
uncertain futures; (c) to imagine and co-create new futures; and (d) to shed light on the political implications in the pre-
sent of speculative future imaginaries.
Through combining these diverse ways of engaging with the future, associated present actions, and ultimate aims,
we distill four broad approaches to anticipatory governance discernible in social and sustainability science scholarship.
We describe these below and summarize them also in Figure 1.
4.1 Approach 1: Probable futures, strategic planning, and risk reduction
The first approach to anticipatory governance that we identify here assesses probable and improbable futures and prior-
itizes strategic planning in the present, with the ultimate aim of future risk reduction. This approach is most clearly dis-
cernible in perspectives in the public policy and planning literature that explicitly deploy the notion of anticipatory
governance as well as in some probabilistic futures studies. There are some similarities between this and the second
approach, namely that both see futures as complex and uncertain; however, proponents of Approach 1 predominantly
argue that future risks can be prevented and future opportunities can be shaped.
Conception of the future: This first approach to anticipatory governance is concerned with identifying and assessing the
probability of different futures. It assumes that future risks and uncertainties can be made partially knowable and man-
ageable and that such knowledge can be gained by reducing scientific uncertainty and complexity regarding the direc-
tions of future change. In this approach, probable futures are identified by analyzing patterns of the past, which can
shed light on and help to explore future trends and their probabilities (see e.g., Börjeson, Höjer, Dreborg, Ekvall, &
Finnveden, 2006; Cuhls, 2003). At the same time, there is also a concern with exploring improbable/low-likelihood
futures that may have a high impact on society. Part of the rationale for exploring improbable futures is to develop
knowledge infrastructures for detecting early warnings of low-probability but high-impact contingencies
(Fuerth, 2009a; Fuerth & Faber, 2013).
Actions in the present: Flowing from the manner of engaging with the future as above, this approach to anticipa-
tory governance focuses on prioritizing mission-orientedpolicy action in the present, through analyzing the pol-
icy consequences of futures with different probabilities (Fuerth & Faber, 2013). In this view, scientists, engineers,
and policymakers, or policymakers in whole-of-government approaches, can strategically prioritize and plan the
future in the present, pre-empt future threats (Fuerth & Faber, 2013; Stockdale, 2013) and protect long-term socie-
tal interests and future investments (Boston, 2017). According to Fuerth, anticipatory governance improves the
capacity to organize planning and action in ways that mobilize the full capacities of governments, andspeed
[s] up the process of detecting error and propagating success(Fuerth, 2009b, p. 31). Thus, the future is conceived
as containing reducible risks, which can be acted upon in the present through improved knowledge infrastructures
and strategic planning processes.
Ultimate aim: The aim here is to reduce future risks, by strategically designing policy trajectories that minimize and
steer away from high-risk scenarios (Kuzma, Romanchek, & Kokotovich, 2008), stay ahead of destabilizing develop-
ments (Cuhls, 2003; Fuerth, 2009a) and thereby win the future(Fuerth, 2009b; Fuerth & Faber, 2013) and safeguard
the future.In this view, expert-driven strategic planning can help to steer toward a more desired future in which risks
are reduced and opportunities are seized.
4.2 Approach 2: Plausible futures, enhanced preparedness, and navigating uncertainty
The second approach to anticipatory governance we identify here envisions multiple plausible futures, and calls for
enhancing preparedness and building capacities in the present to be able to reflexively navigate diverse (uncertain)
futures. This approach is discernible in writings on responsible research and innovation and some strands of climate
policy and governance literatures, as well as anticipation-focused scholarship in the interdisciplinary transitions and
transformations literature. Thematic foci here include future environmental and societal impacts of climate change as
well as governance of novel technologies, such as nanotechnology, biotechnology, or geoengineering (see
MUIDERMAN ET AL.7of20
e.g., Douglas & Stemerding, 2014; Fonseca & Pereira, 2014). Even though some similarities exist with Approach 1, this
approach emphasizes the need to enhance preparedness to reflexively steer sociotechnical developments in mitigating
potential future harms.
Conception of the future: This approach sees more fundamental and irreducible uncertainties in the future. This
makes multiple future trajectories possible that are all plausible and that cannot be ranked or reduced to one single
most likely future (Guston, 2014; Michelson, 2016; see also Selin, 2011). Considering that multiple plausible
futures exist, and that plausibility itself is considered a matter of individual and group subjectivity (Ramírez &
Selin, 2014), their content can only be legitimately envisioned through broad deliberation (Boyd et al., 2015;
Guston, 2014; Rotmans & Loorbach, 2009).
Actions in the present: An engagement with the future that recognizes multiple plausible future trajectories then
calls for the development of adaptive capacities and a state of preparedness in the present, to navigate diverse
future trajectories. Such preparedness should involve a broad range of actors in reflexive modes of future-making
as well as futures-based decision-making (Guston, 2014; Sadowski & Guston, 2016). Guston (2014), for example,
highlights the need for reflexivity in contemplating technological trajectories and progress, such that contingencies
and possible disruptions can be better anticipated and prepared for ex ante. Future stakes should be brought into a
reflexive conversation in dialogic spaces that include scientists, engineers, and policymakers (Davies & Selin, 2012;
Wiek, Guston, van der Leeuw, Selin, & Shapira, 2013).
The call for upstream public engagement (Fuller, 2009; Macnaghten, 2009; Macnaghten et al., 2014) is hence critical
for this second approach. It is seen as important to include the concerns and hopes of lay publics who can support more
socially robust technological development or climate adaptation planning (Lister, Brocki, & Ament, 2015; Nykvist,
Borgström, & Boyd, 2017; Serrao-Neumann et al., 2013). Anticipatory methods are used to exchange knowledge
between experts and lay people, with anticipation understood here as being more about practicing, rehearsing or
exercising a capacity in a logically, spatially, or temporally prior way, than it is about divining a future(Guston, 2014,
p. 226).
Ultimate aim: Whereas in the first approach, anticipatory governance aims at reducing future risks, this second
approach focuses on preparedness to adapt to technological innovation and socio-ecological change, with the ultimate
aim being to reflexively navigate uncertain futures (see also Pickering, 2019).
