Backcast defines a desirable future and then works backwards to identify major events and decision that generated the future, to allow organizations to consider what actions, policies and programs are needed today that will connect the future to the present. Backcasting reminds participants that the future is not linear, and can have many alternative outcomes depending on decisions made and the impact of external events on an organization.

Uses of the method

  • Planning
  • Resource management


  • Avoids extrapolating present conditions
  • Quick & agile.
  • Accessible and engaging
  • Lightweight
  • Creative


  • Assumes the desirable future will occur
  • May need constant updating
  • Can be resource intensive and time consuming
  • No defined, conceptual framework
  • Best for skilled practitioners
  • May need an external facilitator/challenger
  • Can miss non-considered drivers of change that will impact on the backcast in the future

Steps to complete

  • Agree the desired time horizon to achieve the desired future
  • Define the present state through the lenses of political, economic, social, technological and environmental factors and your current policies and strategies
  • Define the most preferred future ignoring all existing roadblocks 
  • List enablers of achieving this change. Separate enablers inside and outside your control
  • List barriers to achieving this change. Separate barriers inside and outside your control
  • Identify policies and programs that will connect the future to the present using the enablers and reducing or eliminating the barriers
  • Develop the sequence of backward steps to achieve the desirable future
  • Develop associate key performance indicators at end of critical program phases
  • Capture unique insight into new ways of seeing that can be utilized by the organization 
  • What conclusions can we draw from the exercise(s)?
    • How might the future be different?
    • How does A affect B?
    • What is likely to remain the same or change significantly?
    • What are the likely outcomes?
    • What and who will likely shape our future?
    • Where could we be most affected by change?
    • What might we do about it?
    • What don't we know that we need to know? 
    • What should we do now, today?
    • Why do we care?
    • When should we aim to meet on this?
    • Develop next steps and determine if any further research required

Further reference

This method and your response can be shared with other members or kept private using the 'Privacy' field and through the 'Tag', 'Report' and 'Forum' functionalities. Use 'Tag' and/or 'Report' to aggregate your analyzes, or add a 'Forum' to ask others where they agree/disagree and encourage them to make their own analysis from their unique vantage point.

Click the 'Invite tab to send invitations to other members or non-members (colleagues, external experts etc.) to ask for their input. You can whether or not you want anonymous responses.  These can be viewed and exported within the Responses tab.

Contact us
Even with all the advice and tools we have provided here starting a foresight project from scratch can be a daunting prospect to a beginner. Let us know if you need help with this method or want a group facilitation exercise or full project or program carrying out by us. We promise to leave behind more internal knowledgeable people who can expand your initiative for better organizational performance.

Contact us today for a free discussion on your needs.

Are there other enhancements or new methods you would like to see here? Let us know and we will do our best to respond with a solution quickly.

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