- Review Article
- Open Access
Narrative foresight in technical organizations: epistemological and methodological contributions from a practice of scenario method in Argentina
European Journal of Futures Research volume 5, Article number: 3 (2017)
The following paper explores the experience of narrative Foresight applied to the use of the scenario method in Argentina in the light of the contributions of critical Future Studies concerning the narrative dimension in the last years. This research is specifically focused on analyzing applications of the scenario method in an institute of technology development in Argentina (“Instituto Nacional de Tecnología Agropecuaria”) using the causal layered analysis as a method of examination and adopting the narrative Foresight approach. We analyze how the narrative approach permeates the scenario method in the process of development, thus increasing the potential usefulness and impact of the method. Moreover, we also reflect on the utility of this approach in order to increase the strategic vision of complex organizations which are shaped, to a great extent, by linear schemes of thought where the empiric dimension of reality operates with a value of truth.
Introduction: context and method of analysis
In 2006, the National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA) began to resort to the Foresight discipline applied to processes of innovation and development. The Institute had some background experience in approaching future with certain methodologies applied to sectoral, territorial or strategic planning, and with simulation models applied to certain areas of knowledge (meteorology, biodiversity and econometrics). The first steps in the discipline are particularly special because they were initially oriented to understand the macro processes which affected and conditioned the agricultural development in Argentina, an initiative mainly encouraged by INTA’s own authorities.
In order to contextualize the case, we should start by saying that INTA is a public, state-run Argentinean institution for the technological development in the agricultural sector founded in 1956. One of its distinctive features is that the Institution is present through different agencies across the whole national territory. INTA works on technological development (which is mostly managed by experimental agricultural stations), as well as on research, in its most “basic” forms (which is performed in Research Institutes). INTA also deals with rural extension policies (managed by extension agencies through assistance programs to improve capacities), and it is a technical public institution with participation in the private and academic spheres in the decision-making process in the agricultural field. In the Argentinean context, INTA is famous for having resisted a fierce period of privatizations in the ‘90s and for being able to adapt itself to the different national economic policies applied.
Although INTA is an institution strongly linked to the agricultural sector where technical management is applied to agricultural disciplines (mainly to agricultural engineering), the various functions it encompasses (technological development, basic research for the sector, rural extension) provide grounds for the promotion of other types of knowledge including the implementation of rural development policies, the use of technological and social innovative processes involving complexity, and interdisciplinarity.
This paper is focused on analyzing the introduction of narrative Foresight in INTA, including a revision of the process and products arising from two scenario-building exercises conducted between 2007 and 2012, the training offered by the Institution in order to incorporate the products of the exercises carried out, and the influence of our interaction with peers in seminars on prospective held both in Argentina and in Latin America, which have contributed to contextualize the application of Foresight practices in INTA. Given the advancement of the “narrative inquiry” in Future StudiesFootnote 1 in the last years, the development of INTA shall be analyzed following the Causal Layered Analysis (CLA) approach [4, 5].
Conceived as a method to open up past and present dimensions in order to create options for the future, the CLA approach is focused not so much in the horizontal as in the vertical dimension of future which, through a four-layer categorization scheme - namely litany, social causes, worldview, and metaphor or myth - allows for a deconstruction of reality. Though each layer is dominated by a particular type of language, all layers are built around discourse.Footnote 2 The CLA approach, which highlights the importance of the discursive dimension in the formulation of later developments, makes special emphasis on the narrative dimension of discourse.
Considering the aforementioned four-layer scheme of the CLA approach and using other categories that have gained special prominence in the development of the narrative approach - used futures, disowned futures and alternative futures - we shall analyze the Foresight exercises performed in INTA in order to assess the advancement of narrative strategies and the impact of this phenomenon in the Institution. We need to mention the Foresight method applied did not adopt the CLA approach. The CLA approach is only used as a method of analysis applied to the experience performed. However, the work we have done in Argentina using the scenario method coincidentally began to acquire a narrative trait. Though the use of narrative resources in the first exercise was scarce, it grew considerably across the whole process of construction of future scenarios along the whole second exercise. We instinctively began to put more emphasis on the use of metaphorical and graphic resources, increasing our audacity in the use of such resources.
In the following pages, we shall proceed to analyze this process considering the different categories of CLA in order to determine its impact in the Institution. We will start by contextualizing the development of narrative Foresight in Argentina in the context of difficulties found in Latin America for the development of Future Studies.