4.3 Approach 3: Pluralistic futures, societal mobilization and co-creating alternatives
The third approach to anticipatory governance that we identify here is concerned with imagining diverse
pluralistic futures, to mobilize societal actors in the present to co-create desired futures. It draws primarily
on perspectives in futures studies and views on anticipation and anticipatory governance in the sustainability
sciences. From these perspectives, the socially constructed nature of futures means that all notions of plausi-
bility are subjective: different futures are more or less believable for different audiences. This approach is
thus most concerned with collectively imagining radical futures with the aim of co-creating transformative
futures.
Conception of the future: This third approach is similar to the second approach inasmuch as it also sees the future as
having multiple trajectories that are largely unknowable. It adopts, however, a more explicitly transformative stance.
This approach reacts in particular to probability-based and plausibility-based concepts of the future that are seen as too
limiting since plausibility is still defined in terms of how futures relate to the present. Ramírez and Selin (2014) for
example propose to open up the exploration of future worlds beyond the limiting ideas of plausibility that are tied to
the present. Since all knowledge about the future is shaped by interaction and depends on interpretations of the world,
different societal notions of the future represent fundamentally pluralistic future worlds (Patterson et al., 2017; Robin-
son & Herbert, 2004; Zehfuss, 2002). Vervoort et al. (2015) hence tie this fundamental plurality of futures to a plurality
of societal presents and pasts.
8of20 MUIDERMAN ET AL.
Actions in the present: Scholars in these traditions thus reject the duality between present and future, expressing a
postmodern ontology that prioritizes interaction between multiple presents and future worlds that can be co-created
and mobilized through collective action. In this perspective, actions in the present call for prioritizing the imagining
and development of pluralistic and actionable pathways to change that can bring together and mobilize societal
actors in novel configurations (Swart et al., 2004). All assumptions for change processes can be investigated and all
action trajectories can be tested to make them socially robust under various future conditions. Rossel (2010, p. 74)
explains, furthermore, that, robust does not mean truenor definitively ascertained,but recognized, shaped,
used and perceived as relevant by a variety of social constituencies,as opposed to one expert or interest group. The
collective imagination of new and more sustainable futuresisseenasafirststeptorealizingandachievingalterna-
tive futures (Hajer & Pelzer, 2018; Hajer & Versteeg, 2019). One way to do so is to bring societal actors together to
imagine new futures through new pathways for change, which can be acted upon in the present (Robinson, Burch,
Talwar, O'Shea, & Walsh, 2011). Anticipation in this approach is thus about mobilizing stakeholders to imagine
futures and bring these futures to life. It is about co-creating desirable futures through social processes, but also about
which future challenges to engage with (Vervoort et al., 2015).
Ultimate aim: This approach makes the closest connection between futures and anticipation on the one hand, and sus-
tainability transformations and transitions on the other (Hajer & Versteeg, 2019; Hebinck et al., 2018). Thus, scholars
investigate anticipation here in contexts where new configurations of societal actors are brought together for radical
change (Bennett et al., 2016), with the ultimate aim of co-creating new and more transformative futures (Bendor, 2018;
Hajer & Pelzer, 2018; Robinson & Herbert, 2004; Sova et al., 2015).
4.4 Approach 4: Performative futures, critical interrogation, and political implications
The fourth approach to anticipatory governance we identify here engages with the future primarily to emphasize the
performative power of future imaginaries, in shaping present-day choices and governance trajectories. This perspective
is thus most concerned to interrogate and shed light on these performative effects, to reveal their political implications
for and in the present. This approach is most fully articulated in writings in science and technology studies, sociology of
the future, and critical (global) environmental governance. There are certain similarities between this and the preceding
two approaches, including seeing the future as unknowable and calling for opening decision-making to lay public.
However, this approach is most fundamentally concerned with interrogating the performative power and politics of
engaging with and imagining the future.
Conception of the future: In this fourth approach, the future is marked by irresolvable uncertainties and unknowns.
Any attempt to reduce it to something that is manageable inevitably privileges particular ways of thinking and spe-
cific priorities. All claims about the future are seen here as political interventions, as representations or fabrications
of the future(Jasanoff & Kim, 2015, p. 337) that have performative effects in the present (Anderson, 2010; Selin,
2008) all claims about the future, even when developed through deliberative processes, have the power to call into
being specific futures by shaping present-day choices. This could be, for example, through limiting future climate
mitigation and adaptation possibilities to the pragmatism of current regimes (Pulver & VanDeveer, 2009; Sarkki
et al., 2017; Sova et al., 2015), or shaping how novel climate engineering technologies are conceptualized and de facto
governed in the present (Gupta & Möller, 2018; see also Talberg et al., 2018). Frames about the future can include
both utopian and dystopian visions that create distorted images of social realities and colonizethe future
(Selin, 2007, p. 197). For example, the framing of climate emergenciesmay legitimize and prioritize the develop-
ment of socially and politically problematic technological solutions in the present (Bellamy, 2016; Gupta, 2019; see
also Macnaghten et al., 2014).
Actions in the present: Given its focus on the performative power of future imaginaries, this approach is most inter-
ested in interrogating the discursive and political implications and consequences of such imaginaries for present-
day choices (Esguerra, 2019). A key concern is the power of expert knowledge and scientific expertise in calling
into being, and engaging with, diverse futures. In discussing the role of science in responses to climate change
(Hulme, 2010), climate engineering (Gupta & Möller, 2018; Low, 2017), or other domains of sustainability, such an
MUIDERMAN ET AL.9of20
approach to anticipation questions whether expert-driven visioning is merely a technical process that can objec-
tively and neutrally engage with the future (see also Mittelstadt et al., 2015). In this view, claim-making about the
future must instead be analyzed as a site of political negotiation and conflict (Gupta, 2011; see also Jansen &
Gupta, 2009; Talberg et al., 2018). The key focus is to identify the discursive effects of frames or fabrications of the
future as they are generated and advanced through practices of anticipation; and to study how these exert power
over the present. A priority is to interrogate and be cognizant of how claim-making about the future can hold the
present hostage (Nordmann, 2014).
Ultimate aim: In this approach, the ultimate aim of engaging with anticipatory governance and critically interrogating
future visions and imaginaries, is to shed light on their performative effects and political implications in the present,
including how future imaginaries benefit or exclude certain policy choices, trajectories, sectors, investments, or interests
of actors. This approach hence seeks to bring attention back to the present and to the difficult political choices and
trade-offs that require redressal now, rather than in an imagined future (Nordmann, 2014).
