Author ORCID Identifier

Document Type


Publication Date



Cities face a number of challenges to ensure that people’s well-being and ecosystem integrity are not only maintained but improved for current and future generations. Urban planning must account for the diverse and changing interactions among the social, ecological, and technological systems (SETS) of a city. Cities struggle with long-range approaches to explore, anticipate, and plan for sustainability and resilience—and scenario development is one way to address this need. In this paper, we present the framework for developing what we call ‘strategic’ scenarios, which are scenarios or future visions created from governance documents expressing unrealized municipal priorities and goals. While scenario approaches vary based on diverse planning and decision-making objectives, only some offer tangible, systemic representations of existing plans and goals for the future that can be explored as an assessment and planning tool for sustainability and resilience. Indeed, the strategic scenarios approach presented here (1) emphasizes multi-sectoral and interdisciplinary interventions; (2) identifies systemic conflicts, tradeoffs, and synergies among existing planning goals; and (3) incorporates as yet unrealized goals and strategies representative of urban short-term planning initiatives. We present an example strategic scenario for the Central Arizona–Phoenix metropolitan region, and discuss the utility of the strategic scenario in long-term thinking for future sustainability and resilience in urban research and practice. This approach brings together diverse—sometimes competing—strategies and offers the opportunity to explore outcomes by comparing and contrasting their implications and tradeoffs, and evaluating the resulting strategic scenario against scenarios developed through alternative, participatory approaches.


Originally published in:

Iwaniec, David M., Elizabeth M. Cook, Melissa J. Davidson, Marta Berbés-Blázquez, and Nancy B. Grimm. 2020. “Integrating Existing Climate Adaptation Planning into Future Visions: A Strategic Scenario for the Central Arizona–Phoenix Region.” Landscape and Urban Planning 200 (August): 103820.