The JFN Scenarios Process

For our scenario process we had help from some of the leading experts in the world, Professor Rafael Ramirez from Oxford University and his team, whose technique has been used by major companies, governments and international organizations.

We convened a group of 15 funders and leaders, representing a cross-section of the community, and we worked through a series of meetings to develop the scenarios. Usually, the scenario work is iterative and takes weeks, even months. Given the urgency, we condensed the process and, of course, we did it by Zoom.

We started by listing and analyzing the uncertainties that we face, and there were, of course, many of them. The picture looked like this:

Then we selected two key dimensions to structure our scenarios: the strength of economic indicators; and the level of cohesion and equality in society.  We then imagined how these two dimensions can evolve in the next two years.

The combination of these two key variables form the quadrant you see above, which we used to create our four alternative scenarios.

Click on the boxes to read each scenario:

A New Renaissance

The economy has recovered and improved. Society has higher cohesion and less inequality. The world is experiencing a new version of the Roaring ‘20s.

Haves and Have-Nots

The economy has bounced back, but the recovery has accentuated existing inequalities and created even more fragmentation and social tension. This is a world of gated communities for the rich and civil unrest for the poor. 

Back to the 1930s

The economy doesn’t recover. We are in a long depression and, simultaneously, the society is fragmented, even violent. Inequality rises. The economic crisis fuels extremist movements, and society approaches the breaking point.

A Smaller but Tastier Pie

The economy doesn’t recover, but the “smaller pie” is distributed more equitably. The society has learned to exercise solidarity, and a new spirit of cohesion has emerged from the pandemic. We are poorer but seem to be happier.

Each of the scenarios has “early warning signs” (EWS), indicators that one of the scenarios is coming to pass. For example, an early successful vaccine is an indication that “A New Renaissance” has become possible; mass protests and violence in American cities are an EWS of “Back to the 1930s”; the adoption of Universal Health Care could be a harbinger of “A Smaller But Tastier Pie.”

Implications of the Scenarios