In Figure 1, we map and visualize these four approaches to anticipatory governance. On the horizontal axis, we
illustrate the continuum of views on conceptions of the future that we have discussed above. The vertical axis shows
the continuum of views on implications for actions in the present. The four boxes capture the key elements of the four
approaches, with the conception of/engagement with the future in red text, the actions to be taken in the present in
blue, and the ultimate aim in black.
As we discuss in the conclusion, this mapping of anticipatory governance approaches also serves as an analytical
lens through which to further explore the nature and implications of ongoing practices of anticipatory governance, as
they are now underway around the world.
FIGURE 1 Approaches to anticipatory governance: Diverse conceptions of the future and actions in the present
10 of 20 MUIDERMAN ET AL.
5|METHODS AND TOOLS OF ANTICIPATION: OVERLAPPING USE AND
VARYING ENDS
Having described four approaches to anticipatory governance, we now discuss the tools and methods of anticipation
used within, but also across, these four approaches. The reason for this separate section is that the four approaches to
anticipatory governance, and methods used herein, are not straightforwardly aligned. Although certain tools and
methods align more with a given approach, similar methods and tools can also be used by distinct approaches to antici-
patory governance. Furthermore, a single anticipation process can use multiple mechanisms, methods, and tools
(Vervoort et al., 2014). For example, one can combine quantitative models with participatory scenario or visioning pro-
cesses to gain insights into future drivers that may be difficult to imagine (Mason-D'Croz et al., 2016). The purpose of
this section, however, is not to explain the use of diverse methods of anticipation in anticipatory processes, but rather
to analyze which methods align with which approach to anticipatory governance, and whether some methods are used
across different approaches. We conclude our discussion by presenting an overview, in Figure 2, of how tools and
methods of anticipation map onto the four approaches to anticipatory governance.
5.1 Anticipatory tools and methods to assess probable and improbable futures
(Approach 1)
Two sets of anticipatory tools are referred to most often by those subscribing to the first approach to anticipatory gover-
nance that we identified, given its focus on calculating probabilities of future risks and on hypothesizing alternative
courses of action. These include tools that extend the horizon of awareness to detect risks in the future, as well as tools
that set short-term policy priorities based on long-term strategizing (Fuerth, 2009b).
In the first category are tools such as Delphi methods, horizon scanning or future commissions, all of which are intended
to enhance the capacity of planners to monitor future events, analyze potential implications, simulate alternative courses of
action, ask unasked questions, and issue timely warnings (Boston, 2019; Fuerth & Faber, 2013; Li & Porter, 2018). Additional
methods relevant here include cost-minimizing scenarios, forward-looking information services, econometric model calcula-
tions, technological forecasting, climate statistics, impact assessments, time series analyses, and trend analyses (Bradfield,
Wright, Burt, Cairns, & van der Heijden, 2005; Edwards, 2010; van Notten et al., 2003).
In the second category are tools that set short-time policy priorities based on long term strategizing. These include
policy analysis,budget analysis,organizational crowdsourcing,public learning,online community tools,risk assessment,
and scenario analysis (Bezold, 2006; Fuerth, 2009a, 2009b; Ramos, 2014). The envisioned role of science, including
social science, and scientific methods is to guide expert-analytical processes and to identify probable future pathways;
the role of lay publics is often limited (Cuhls, 2003).
5.2 Anticipatory tools and methods to explore plausible futures (Approach 2)
Numerous tools are used in exploring multiple plausible futures, the focus of Approach 2. Some are generally more
associated with probabilistic foresight, such as simulation modeling and weak signal-type approaches. However, one
can apply the modeling approaches and weak signal approaches to sets of scenarios that are not ordered by likelihood
but include a range of futures that are considered plausible (Sampson, Quay, & White, 2016; Quay, 2015; Wender,
Foley, Guston, Seager, & Wiek, 2012), therefore still falling within a plausibility envelope.Other methods common to
both Approaches 1 and 2 include strategic visioning and backcasting, combined with tools to assess risks, vulnerabil-
ities, and monitor changing climate conditions (Boyd et al., 2015; Dougill, Fraser, & Reed, 2010; Fazey et al., 2015;
Nicholls, Wong, Burkett, Woodroffe, & Hay, 2008; Rogers, 2011; Wardekker, de Jong, Knoop, & van der Sluijs, 2010).
Methods that are prioritized here include those designed to transfer knowledge from experts to local knowledge holders
and facilitate bottom-up community involvement in decision-making. Thus, similar methods as used in Approach 1 are
used in Approach 2 as well, but are intended to strengthen the anticipatory capacity of governing stakeholders and the
agency of vulnerable groups (Boyd et al., 2015; Nuttall, 2010; Tschakert & Dietrich, 2010).
Vulnerable groups in developing countries are of particular concern here, given that access to information, knowledge
networks, and learning tools is perceived to be scarce at the community level. Thus, in Approach 2, participatory methods
MUIDERMAN ET AL.11 of 20
including participatory vulnerability mapping, participatory modeling, and participatory scenario explorationsare seen as
pivotal to facilitating knowledge transfer from experts to lay groups and for adapting livelihoods, institutions, and ecosystems
to uncertain futures (Dougill et al., 2010; Ostrom, 2010; Tschakert & Dietrich, 2010; Voinov & Bousquet, 2010). Equally
important for the use of such methods is the balancing and combining of scientific knowledge with citizen knowledge by
engaging a variety of stakeholders, such as local governments, scientists, corporations, community networks, and govern-
mental organizations (Boyd et al., 2015; Dougill et al., 2010; Nuttall, 2010). The focus is on building anticipatory capacities in
a deliberative fashion (Wiek, Guston, van der Leeuw, Selin, & Shapira, 2013).
Finally, consensus conferences, citizensjuries, deliberative mapping, and deliberative polling and focus groups are
also used to explore plausible futures (Bellamy, Chilvers, Vaughan, & Lenton, 2012; Chilvers, 2010; Stilgoe et al., 2013).
These tools can stimulate expert-driven interaction between scientists and engineers (Harvey & Salter, 2012; Sadowski &
Guston, 2016) but also bring in the public through upstream public engagement(Conca, 2019; Guston, 2014;
Macnaghten, 2009). Such methods can also improve interaction between scientists and publics, which is seen as crucial
for a better mutual understanding of values and goals (Guston, 2010) and the sharing of positive lessons, securing legiti-
macy and realizing socially robust technologies (Anderson, 2007; Macnaghten, 2009; Stilgoe et al., 2013).
