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Posted by Karolina Maliszewska from Sendzimir Foundation


Group size

1 - 12

Subgroup size

not relevant

Is participant experience relevant?

It's okay if participants haven't seen the inside of a classroom in years.

Physical trust needed

Mental trust needed


Material Description

Masking tape, color post-its, pens and markers.

Create materials quick and dirty

5 min

Create materials with love and care

10 min



2 hours - whole day

Experience level of the facilitator

taken part OR some facilitation experience

Number of facilitators


Location requirements

A room with an empty long wall that things can be stick on.


Level of activation


Woo-Woo Level - How touchy-feely is this method?

From 1.Rationalist-Materialist "No feelings here, folks." to 5.Esoteric-Shamanic Bleeding Heart:

Innovation Phases:

2 Creating an Innovation-Friendly Culture
3 Fostering New Perspectives & Ways of Thinking
5 Grounding the Idea
7 Implementation & Diffusion

Method Category:

Idea generator
Integration of input into daily life
Problem Solving
Strategy / Planning


Backcasting is an approach to planning innovation that is based on moving backwards from the vision to the present to explore its feasibility and implications. It can be done as a participatory process but it can also be used by an individual.



This method is similar to forecasting but uses an approach that fosters creativity and removes the obstacles of being too limited by the "available" or "feasible" solutions to the problem.
It was first developed by John Robinson in the 80s as a technique to develop scenarios and explore their feasibility and effects. It has since become widely used in participatory processes related to sustainable development.


Robinson, John. B. 1990. Futures under glass: a recipe for people who hate to predict Futures, vol. 22, issue 8, pp. 820–842.
Backcasting from Sustainability Principles: Karl-Henrik Robèrt founder of The Natural Step



PREPARATION (excluding materials)

You need a room with an empty wall on which you can stick post-its and masking tape. Prepare some chairs for the participants.

1 Establish the Timeframe

With the group, decide on the timeframe that is relevant for your problem. Stick the masking tape to the wall to mark the timeframe.

2 Current States: Beginning of the Timeline

Ask your group to describe the current state from the point of view of sustainability – describe the problem, taking into account all the sustainability principles (economic and social development, environmental protection). Analyze why it is not sustainable. What are the main challenges to be addressed and indicators that measure them? Name the present key stakeholders. Write the information you came up with on the post-its and stick them at the beginning of your timeline.

3 Future States: End of the Timeline

Brainstorm and define possible future states that are sustainable. You can use a variety of techniques for brainstorming and for choosing the future scenario. Taking into account the sustainability principles, determine which future state (or states) the group finds most relevant. Agree on a definition of the chosen future states together. Write this on the post-its and stick them at the end of your timeline.

4 Work Back

Identify with your group, actions to be undertaken to reach the future state defined in the previous step. For each action think of indicators of success (taking into account the indicators developed in the first step). You can do it by asking the question “what would be required to get from the future to the present?” You can focus on the near future, medium time perspective and long term plans. Then analyze what risks and opportunities you see related to each of the actions to be taken. Are some additional actions necessary? You can develop several ways to get to your future state and analyze each of them. The risks and opportunities analyses can then be used to evaluate which path is the most promising. Use the timeline and post-its to include all the information the group comes up with. Mark several paths use the masking tape.


Discuss your results.



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