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Exploring the future of mountain regions: Insights from participatory foresight

by | Mar 29, 2024 | MOVING

Author: Isabella Maglietti Smith (ORIGIN)

MOVING’s partner Origin for Sustainability has recently released the results of the Foresight Exercise —a culmination of one year and a half of participatory work involving 22 MOVING region partners. This exercise, one of the MOVING tasks, aimed at finding out about the future of mountain regions. In this article, we offer a glimpse into the methodology, findings, and implications of this participatory endeavour, inviting readers to join us on a journey of discovery.

The journey began with a question: What will be the situation of your region in 2050?

To find answers, we embarked on a participatory journey, organising workshops in 22 regions across Europe. Over 286 participants, including farmers, policy-makers, tourism operators, and other stakeholders, convened to share their insights, hopes, and concerns for the years ahead. Guided by MOVING researchers, these workshops became crucibles of dialogue and debate, where diverse voices converged to shape the contours of tomorrow.

Unveiling the process

  1. Identifying Key Variables: Stakeholders discussed future challenges and pinpointed variables such as climate change, demographics, and market trends.
  2. Prioritisation through Voting: They subsequently voted to highlight the most uncertain and important variables.
  3. Long-Term Forces Identification: These chosen variables were categorided as long-term forces, shaping mountain regions’ futures.
  4. Scenario Creation: Using these forces, stakeholders built scenarios depicting different future possibilities.
  5. Selection of Likely Scenario: From these scenarios, one was chosen as the most likely future for 2050.

Participation and Collaboration

The exercise resulted in 22 scenarios outlining the future of various European mountain regions. With 286 participants across 54 workshops, diverse voices contributed to the exercise’s success, ensuring inclusive decision-making and strategic planning.

Archetypes of the Future

From workshop insights, four distinct visions of the future emerged: Economy, Nature, Knowledge and Innovation, and Niche and Diversification. Each archetype offered a unique perspective on the challenges and opportunities facing mountain regions.

The Economy-driven archetype, with its emphasis on market growth and sustainability, captured the aspirations of many stakeholders and represents half of the study cases. Yet, it was complemented by other visions—Nature-driven, Knowledge and Innovation-driven, and Niche and Diversification-driven—each offering its insights on resilience and adaptation.

Illustrating the Economic Archetype

Exemplified by the Highlands whisky industry, the Economic Archetype envisions a future where economic growth in mountain regions is fuelled by socially responsible practices and global market integration. This scenario underscores sustainable production, international sales growth, and community investment in local infrastructure and livelihoods.

Facing Future Challenges

The validation of archetype development took place during a stakeholder event in Budapest in 2023. Concurrently, at this participatory workshop, participants engaged in discussions about navigating from potentially negative future scenarios to positive ones. This dialogue initiated the development of strategic options—crafted strategies by regions to confront their challenges. These options hold the potential for upgrading and replication across regions with the support of policy needs, offering pathways to enhance both present and future resilience.