Similar methods are also proposed in the more constructivist futures studies and critical social science literatures
that underpin Approaches 3 and 4 (as discussed further below). There, they might be deployed to mobilize diverse
actors, thus aligning with the third approach, or to critically interrogate frames of the future, thus aligning with the
fourth approach.
5.3 Anticipatory tools and methods to imagine pluralistic futures (Approach 3)
In this approach, participatory futures methods and tools are used to mobilize stakeholders to collectively imagine plu-
ralistic transformative pathways. Various methods for the development of participatory futures are used with the under-
standing that multiple scenarios represent multiple incommensurable future worlds. This differs from the, often
implicit, understanding most common in the second approach: that there is a single, shared reality from which multiple
future trajectories are possible within the boundaries of plausibility (Vervoort et al., 2015). These innovations and exper-
iments are ideally employed to embrace uncertainty, discomfort and knowledge gaps, and the connected need to cap-
ture and make productive fundamental plurality among understandings of the future(Vervoort et al., 2015, p. 62).
Visions, scenarios, and back-casted pathways are intended to mobilize collective action towards more desired futures
(Bennett et al., 2016; Kok et al., 2007; Robinson et al., 2011; Sova et al., 2015; Vervoort et al., 2014) and for thinking
beyond positioned views on today's desirable state(Sarkki et al., 2017, p. 559). Simulation gaming plays an increasingly
important role among the tools associated with this approach (Vervoort, 2019). Methods and tools also include other
forms of community dialogues, training, education, and experimentation (Garb, Pulver, & vanDeveer, 2008; Karlsen,
Øverland, & Karlsen, 2010; Mayer, 2009). Although a number of these methods overlap with the second approach, the
focus here is on creating new shared futures with the purpose of realizing them, as distinct from the focus in Approach
1 on navigating uncertain futures in a more adaptive mode.
Notably, because of the interest in imagining and realizing pluralistic futures, there is a stronger focus within this
Approach 3 on methods that allow for the creation of future visions and scenarios that can be engaged with as fully
embodied and realized experiences. Such experiential futuresmethods (Candy & Dunagan, 2017) include turning sce-
narios into interactive theater (Baena, 2017); creating exhibitions (Hajer & Versteeg, 2019; (Bendor, Maggs, Peake, Rob-
inson, & Williams, 2017) and design workshops; various experientially focused games from VR games to live-action
role-playing games (Vervoort, 2019); and integrating futures into present-day environments such as cityscapes
(Candy & Dunagan, 2017). Such methods can and sometimes are used for futures developed from Approach 2 as well,
but the match between experiential futures and Approach 3 is more common because of the explicit interest in bringing
new desired futures to life.
5.4 Assessing how imagined futures are performative (Approach 4)
Methods and tools deployed in critical strands of scholarship on anticipatory governance are, to some extent, similar to
those used in other approaches as well, including future scenarios, technology assessment, integrative deliberation, and
12 of 20 MUIDERMAN ET AL.
vision assessments. However, here such methods are either the subject of, or used for, critical interrogation (Bellamy
et al., 2012; Fonseca & Pereira, 2014; Mittelstadt et al., 2015; Selin, 2007, 2008). An example of such critical application
is analysis of future narratives and images, which is used to question the limiting assumptions about what futures are
possible, to open up dialogue for exploring novel and alternative pathways, and to interrogate the political implications
of future visions and pathways for the present (Selin, 2008). Anticipation tools serve here as a heuristic device to iden-
tify diverse futures (Sarkki et al., 2017; Talberg et al., 2018) and to democratize anticipatory knowledge production.
Here, anticipation mechanisms are primarily investigated as future framings with important political implications in
the present (Biermann & Gupta, 2011; Vervoort & Gupta, 2018), rather than as a proxy for merely knowing futures. In
this view, participatory and inclusive anticipation practices are vehicles to interrogate and open up dominant framings
of the future.
In this section, we discussed methods and tools that are used in and across four approaches to anticipation and
anticipatory governance. Figure 2 maps these methods and tools onto our continuum of four approaches to anticipatory
governance. The boxes detailing the four approaches are not repeated here again, to improve the readability of the fig-
ure. As Figure 2 illustrates many of these methods overlap and can be used across these continua and approaches. The
crucial distinction lies thus not so much in type of method used in the four approachesthese can be similarbut in
the ends they serve. These ends can vary significantly, as can the associated perceptions of the future and actions in the
present (for a recent extensive review of anticipatory tools and methods in envisioning climate engineered futures, see
Low & Schäfer, 2019).
Our analysis supplements hence the insight of Anderson (2007, p. 158), who argues that different methods and tools
of anticipation produce different epistemic objects through which future possibilities and potentialities are disclosed,
objectified, communicated, and rendered mobile, through the very way in which they are employed.As our analysis
suggests, even if the anticipatory methods are similar, the ways they are employed can vary because of the diverse con-
ceptions of the future they take as a starting point, the actions to be taken in the present that they prioritize, and the
end they seek to achieve.
FIGURE 2 Engaging with the future, acting in the present: Diverse tools and methods of anticipation
MUIDERMAN ET AL.13 of 20
6|CONCLUSION
This article has reviewed scholarly writings on anticipation and anticipatory governance in the social science and inter-
disciplinary sustainability science literatures. Our focus on explicit and implicit notions of anticipatory governance
across a wide range of research fields makes our analysis different both in scope and intent from existing typologies of
engagements with the future, particularly in futures studies research, which have focused more narrowly on futures
methods and content (see, e.g., Bradfield et al., 2005; van Notten et al., 2003; Wilkinson & Eidinow, 2008). We have
identified four approaches to anticipatory governance here, each of which embodies different conceptions of the future
and actions to be taken in the present, to realize different ends. Divergences across these elements allowed us to identify
and map four distinct and internally coherent approaches to anticipatory governance.
Approach 1 to anticipatory governance takes as a starting point that futures are scientifically uncertain and com-
plex, but still assessable in terms of probable and improbable future risks. The role of anticipation is to assess these
risks, to inform strategic policy trajectories on how to minimize future risks.
Approach 2 takes as its starting point that the future contains irreducible uncertainties and that multiple plausible
future trajectories are feasible. The role of anticipation then is to explore these futures through employing a deliberative
approach, to build adaptive capacities and preparedness in the present that allows for diagnosing and navigating
diverse, uncertain futures as their trajectories unfold.
