42.1 Stakeholder and user involvement in backcasting and how this influences follow-up and spin-off

Jaco Quist , Technology, Policy, Management, Delft University of Technology, Delft, Netherlands
Full Papers
  • JAOCC-2009-backcasting-paper_v1.pdf (314.0 kB)
  • EXTENDED ABSTRACT (612 words)

    It has been widely shown that participatory backcasting is an excellent approach to explore system innovations and transitions towards sustainability (e.g. Quist and Vergragt 2006, Quist 2007). Since the early 1990s sustainable futures have been explored in backcasting experiments, numerous stakeholders have been involved and follow-up steps have been planned in line with envisaged sustainable futures. But what is the impact of these so-called backcasting experiments ten years later and how does this relate to stakeholder involvement in the backcasting experiment?

    This paper reports on the first study that has systematically investigated the follow-up, impacts and spin-off of backcasting experiments in the Netherlands seven to ten years after completion, while this is linked to the characteristics of the backcasting experiments themselves (Quist 2007). It presents three cases dealing with subsystems within the food and agriculture production and consumption system: (1) Novel Protein Foods and meat alternatives; (2) Sustainable Households and Nutrition; and (3) Multiple Sustainable Land-use in rural areas.

    The cases show that participatory backcasting may, but does not automatically lead to substantial follow-up and spin-off. If substantial follow-up has been found after 10 years, it is still at the level of niches that are potential seeds for system innovations. Emergence of niches and spin-off also comes along with the diffusion of the visions generated in the backcasting experiment, though these are influenced by the exits and entries of stakeholders. The developed conceptual framework applied for mapping the follow-up and spin-off of backcasting experiments uses network aspects derived from industrial network theory (building on Håkansson 1987) vision aspects (building on Dierkes et al 1996) and institutionalisation. The framework has relevance for monitoring system innovations and transitions towards sustainability.

    The paper identifies what factors explain the extent of follow-up and spin-off of backcasting experiments, with a strong focus on stakeholder-related characteristics, such as stakeholder participation, actor learning and participatory vision development. In order to map stakeholder involvement, various aspects are derived from a number of actor and stakeholder participation theories (e.g Arnstein 1996 & Van de Kerkhof 2004), such as stakeholder heterogeneity and stakeholder influence. It appeared necessary to propose additional aspects that were not part or regular stakeholder participation theories, like type of involvement (not only time, but also knowledge and funding) and the degree of involvement. It is concluded that stakeholder participation aspects show a strong link with the extent of spin-off and follow-up. However, different roles and groups can be distinguished in different phases, which has to be taken into account when preparing and designing a specific backcasting experiment

    This pleas for strong stakeholder involvement as well as strong stakeholder influence; it will be discussed what could be advantages, disadvantages and conditions. One underlying question seems to be who the users are: are regular stakeholders the main users, or should stakeholder involvement in system innovations and transitions to sustainability be extended to a range of end-users and citizens?


    Impact of backcasting; stakeholder participation, end-users; system innovations and transitions to sustainability; meat alternatives; multiple land-use, sustainable food consumption; meat alternatives,



    Arnstein SR (1996) A ladder of citizen participation, Journal of the American Institute of Planners 35(4): 216-224.

    Dierkes M, Hoffmann U, Marz L (1996) Visions of technology: social and institutional factors shaping the development of new technologies. Campus Verlag/St.Martin's Press, Frankfurt/New York.

    Håkansson H (1987, ed) Industrial technological development: a network approach, Routledge London UK.

    Quist J, Vergragt P (2006) Past and future of backcasting: the shift to stakeholder participation and a proposal for a methodological framework, Futures 38(9): 1027-1045.

    Quist J (2007) Backcasting for a sustainable future: the impact after ten years, Eburon Publishers, Delft NL, ISBN 978-90-5972-175-3.

    Van de Kerkhof M (2004) Debating climate change: a study of stakeholder participation in an integrated assessment of long-term climate policy in the Netherlands, PhD thesis, Free University, Amsterdam, Lemma Publishers, Utrecht NL.