Latin American practice of prospective in the context of future studies
The formalized study of futures began in the mid-twentieth century, in the context of the Cold War, based on the reflections triggered off by the context of a war in the philosophical world, dealing with the strategies and methods to approach the future developed in this field of study. The fast rise of scientific innovation linked to geographical, political or even spatial domain created greater concern and complexity in the different ways we may think about future [6, 7].
The development of Future Studies has emerged from two main sources: the think tanks of geopolitical strategy in the United States, and the academic sector in France with the school of prospective and the reciprocal influence of these two spheres of thought .Footnote 3 This development implies the rise of certain associations and specialized publications and institutions, and the creation of post-graduate programs in universities and academic centers in the United States, England and France, in other Scandinavian countries, and other nation states in Asia and Africa. The use of Foresight in different agencies of government and the increasing academic progress determined the advancement of Future Studies and transformed it into a multidiscipline about future made up of different schools of thought.Footnote 4
Creative thinking and the possibility of imagining possible futures are so important that they have become the most salient characteristic in the field. Moreover, the different phases of the exercises used to think of alternative futures can be systematized in different ways by means of different techniques.Footnote 5 In general, Future Studies resort to intellectual devices in order to collect, process and analyze pieces of information to profit from the most suitable technique and methodology diagram available. However, the critical approach of Future Studies has emphasized the possibility of deconstructing the habitual forms of organizing thought and action, introducing critics and a poststructural turn in social sciences, as well as other disruptive perspectives, such as gender and postcolonial studies .
However, if we consider the Latin American sector, for example, we notice there is still a long way ahead in the development of Future Studies. Though at present we already have a rich historical tradition in the development of methods, ways of thought and interesting initiatives, there is not enough space to advance research in Future Studies and institutionalize its implementation.
The first attempts of formalizing the methodological and epistemological aspects of Future Studies coincided with the first wave of Future Studies that emerged in Latin America by the late seventies and early in the seventies through futurist networks circulating in different countries (Argentina, Venezuela, Chile, Mexico, Peru) in a context of exile, where the development of critical intellectuals was rather limited. The knowledge developed in this period did not get to be institutionalized by being incorporated into a technical organization or in the academic field. More prominent was people’s general concern about big, global problems, and the more complex issue of development in search for particular contributions . The dictatorship governments of the seventies broke with this wave of development which shall never be resumed with the same power or creativity.
The development that took place from this point onwards is more linked to the term “prospective” (in English, “Foresight”), used in a sense that somehow recovers the epistemic basis of the French school that puts more emphasis on the scenario, and the Delphi method, but overlooking the wider field of Future Studies. At present, Foresight developments are fragmented into the experiences of some technical institutions or governmental agencies, the scarce academic advancements in the field,Footnote 6 and the action of different international networks to conduct studies and exercises designed in large world centers.Footnote 7 Where we do verify some growth is in the organization of events: seminars, congresses and conferences held in order to share different practices in Foresight in Latin America. However, we still need to develop a conceptual corpus and an analytical procedure that may be in line with the whole corpus of knowledge already developed in the field of Future Studies.Footnote 8
By the time INTA initiated Foresight exercises, the team managed to contact some of the professionals who had led the first wave of development in Future Studies in Argentina.Footnote 9 Still, the challenge the task implied was far from simple. The Institute was unacquainted with the task of building a vision or future scenarios, and given the fact that the Institute had a marked technology or field orientation (where agricultural disciplines - particularly agricultural engineering - are more predominant), the Institute gave more preeminence to a more linear vision of innovation, divorced from history with an apparent neutrality.
Argentina’s development after the crisis from a foresight perspective
The goal set forth by the authorities of the Institution in relation to the first Strategic Foresight exercise, was to envision the scope and the potential of the new macroeconomic scheme applied in Argentina now that the convertibility economic model that had pegged the national currency to the American dollar (sustained for more than a decade, between 1991 and 2002) had been abandoned.
Argentina was facing a context of progressive normalization of Institutions, with enough chances for a change of direction in order to leave the country’s neoliberal orientation behind, which had been so dominant in the nineties. After the crisis of 2001 and the provisional governments that followed, free presidential elections were held again later in 2003. A new macroeconomic structure was emerging, offering a new context for production which had already began to go through significant changes along previous decades due to new technical developments that had caused an impact in the agricultural sector. We had a global context where new economic opportunities were envisioned in terms of development.