Approach 3 conceives of the future as embedding multiple future worlds, shaped by interaction, and dependent on
diverse interpretations of the world. Mobilizing diverse societal actors to collectively develop pluralistic, actionable
pathways to generating change in the future is the action to be taken in the present, with the ultimate aim of co-
creating new and transformed futures.
Approach 4 sees engagement with the future as fabricationsor sociotechnical imaginaries that are speculative,
but still performative in calling into being certain privileged visions of the future. By interrogating these imaginaries for
their performative power, for instance, who or what is included or excluded in terms of actors, interests, and framings,
the aim is to make clear their political implications and material consequences in and for the present.
We visualized these four approaches to anticipatory governance in Figure 1, with the x-axis depicting a continuum
of diverse conceptions of the future; and the y-axis depicting the distinct implications for actions in the present. We
mapped and summarized the content of each approach to anticipatory governance in the boxed text, including here the
ultimate aim as well.
We also analyzed the tools and methods of anticipation that these four approaches rely on, finding that many of
these are common to more than one approach. In Figure 2, we mapped the most widely used anticipation methods and
tools onto our four anticipatory governance approaches (as shown in Figure 1), illustrating that similar methods are
used in more than one approach to anticipatory governance, even as they serve distinct ends. Our review thus also
builds on and complements the analysis in Low and Schäfer (2019), who investigate the conceptions of the future inher-
ent in specific sets of methods and tools (in a climate engineering context).
In conclusion, we should emphasize again, as we did at the outset of our analysis, that our categorization of four
approaches to anticipatory governance is not meant to imply hard boundaries between them, nor to suggest silos of
scholarly inquiry that rigidly adhere to specific claims and assumptions. Instead, we recognize that the four
approachesand the diverse and overlapping scholarly perspectives underpinning themcross-fertilize and engage
with each other. In distinguishing these four approaches, our aim is to identify ideal-types that serve an analytical pur-
pose: to map and shed light on how distinct ways of imagining and engaging with the future have implications for
present-day research and practice in climate and sustainability governance.
Our aim also is to provide an analytical lens through which to further analyze the (likely to be) messinessof antic-
ipatory approaches in practice, whereby different conceptions of the future, actions to be taken in the present, and ulti-
mate aims might co-exist in a single anticipation process. This may be the case because different groups of researchers
or practitioners collaborate and bring to the table different perspectives. While this could lead to novel outcomes, the
result could also be conflict or an uncomfortable subservient role becoming assigned in practice to certain approaches
such as anticipatory activities aimed at creating novel, pluralistic futures (Approach 3) having to fit their outcomes into
a process dominated by probabilistic assessments (Approach 1) or vice versa; or researchers focused on plausibility
(Approach 2) struggling to engage with a process focused on imagining alternative desirable futures (Approach 3).
However, more deliberate and complementary combinations can also be imagined. For instance, an anticipation
process may take as starting point a multiple future worldsApproach (3) to imagining the future development of
human societies and technologies, but then use a multiple plausible trajectoriesor even most probable future
14 of 20 MUIDERMAN ET AL.
approach (Approaches 2 or 1) to population or climate change projections. In this way, those involved in a process may
choose to assign plausibility or likelihood assessments to specific drivers, which then feed into the imagining of more
radically pluralistic worlds (Vervoort et al., 2015). Finally, when considering complementarities, there is much potential
for work that falls under the critical and interrogative Approach 4 to open up reflective spaces for the other approaches.
Critical Approach 4 can identify and create new spaces for imagined futures, and for the inclusion of new groups of
societal actors and their perspectives. For instance, Low and Buck (2020) investigate the extent to which responsible
research and innovation (RRI) perspectives are an attempt to bring insights relating to performative futures (Approach
4) to enrich Approach 2's focus on enhancing societal preparedness and adaptive capacities.
Related to this, our mapping also serves to highlight that the scholarly perspectives that underpin the four
approaches identified here vary in their degree of engagement with anticipatory governance on the ground. Thus, we
see our categorization is useful not only because it helps to identify similarities and differences across scholarly engage-
ment with concepts of anticipation and anticipatory governance, but also because it can serve as an analytical lens to
assess ongoing practices of anticipatory governance that are now underway in various global contexts.
In doing so, a number of questions merit further scrutiny. For instance, an importantfirst-orderquestionis:whattypes
of anticipatory practices are dominant in and around policy processes, and which conception of the future do they take as a
starting point? What are the desired ends of engaging with anticipatory governance in policy environments? Our own expe-
rience working with anticipatory climate governance processes in the field indicates that Approach 1, focused on mitigating
future risk, is far more common in policy environments than any of the other approachessince it connects more with
dominant, pre-existing conceptions of the future among policy makers, in terms of likelihood and risk, as well as with their
interest in the development of long-term plans with predictable outcomes. In a similar finding for the specific domain of cli-
mate engineering, Low and Schäfer (2019) indicate that participatory foresight associated with what we characterize as
Approaches 2 and 3 here still plays a minor role in researchonfutures,whencomparedto probabilistic modeling.
If this is the case, what opportunities are missed in the relative lack of prevalence of the Approaches 2, 3 and 4 in prac-
tice? What impact might a greater mainstreaming of these other approaches have on anticipatory governance practices, in
terms of the inclusion of more plausible context scenarios, more fundamentally pluralistic desirable futures, and more critical
investigation of the basic assumptions underpinning anticipatory governance practice? What preconditions would be needed
for this, in terms of the future-related skills, backgrounds, and conventions of those involved in climate and sustainability
governance? Questions raised about different approaches in practice are very relevant also in climate-vulnerable regions of
the developing countries, where anticipation processes are proliferating in climate policy and planning but have not been
much researched (but see Biermann & Möller, 2019; Macnaghten et al., 2014; Shi et al., 2016; Vervoort & Gupta, 2018).
Finally, it is important to consider that while we believe the four approaches to anticipation identified in this article
cover the breadth of what can be found in diverse relevant literatures, this does not mean that other approaches to
anticipation cannot be imagined. It will be worth investigating what other, entirely distinct approaches might be possi-
ble, and what such approaches might yield in addressing significant sustainability and climate challenges.
