Community-based scenario planning: a process for vulnerability analysis and adaptation planning to social–ecological change in coastal communities

The current and projected impacts of climate change make understanding the environmental and social vulnerability of coastal communities and the planning of adaptations important international goals and national policy initiatives. Yet, coastal communities are concurrently experiencing numerous other social, political, economic, demographic and environmental changes or stressors that also need to be considered and planned for simultaneously to maintain social and environmental sustainability. There are a number of methods and processes that have been used to study vulnerability and identify adaptive response strategies. This paper describes the stages, methods and results of a modified community-based scenario planning process that was used for vulnerability analysis and adaptation planning within the context of multiple interacting stressors in two coastal fishing communities in Thailand. The four stages of community-based scenario planning included: (1) identifying the problem and purpose of scenario planning; (2) exploring the system and types of change; (3) generating possible future scenarios; and (4) proposing and prioritizing adaptations. Results revealed local perspectives on social and environmental change, participant visions for their local community and the environment, and potential actions that will help communities to adapt to the changes that are occurring. Community-based scenario planning proved to have significant potential as an anticipatory action research process for incorporating multiple stressors into vulnerability analysis and adaptation planning. This paper reflects on the process and outcomes to provide insights and suggest changes for future applications of community-based scenario planning that will lead to more effective learning, innovation and action in communities and related social–ecological systems.