Our team was faced to the challenge of having to learn by doing, on the basis of the scenario method and Foresight thinking. Our efforts were focused in making a Foresight diagnosis of the forces that promote national development. To do so, we chose a standard scenario method to identify possible drivers and their future evolution using some of the resources popularized by Peter Schwartz .
Following the CLA approach, we have noticed that both in the formulation of the focus of the exercise (our national development as of 2015), as well as in the different drivers identified, we made efforts to introduce the narrative of development. We were in conditions to resume our “path towards development” (in narrative and economic terms) after a long period with a completely different perspective governed by a sense of immediacy and neoliberal policies which had permeated all institutional environments. Our Strategic Foresight research was positioned within the “Narrative Development Discourse”, using the systemic approaches on sustainable development created and popularized by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in order to research on sustainability of our growth scheme after the convertibility period.
Nevertheless, this narrative development discourse never left the second level in terms of CLA and remained as an objective analysis of the causes that had determined the changes of economic and social development in Argentina. We were aware of the fact that such a heterodox perspective contrasted with the neoliberal vision that had governed our national thinking in the past decades and that such an interpretation implied a value judgment or moral dilemma, but we also knew discourse was being presented to us with an intrinsic true value justified by certain schools of economic sciences.
This exercise was focused in the macroeconomic and systemic approach applied for development. The cultural dimension was also tackled, but simply considering it as just another dimension affecting our macroeconomic scheme. As regards graphic and metaphorical language, we only incorporated two elements with graphic and metaphorical characteristics: one was placed in the cover of a publication which contained the drawing of a world map on a blackboard to make reference to one thought about geostrategy, and a second one related to the driving forces of the cultural dimension (“the influence of communication media”) that showed a map of the stakeholders involved in the mass media communication system in Argentina.
The richness of the exercises we carried out laid more in the deep analysis we made regarding the dimensions of development in Argentina and its driving forces than in the building of possible futures. We certainly failed to build alternative futures. The two scenarios we managed to outline were “not so bad” and “bad” since our Team had little background in Foresight and in the scenario method and the context of situation still showed signs of a short-sighted vision. Though we knew our time and space were not enough for a Strategic Foresight vision, we still had no chances for long-term results. Long-term results for Argentinean institutions meant the year 2015, i.e. eight more years counting from present time. Our narrative discourse was also portrayed in the names given to our two imaginary scenarios, namely, “Ma non troppo” and “Ni el tiro del final” (in English “Not even the last shot”Footnote 10). Both names portray a tragic dimension, almost admitting there were no alternative futures to what was commonly used (used future). Therefore, we can consider some futures were unnoticed (disowned futures) along the process.
The results obtained and the discouraging scenarios outlined explain why this exercise was unsuitable for the Institution. Of course, there must be other reasons accounting for it, such as the difficulty to legitimize Foresight exercises during this first stage in the Institution and other questions related to the political context which are not worth mentioning here. As a matter of fact, this work was not published. It was edited in 2012 by the editorial department of the Institution, a merely testimonial action.  We lacked the maturity an institution and a team need in order to handle the communication of our Foresight results.
Scenario building in agroalimentary systems
Having systematically worked on the possible ways of evolution in terms of national development, the exercise starting in 2010 aimed at making focus in the sector in order to re-define the dimensions of development previously approached. The analysis of the different scales at stake (the global, regional, and national dimension) became more relevant as a response to the strong international insertion of the Argentine agricultural sector and its strategic position for development. The research has taken a year and a half and shall be published under the title: “Scenarios of the Argentinean Agroalimentary System Towards 2030.” .
Supported by background knowledge, the second Strategic Foresight exercise did succeed in developing scenarios with a long-term vision of future (20-year period, from 2010 to 2030) and with narrative discourses arising from the identification of events, players and trajectories. The macroeconomic context of Argentina, our background from previous work experience and the increasing institutional integration of the team determined that we could concentrate our efforts to make a more detailed work: firstly, on a new set of driving forces for the agroalimentary sector in Argentina, and secondly, on the narrative and logic that were likely to govern future scenarios.
In the conceptual frame of the level “social causes” of CLA, we reinforced the structural interpretation of economy, hand in hand with a careful analysis of the new world context of the XXI century. Other elements also interacted including the international financial crisis, the role of China, its peculiar growth dynamics and territorial occupation, the situation of “compromising” the governability of the international agroalimentary system, the food and energy interaction, and the national deficiencies in the control and regulation of natural resources.