Our identification of four approaches to anticipatory governance allows for better scrutiny of such proliferating
practices of anticipation in climate policy and planning contexts around the world. Our aim here has been to further
understanding of their nature and implications for research and policy-making, and how they prioritize a range of
present-day actions in the effort to realize diverse visions of transformative, climate-safe futures. Finally, we see our
framework as offering the potential for reflexive interdisciplinary communication across a range of anticipation and
anticipatory governance research communities, to clarify linkages and explore synergies between these approaches.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
This research is part of the REIMAGINE (Re-imagining anticipatory climate governance in the world's vulnerable
regions) Project funded by the BNP Paribas Foundation under its Climate Initiative programme. We would like to
acknowledge useful comments on an earlier version of this paper from John Ingram, Phil Macnaghten, Garry Peterson
and Philip Thornton. Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the 2017 Earth System Governance conference in
Lund, Sweden, the 2017 Anticipation Conference in London, United Kingdom, the 2018 Earth System Governance
Conference in Utrecht, the Netherlands, and the 2019 Earth System Governance Conference in Oaxaca, Mexico. We
would like to thank those present for their helpful feedback. Finally, we would like to acknowledge the suggestions of
four anonymous reviewers and the editors of Wires Climate Change.
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
The authors declare no conflict of interest.
MUIDERMAN ET AL.15 of 20
AUTHOR CONTRIBUTIONS
Karlijn Muiderman: Conceptualization; formal analysis; investigation; methodology; visualization; writing-original
draft; writing-review and editing. Aarti Gupta: Conceptualization; formal analysis; funding acquisition; methodology;
supervision; visualization; writing-original draft; writing-review and editing. Joost Vervoort: Conceptualization; formal
analysis; funding acquisition; methodology; supervision; visualization; writing-original draft; writing-review and editing.
Frank Biermann: Conceptualization; methodology; supervision; writing-original draft; writing-review and editing.
ORCID
Karlijn Muiderman https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8281-1242
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How to cite this article: Muiderman K, Gupta A, Vervoort J, Biermann F. Four approaches to anticipatory
climate governance: Different conceptions of the future and implications for the present. WIREs Clim Change.
2020;11:e673. https://doi.org/10.1002/wcc.673
20 of 20 MUIDERMAN ET AL.
... Foresight refers to the application of futures studies methods, including methods and approaches to imagine and "pre-experience" different futures in the present, to question assumptions about which futures are conceivable, and to "pre-test" strategies or plans against hypothetical, plausible futures (Habegger, 2010;Vervoort & Gupta, 2018), i.e., to assess the effects of such strategies or plans in the context of different hypothetical futures. As we will elucidate later, different conceptions of the future are used in foresight, which range from probable to performative futures (Muiderman et al., 2020). When thinking about the longer-term future, uncertainty becomes increasingly important, prompting a need for systematic and formal foresight methods. ...
... We argue that through exploring such under-represented discourses-as alternatives to dominant ideas-in participatory deliberative sessions in foresight processes, the range of possible governance directions can be broadened, and, concomitantly, made more inclusive. Vervoort and Gupta (2018) and Muiderman et al. (2020) argue for a broader application of anticipatory governance beyond RRI, as a way to connect efforts across different disciplines and research domains that seek to understand the politics of the future. Foresight can guide governance processes, hence foresight is itself a site of governance. ...
... Who is funding, organizing and participating in the foresight process, and how does this influence the process? Muiderman et al. (2020) build on these questions, reviewing a number of different research domains interested in the link between governance and sustainable futures, including futures in SES contexts. How is future uncertainty conceptualized? ...
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In recent decades, foresight has been connected to various disciplines that engage with complex societal problems, leading to specific interpretations of foresight. We offer an interdisciplinary perspective on foresight's increasing use for governance of social-ecological systems (SES). We seek to strengthen the use of foresight in this domain by bridging to insights from other disciplines that can help overcome its limitations. Participatory foresight for SES governance offers potential to elicit thinking about uncertainty and complexity, facilitate dialogue between stakeholders, and improve inclusiveness of governance processes, but often fails to be sufficiently reflexive and politically aware to be truly impactful and inclusive. It can be strengthened, we argue, by a more thorough integration with adjacent research fields: critical futures studies, critical systems theory and environmental governance. We distill key insights from these fields, including the importance of being politically reflexive about whose perspectives are considered, whom foresight processes should benefit, and the importance of co-producing methodology and outcomes. We encourage scholars and practitioners to further explore integration with these fields, highlighting the importance of inter- and transdisciplinary teams. Finally, we offer an example for how limitations of foresight as used in a particular field can be overcome through interdisciplinary integration.
... In global climate governance, anticipatory practices in assessment map impacts and governance options that lie in the future, informing present-day planning in light of prospective trends, risks, and uncertainties (Muiderman et al., 2020). With practices that range from kinds of modelling, to analogies, to qualitative stakeholder engagements, assessments must not only explore concurrent issues, impacts, and interconnectionsthey must also anticipate latent and emergent ones. ...
... We build upon critiques of a techno-economic, solution-oriented mode of prioritizing mitigation options (Beck and Oomen, 2021;Cointe et al., 2020), and expand the implications beyond carbon removal to solar geoengineering McLaren and Markusson, 2020). We further connect systems modelling efforts to more deliberative, qualitative, and actor-facing modes (Stilgoe et al., 2013;Low and Buck, 2020;Chilvers and Kearnes, 2019), and widen the intent and scope of anticipatory assessments in climate governance (Muiderman et al., 2020) and global assessments more broadly (Castree et al., 2020;Pereira et al., 2021a;Muiderman et al., 2022). ...
... Critique of top-down, technical perspectives in assessmentsresonantly described by Hulme (2010) as an abstract "view from everywhere" -connects to debates about how to make the design and conduct of participatory, society-facing assessments that are inclusive of, meaningful to, and usable by the stakeholders who would need to put them into action. These are longstanding conversations (Pulver and Vandeveer, 2009;Stirling, 2008;Salter et al., 2010;Rothman et al., 2009), and are recently gaining in strength, including frameworks for novel fields of techno-science (Guston, 2014;Stilgoe et al., 2013;Chilvers and Kearnes, 2019), or for the IPCC (Standring and Lidskog, 2021) and climate governance (Muiderman et al., 2020), or GEAs in general (Castree et al., 2020;Biermann, 2021;Pereira et al., 2021a;Turnhout and Lahsen, 2022;Beck et al., 2022). ...
