Combining theory and wisdom in pragmatic, scenario-based decision support for sustainable development

Researchers have increasingly acknowledged the relative strength of ‘hybrid’ approaches to scenario analysis for exploring the futures of coupled human-nature systems. In this paper, we explain, demonstrate, and provisionally evaluate the usefulness of a simple analytical framework, based on five categories of capital assets, as part of a protocol for overcoming the conversion problem in hybrid scenario analysis. Based on a preliminary application of the framework to a case study in South Africa, we suggest that the five capitals framework has the potential to improve expedience and counter the bias against ‘soft’ drivers in hybrid approaches to scenario analysis. However, in light of the methodological trade-off between rigour and expedience, we suggest that future research needs to compare the available protocols for hybrid scenario analysis by weighing up the relative gain in scenario quality versus the relative cost of scenario construction.