We used the scenario method enlarging its possibilities in order to break new ground to find creative solutions in different stages. Firstly, we began our research by identifying the most significant variables. The starting point was a selection of a group of 50 variables of which - after multiples adjustments - 22 turned into driving forces. We acquired some audacity in the way of naming them (metaphorical language) in order to make them more transparent, direct, and also to develop a sharpened view over possible events while maintaining our accuracy in the description of the behavior of our driving forces.Footnote 11 The drivers introduced at the litany level slightly began to be presented under a narrative, metaphorical form (according to CLA’s four layers). During the process, we noticed the different types of variables or processes involved, delving into its ways of variation and into its different types of temporal rhythms of expression. Moreover, some of these forces got to acquire the condition of a player or of a subject in a short story.Footnote 12
The scenario method underwent another methodological innovation. If standard definitions of the Foresight method imply outlining a focus and a horizon, and conducting a Foresight diagnosis through the identification of drivers and the building of scenarios, there are certain key circumstances that call for different methodological needs which are not totally identified. All this has derived in the production of a larger volume of information along the whole strategic horizon foresighted, changing the final image of our scenarios. One of such changes is the differentiation of the different dimensions of the reality on which we operate. From a pragmatic approach, we had to differentiate between aspects in general (the different aspects of reality that make up different groups, including driving forces); the focal aspect (the internal aspects of the focus that condition focus transformations) and the critical aspect (those aspects of reality which are particularly important, need to be thematized and should not be confused with driving forces). In this way, the driving forces are placed within the aspects or focal aspect category, but they are not assimilated to the aspects under assessment (the critical aspect).
Another essential methodological resource consisted in the elaboration of strategic questions as a previous stage before building our scenario narratives. These questions provide the structure to elaborate narratives, the different conflicts in the plot. These questions compel us to elaborate a synthesis on the main critical aspects that describe our set of driving forces. The fact that narrative building is based on questions helps us to understand why scenarios are a situated elaboration which is valid only for a limited period of time: as situations change, and as our concerns and interests are modified, the types of scenarios that can be built necessarily change too.
During the process, we noticed that our confidence in the way we used this method and the metaphorical language used started to call the attention of the public in the Institution. Considering the final product, while in the first exercise the scenarios elaborated were two, in exercise two, we created four well differentiated scenarios about the future of the Argentinean agroalimentary system: “My Way”[original name in English], “Spinning top in a merry-go-round”, “A Virtuous Diagonal” and “Argen-China”. The metaphorical language in these names is obvious. The first name makes reference to a song that typically represents the American culture interpreted by Frank Sinatra. The second name figuratively portrays a very negative scenario in the context of a crisis. The third name (“A Virtuous Diagonal”) represents an alternative future in terms of Narrative Foresight. Moreover, we reinforced the idea with a graphic showing “a way out of the crisis” to illustrate different possible futures where a possible political, economic and social integration between Argentina and Brazil was crucial to improve the performance of two international food suppliers. The last scenario (called “Argen-China”) is a mixture of Argentina and China and it was meant to put the focus on a future where an Asian country shapes the way the agroalimentary sector behaves in Argentina.
Interdisciplinary dialogue with peers in the Institution to discuss our work in Narrative Foresight also enhanced reflexivity in the dialogue with other disciplines, showing that said disciplines were also based on certain narratives (modernization, development, productive revolution or even innovation). In the training seminars held for the different teams of INTA, we had a chance to legitimize our work with metaphorical language creating an environment where all disciplinary forms that format reality play a role on an equal footing.
Moreover, thanks to our dialogue with the authorities of INTA, we have learnt that when it comes to performing exercises in large institutions, the Foresight Team does not provide the details of the strategy. Instead, it gives general guidelines to encourage reflexivity in the institution, thus detaching from a strategy that implies an automatic reproduction of used futures. The Team is to provide the analytical and reflexive skills to develop a synthetic thinking oriented towards action. The capacity of assimilation depends on the different groups. But metaphorical language saves the distance between the different discursive fields.