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In global climate governance, anticipatory assessments map future options and pathways, in light of prospective risks and uncertainties, to inform present-day planning. Using data from 125 interviews, we ask: How are foundational experts contesting the conduct of anticipatory assessment of carbon removal and solar geoengineering – as two emerging but controversial strategies for engaging with climate change and achieving Net Zero targets? We find that efforts at carbon removal and solar geoengineering assessment leverage and challenge systems modeling that has become dominant in mapping and communicating future climate impacts and mitigation strategies via IPCC reports. Both suites of climate intervention have become stress-tests for the capacity of modeling to assess socio-technical strategies with complex, systemic dimensions. Meanwhile, exploring societal dimensions demands new modes of disciplinary expertise, qualitative and deliberative practices, and stakeholder inclusion that modelling processes struggle to incorporate. Finally, we discuss how the patterns of expert contestation identified in our results speak to multiple fault-lines within ongoing debates on reforming global environmental assessments, and highlights key open questions to be addressed.
... rather than to explicitly imagine desirable transformations (what should happen?) (Muiderman et al. 2020). When they do explore transformative visions, they often fail to explicitly address the political aspects of transformations. ...
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Over the last 2 decades, it has become increasingly evident that incremental adaptation to global environmental challenges—particularly climate change—no longer suffices. To make matters worse, systemic problems such as social inequity and unsustainable use of resources prove to be persistent. These challenges call for, such is the rationale, significant and radical systemic changes that challenge incumbent structures. Remarkably, scholarship on sustainability transformations has only engaged with the role of power dynamics and shifts in a limited fashion. This paper responds to a need for methods that support the creation of imaginative transformation pathways while attending to the roles that power shifts play in transformations. To do this, we extended the “Seeds of Good Anthropocenes” approach, incorporating questions derived from scholarship on power into the methodology. Our ‘Disruptive Seeds’ approach focuses on niche practices that actively challenge unsustainable incumbent actors and institutions. We tested this novel approach in a series of participatory pilot workshops. Generally, the approach shows great potential as it facilitates explicit discussion about the way power shifts may unfold in transformations. It is a strong example of the value of mixing disciplinary perspectives to create new forms of scenario thinking—following the call for more integrated work on anticipatory governance that combines futures thinking with social and political science research into governance and power. Specifically, the questions about power shifts in transformations used in this paper to adapt the Seeds approach can also be used to adapt other future methods that similarly lack a focus on power shifts—for instance, explorative scenarios, classic back-casting approaches, and simulation gaming.
... Additionally, the application of foresight science allows for decision-makers and scientific practitioners to prepare for both expected and unexpected future conditions by generating and drawing on predictions to inform conservation actions and fostering collaboration with stakeholders (Adams et al. 2018). While foresight science is already being used in some environmental fields, such as climate change (Lelyveld 2019;Muiderman et al. 2020), it is still largely underutilized, particularly in natural resource management and biodiversity conservation. ...
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Foresight science is a systematic approach to generate future predictions for planning and management by drawing upon analytical and predictive tools to understand the past and present, while providing insights about the future. To illustrate the application of foresight science in conservation, we present three case studies: identification of emerging risks to conservation, conservation of at-risk species, and aid in the development of management strategies for multiple stressors. We highlight barriers to mainstreaming foresight science in conservation including knowledge accessibility/organization, communication across diverse stakeholders/decision makers, and organizational capacity. Finally, we investigate opportunities for mainstreaming foresight science including continued advocacy to showcase its application, incorporating emerging technologies (i.e., artificial intelligence) to increase capacity/decrease costs, and increasing education/training in foresight science via specialized courses and curricula for trainees and practicing professionals. We argue that failure to mainstream foresight science will hinder the ability to achieve future conservation objectives in the Anthropocene.
... Anticipatory governance is "the governance of uncertain futures in the present" and it is conception of the future, implications for the present, and ultimate aims. Strategic planning, reducing risks, building capacity, and navigating uncertainty are some beneficiary outcomes of the anticipatory governance (Muiderman, 2022;Vervoort and Gupta, 2018;Muiderman et al., 2020). Anticipatory governance as a tool is advantageous and convenient for the public policy process to be well planned in the context of historical continuity before implementation. ...
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Governance is one of the most up-to-date and popular approaches in the field of organizational sciences. Within the discipline of public administration, discussions on governance often come to the fore. Due to the nature of the discipline, public organizations are at the center of governance discussions. In this context, discussions are mostly conducted from the perspective of public organizations. Undoubtedly, governance can be discussed as a process in which public organizations take an active role and construct, but due to the multi-actor structure of governance, non-governmental and private sector organizations as other components of this structure should be included in these discussions. This study will mainly focus on the meaning and holistic applicability for different parties and actors within the holistic structure of governance. In addition, the place of the governance process in public policy making and its contributions to the public policy process, which points to the coexistence of different actors, will be examined in the context of concluding the first discussion. In this framework, the public policymaking process will be examined in three stages on the axis of planning, implementation and evaluation, and the applicability of governance and possible contributions to the process will be discussed for each of these stages.
... Given how we think, conceptualise and approach futures can translate into attempts to govern the future, AG should consider in detail of how precisely foresight is made use of. Muiderman et al. [45] explore the relationship of different conceptions of the future and their implications for the present. We specifically call for AG initiatives to embrace hybridisation with a view to emerging issues, weak signals, and their ambiguous nature. ...
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Our complex world is changing at such a pace that we are struggling to address many of the global challenges ahead of us. As one of its symptoms, hybridisation means that fields, functions, characteristics and roles are increasingly combined and fused. This paper is an opening to the study of hybridisation, as an overlooked topic in the field of futures studies and foresight. We explore how hybridisation could be integrated into foresight through identification and interpretation of emerging issues and weak signals. As our case study, we examined how hybridisation manifests in the urban texture. We performed an anticipatory analysis of three hybrid urban spaces of pioneering architecture. We assumed a view to hybridity that considered diverse futures, images of the future, and open futures to detect what is opening or closing. Coming to terms with hybridisation and its expressions may inform action on anticipatory governance by improving the detection of opportunities, risks and crises. Deeper understanding of budding developments that removes ambiguity may be a nudge towards novel solutions and promote futures resilience.
