Backcasting starts with defining a desirable future and then works backwards to identify policies and programs that will connect the future to the present. The fundamental question of backcasting asks: "if we want to attain a certain goal, what actions must be taken to get there?"Forecasting is the process of predicting the future based on current trend analysis. Backcasting approaches the challenge of discussing the future from the opposite direction.
|“||a method in which the future desired conditions are envisioned and steps are then defined to attain those conditions, rather than taking steps that are merely a continuation of present methods extrapolated into the future||”|
Backcasting is increasingly used in urban planning and resource management of water and energy. It was used by Dr. Peter Gleick and colleagues at the Pacific Institute in a 1995 study on California water policy, as an alternative to traditional California water planning approaches. In 2006, the Capital Regional District Water Services, which services the greater Victoria area in British Columbia, Canada, committed to backcasting to the year 2050 as a formal element of all future strategic water planning initiatives.
Backcasting from Sustainability Principles, or System conditions of sustainability is a key concept of the 'Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development' pioneered by Karl-Henrik Robèrt, founder of The Natural Step, an international nonprofit organization dedicated to applied research for sustainability, in cooperation with a global academic Alliance for Strategic Sustainable Development which links universities which cooperate with businesses, and other NGOs.It has been refined and tested by peer-review and application within businesses (widely-known examples are: Interface, Nike, Whistler).
Research groups that use backcasting
- The Soft Path for Water in a Nutshell (2005). Oliver M Brandes and David B. Brooks. A joint publication of Friends of the Earth Canada and the POLIS Project on Ecological Governance. University of Victoria, Victoria BC.
- Backcasting Presentation from IA Summit 2007 - backcasting as a technique in Information Architecture
- Slides for backcasting workshop - IA Summit 2008
- Reverse Engineering the Future TEDx Talk Hildy Gottlieb, TEDxTucson 2011
- Page 12. The Soft Path for Water in a Nutshell (2005). Oliver M Brandes and David B. Brooks. A joint publication of Friends of the Earth Canada and the POLIS Project on Ecological Governance. University of Victoria, Victoria BC.
- Tinker, J. 1996. From 'Introduction' ix-xv. Life in 2030: Exploring a Sustainable Future for Canada, edited by J.B. Robinson et al. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.
- Page 5. Environmental Change and Challenge : A Canadian Perspective by Philip Dearden, Bruce Mitchell. ISBN 0-19-541014-9 / 9780195410143 / 0-19-541014-9. Oxford University Press.
- Holmberg, J. & Robèrt, K.H. 2000. Backcasting from non-overlapping sustainability principles: a framework for strategic planning. International Journal of Sustainable Development and World Ecology, 74, 291–308.
- Gleick, P.H., P. Loh, S.V. Gomez, J. Morrison. 1995. California Water 2020: A Sustainable Vision. Pacific Institute, Oakland, California (May 1995)
- "Energy Strategy: The Road Not Taken?" published in Foreign Affairs, in October 1976