Some conclusions on our learning about narrative foresight and the scenario method
Put in epistemological terms, all this way we have learnt a new way to develop the scenario method which is quite in line with the latest advances in critical Future Studies, including: 1) the different dimensions of the reality over which one operates (dimensions, the focal dimension and the critical dimension); 2) the multiple scales of reality over which one works, which therefore calls for the theory of action and the theory of systems; 3) the different levels of reality, considering language as a core principle to develop other levels, and 4) the multiple dimensions of temporality, the assimilation and potentiality of the temporal experiences. Because “past”, “present” and “future” are not merely stages of a chronological linearity, but different shapes of the political and social experience. In a context of such complexity, we cannot ignore the epistemological, “hand-made” work implied in the exercises conducted across different levels, temporalities and dimensions of analysis.
As regards the scenario method using the CLA approach, we have come to the conclusion that the chances of the method increase when we make more emphasis on metaphorical language and on building narratives since our work is introduced and legitimized in the mythical and metaphoric dimension, thus familiarizing “hard” disciplines with the work with language, where all forms of knowledge stem from. Moreover, narratives gain relevance and become meaningful, as long as we work really hard on drivers by going deeper into our analysis of them (as to quantity and diversity of factors, dimensions, ways of development, and scales). A few intertwined variables do not allow for the development of plausible scenarios that finally move us into action. Narratives are fundamental to identify the relevance of the images of future because they explain the future status of the things. They are also useful for the recognition in the situation of the actors or decision- makers involved. The metaphors and images used in the exercises conducted let us introduce dimensions of analysis that used to be neglected in the institutional practice, such as the geopolitical and cultural dimension.
Considering a theoretical perspective, we have observed that Foresight studies were nourished by various mega theories along its evolution (the theory of systems, functionalism, cybernetics, the philosophical current of phenomenology), including some regional theories too (the theory of chaos, the theory of game, the economic theory on innovation and crisis, among others). Moreover, the fact that social sciences, political theories and sciences of language have turned towards post-structuralism and Narrative Foresight leverages the contribution of Future Studies, which may determine the complete incorporation of Future Studies into the academic world, or even reach the spheres of power.
With regard to the role of the different types of knowledge in the application of Foresight in complex institutions whose public is used to linear thinking and the link with decision-makers, this experience has helped us to identify the specific contributions of the team committed to the Foresight exercise conducted. This implies specialized knowledge, management of the most sophisticated techniques, and the use of software to process information is important. But such knowledge must delve into the epistemological, shaping the almost hand-made design that each exercise should have in order to control the techniques used in context in service to the objectives and scope of our research. Epistemic knowledge does not only imply an understanding of the different models of production of knowledge, its logical and argumentative structures: it also implies placing things in context, knowing how to read and assess a problem. Moreover, it means being able to interpret the demand of the exercise, or even constructing such a demand in negotiation with whoever asks for it.
As regards the role of decision-makers, we understood that without a demand - which comes hand in hand with the emergence of certain needs, concerns, and intuitions, of a collective project and of a privileged access to information - no Strategic Foresight can be possible. Exercises are also nourished by the demand, as it communicates the main concerns, tactical vision and strategies. Therefore, political projects encourage the Strategic Foresight vocation. The fact this resource be available is not enough.
Finally, along the process described, most of the methodological and institutional innovations result from a process of intellectual and collective elaboration with clear objectives. During the process, we always had certain objectives and certain intuitions based on our historical knowledge. The methodological decisions taken along the process were framed in a project, in a certain narrative and critical vision of history and of Argentine development, open to the perception of other co-existing projects at stake. Strategic foresight is a scientific practice where technical and political aspects, far from being neutralized, must be maximized. In the region, we have witnessed a re-emergence of the discipline in the last decade. Thus, lucubrations about future and strategic vision are indispensable again. Living in the XXI century, a period awakened by a serious crisis (a multidimensional crisis affecting the civilization) where we still fail to find our “big narrative” to account for it, it is no coincidence that Latin America resumes its foresight tradition once more, while making a revision of its history as a Region.
The narrative dimension has been part of Future Studies since its creation. Some of the main methods of Future Studies – including the scenario method, the construction of visions or the backcasting method – imply a narrative structure depending on case. However, only in the last decades different schools of Future Studies have gone deeper into the study of the pragmatic, ontological and epistemological aspects of the narrative dimension. One of these cases is the critical approach of Future Studies adopted by Inayatullah et al. [1,2,3].
