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Social Finance has developed a scenario planning process to help local authorities manage their resources and take positive action in the face of the uncertainties created by Covid-19.

Read the report: Scenario planning for local government (PDF)


The challenges facing local government are significant: protecting vulnerable residents; addressing a secondary wave of impacts on children’s and adult social care, homelessness, domestic violence, and widening inequalities in BAME communities; and supporting local businesses to recover; all while embedding some of the emerging transformational changes in the way services are delivered and in relationships with residents and local partners.

Scenario planning is a tried and tested method that could help local authorities navigate a way through these challenges amidst great uncertainties. 

Why are we doing this?

Scenario planning has been used in a variety of contexts, from Cold War strategy, to multi nationals understanding the impacts of climate change, to the apartheid transition in South Africa.

It is a flexible insights and planning process that helps to challenge assumptions that can undermine our ability to accept futures that are radically different but plausible and possible. A range of specific, fact-based scenarios are used to inform future plans and key decisions in the present to help adapt to and influence complex systems during times of uncertainty.

What are we doing?

We adapted existing scenario planning methodologies to the current Covid crisis, and ran an initial exercise asking how councils can best meet the needs of their local communities over the next 12 months.

The findings are summarised in an article for the MJ. We have also produced a scenario planning methodology (PDF), which councils can adapt to suit their own local needs and circumstances.

The scenario method can be adapted for specific business areas (e.g. children’s social care) or for places (e.g. local economy, public services). Local authorities can run it as a one-off process, or build it into ongoing cycles of engagement, analysis, planning, and communication.

We are also working with local authority partners to identify and assess new and emerging needs resulting from social distancing and lockdown measures, for example by integrating data on vulnerable cohorts, developing new digital tools, and remote user research. Over the past 10 years we have created innovative partnerships in many of the areas likely to be most impacted by the crisis: social care, children’s services, health and employment, end of life care, homelessness and rough sleeping, SEND, exclusions, domestic violence, and BAME health inequalities.

For more information or to try the approach in your area please get in touch with Tom (tom.davies@socialfinance.org.uk) or Taro (osutaro.kili@socialfinance.org.uk)

Further Reading

Four scenarios to help councils plan for uncertainty
Scenario planning for local government (PDF)
Scenario planning methodology (PDF)
Scenarios diagram
Councils vs coronavirus: the future starts now (published in The MJ)
Four scenarios for local government to manage uncertainty (published in Apolitical)