... Rather than offering a radical departure from the past, Kuchler and Bridge [11, p. 138] find that imagined energy and climate futures often are populated with cultural representations and materialities of the present and/or past. Other studies have critically examined the power of scientific expertise to render the future present through various anticipatory techniques [13]. Numerous scholars have illustrated how scientific efforts to probe uncertain climate futures (through, for instance, integrated assessment models) channel the political imagination and limit the possibility corridor for climate policy action [14][15][16]. ...
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In 2017, the Swedish parliament adopted a new climate policy framework that lays the foundations for an ambitious decarbonization of all sectors in Swedish society. To live up to the Paris Agreement’s temperature targets, the parliament decided that Sweden should arrive at net zero emissions of greenhouse gases by year 2045 and thereafter aim for net negative emissions. This progressive climate policy agenda is embedded in a strong collaborative discourse. To begin the transition to a fossil-free society, the Swedish government has invited a wide array of actors to join forces in the formulation and implementation of low carbon initiatives. In this paper we examine the fossil-free society as a powerful socio-technical imaginary that underpins this collaborative effort. We trace the promise attached to this future dreamscape and how it is mobilized by the government initiative Fossil-Free Sweden (FFS) to gain support for industrial decarbonization in the present. Our study draws upon roadmaps produced by FFS together with the Swedish steel, cement, and petroleum industry, as well as semi-structured interviews with selected industry actors. We find that the FFS roadmaps work as powerful “techniques of futuring” that invite industry actors to anticipate the risks and opportunities attached to the fossil-free society and at the same time contribute to shaping that society. While effectively involving incumbent actors in the political project of decarbonization, our study suggests that the roadmaps consolidate around an imagined future that is a techno-optimistic extension of the fossil-intensive present.
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Although societal collapse has been part of human history for millennia, a growing fear is that social, economic, technological, and environmental systems have become so globally interconnected, and their resilience so under threat, that the next collapse could be global in scale. Drawing from the collapse and social-ecological resilience studies literatures, we conceptualize two stages of collapse-avoidance governance—the pre-trigger adaptive governance stage during which policies draw on systems resilience to avoid the initiation of the collapse spiral, and the post-trigger transformative governance stage during which policies are implemented to steer out of the collapse spiral through fundamental change of systems regimes. Even under continued good collapse-avoidance governance it is possible for a variety of reasons that adaptive governance policies fail to avoid triggering of the collapse spiral, in which case policies to facilitate transformation will likely need to be substantially different. When designing adaptive governance resilience policies, therefore, governance institutions should anticipate these contingencies by (1) supporting research and design of transformation policies to implement if the resilience policies ultimately fail and the collapse spiral is triggered, and (2) accepting that effective transformation policies may depart significantly from, and even conflict with, the resilience policies. Even if the pre-planned transformation policies ultimately are not implemented amid a collapse spiral, the pre-planning exercise can sharpen focus on the need for design and implementation of effective adaptation policies.
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Within STS, there are three approaches to the creation and mobilization of futures: descriptive, normative, and interventive. Visions, expectations, and imaginaries are currently seen as anticipatory artifacts that close down the momentum of sociotechnical systems and, as such, are objects of critical scrutiny. At the same time, interventive techniques engaging with future representations are considered to be useful anticipatory instruments for opening up ranges of envisaged alternatives. This article reviews STS advances concerning the performativity of both de facto and interventive anticipatory practices in shaping the momentum of sociotechnical systems in light of the phenomenon of modal power: the modulation dynamics of what actors deem to be (im)plausible and/or (un)desirable. The diverse attempts of STS scholars and practitioners to understand, critique, and engage with the politics of opening up and closing down the momentum of sociotechnical systems require engaging with the creation, mobilization, and execution of modal power. The heuristics presented here are intended to be useful in framing and recognizing the political-epistemic radicality that the creation and mobilization of sociotechnical futures holds in the constitution of our sociotechnical orders as well as the role that the attribution of (im)plausibility or (un)desirability plays in such processes.
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Maja Zehfuss' book offers a fundamental critique of constructivism, focusing on the work of Wendt, Onuf and Kratochwil. Using Germany's shift towards participation in international military operations as an illustration, she demonstrates why each version of constructivism fails in its own project and comes apart on the basis of its own assumptions. Inspired by Derridean thought, this book highlights the political consequences of constructivist representations of reality. Each critique concludes that constructivist notions of key concepts are impossible, and that this is not merely a question of theoretical inconsistency, but of politics. The book is premised on the notion that the 'empirical' and the 'theoretical' are less separate than is acknowledged in international relations, and must be read as intertwined. Zehfuss examines the scholars' role in international relations, worrying that, by looking to constructivism as the future, they will be severely curtailing their ability to act responsibly in this area.
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Situate within new institutionalism literature, this paper builds a complex system model of institutional analysis for adaptive governance. This model combines Young's institutional environmental analysis method (2005), elements of subsequent environmental governance projects models, and ideas of multiple institutional levels and drivers. By applying the model, policy instruments are identified that build agricultural producer livelihoods improving their adaptive capacity to respond to climate change and drought. In relation to three case studies in Canada, Chile, and Argentina, policy instruments that deliver co benefits to improve agricultural producer technological, social, human, economic, and natural capital include crop insurance, income stabilization instruments, farm water infrastructure grants, environmental farm planning (improving soil management), drought predictions and alerts, and watershed management plans. Missing instruments included international instruments of mitigation and adaptation through disaster risk reduction, climate change mitigation instruments, and involvement of people in review and assessment of instruments in the context of climate change (iterative anticipatory governance). The model allows for instrument redesign through interdisciplinary interaction with the agricultural and policy community, reviewing climate change scenarios, identifying missing and weak instruments and dimensions of adaptive governance.
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In the last decade, games have grown into a dominant and highly diverse form of media, characterized by a number of transformations in the game sector that offer new opportunities for games in a futures context. These developments include changes in the cultural presence, the production and dissemination of games, which in turn have led to changes in their content and forms. This paper investigates to what extend such game sector developments have been utilized by games in a futures context, and building on this analysis, where the key opportunities are to leverage game sector developments to advance the field of futures games. Connections are made between game sector developments on the one hand and alternate reality games, massively multiplayer games, experiential futures games, online video games, game design engines and game jams on the other. Key recommendations resulting from this analysis include researching new player bases, adapting existing games, blurring the lines between commercial games and futures games, developing new futures games design and dissemination infrastructure, integrating futures games and present action, and organizing new funding mechanisms for futures games.