The first category – litany – makes reference to the objective-based view of the language of variables, tendencies and data series. The second category has already been acknowledged by social and economic sciences in the role of interpretation in the analysis of political and historical factors. The third category points to the fact that worldviews can be built by discourse by means of certain cultural expressions or milestones legitimizing social order. The fourth category goes deeper into the analysis of the metaphor and myth and in the archetypes and paradoxes posed by language. 
The concept of future thinking of the French School is related to the field of ethics. This School gives certain keys in order to approach future, such as the idea of having a project, of working on the field of what is desirable, the phenomenological concepts of temporality, rejecting the linear modality of science reasoning [9, 10]. In the case of the American school, the “scenario method” gained prominence and rapidly spread both in the field of geostrategy and in the corporate world. [11, 12]
Inayatullah identifies different approaches: empirical, interpretive and critical.  Slaughter outlines four traditions in Future Studies (one empirical, analytical and critical, a second one which is critical, a third one which is activist, and a fourth one which is multicultural.  Instead, Ahlqvist and Rhisiart “suggest a more schematic division between utilitarian and emancipatory paradigms.” 
There are hardly any reviews about Future Studies in Latin America. There are some publications oriented towards media and environment-related issues which are more specifically concerned the future and only two academic publications focused in Foresight applied to certain disciplines (not from a multi-disciplinary perspective). Regarding post-graduate studies, there are a few specialization courses and doctoral studies in universities in Mexico and Colombia.  In the case of Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Peru, their main developments have been encouraged by state, technical organisms either through Foresight programs applied to technology and more recently through the creation of agencies to provide assistance in strategic thinking for institutions.
It is worth mentioning that several professionals from different countries in the region have joined international associations and programs about Future Studies (such as the Millennium Project of the United Nations University, or some non-profit world organizations), i.e. we are not faced to a lack of futurists, but rather of a lack of programs on Future Studies designed and organized according to the problems posed by the Region.
For example, the “Prospecta” Congress held in Argentina in 2012 and 2014 under the organization of the National University of Cuyo (“Universidad Nacional de Cuyo”) and the initiative of the Latin American and Caribbean Institute for Economic and Social Planning (ILPES) of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) of the UN which, since 2014, has incorporated an international conference and a special meeting about Foresight studies into the list of events this Organization regularly holds for planning actions.
Gilberto Gallopín, our main consultant, is one of the co-authors of “A Latin American World Model”.  He is internationally well-known for his work with models and scenario methods applied to environmental issues. In collaboration with Alfredo Eric Calcagno, we also managed to recover part of the data obtained with numerical experimentation early in the seventies.  Furthermore, we have received some international support through a seminar organized by the Science, Technology and Productive Innovation Ministry, led by Wendy Schultz.
The phrase makes reference to the lyrics of a tango song entitled “Desencuentro” (in English, “Mismatch”) composed by Cátulo Castillo. The song starts and ends with the following phrases: “You are confused and you don’t know / What trolley you have to take to go on / And in that mismatch with your faith / You want to cross the sea and you can’t […] That’s why in the total / Failure of your life / Not even in the last shot / you’re going to succeed”.
Some of these figurative names of the driving forces: “feeble alliances in a multipolar world”, “global alimentary governability compromised”, “China Factor”, “the riddle of the supply”, “supermarket dictatorship and associated technical barriers”, “the agro-business culture”.
For example: The agro-business culture describes as discourse a national sectorial player; the China Factor describes the acting of a supernumerary corporative State. Government Project analyzes the different and potential projects of Argentina in retrospective as regards to the relative powers of institutionalization, and Supermarket dictatorship and associated technical barriers is mostly an analysis of markets and of the subsidiary actions of states.
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We thank Diego M. Velardocchio, Andrés Kozel and Rubén D. Patrouilleau for their contributions and comments on this paper. We also acknowledge the exchange with Gilberto Gallopín, Jorge Beinstein and Alfredo Eric Calcagno who have enriched the concepts contained herein. Moreover, we thank the “Instituto Nacional de Tecnología Agropecuaria” (National Institute of Agricultural Technology) for supporting this research and the Latin American Institute for the Economic and Social Planning of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean of the United Nations Organization for providing a space to disseminate and discuss a preliminary Spanish version of this paper. We also welcome the comments of the anonymous reviser of the publication which have been of great help to polish an earlier version of this paper.
A preliminary version in Spanish of this paper was published by ECLAC, in its series Seminars and Conferences . This English version contains further conceptual development, in particular, on the link between scenario method and narrative approach.