Use for

Determining activities that can be taken in the short term to realise a system innovation based on a long-term vision


By defining a desired future and working backwards to identify the steps needed to attain it, it is easier to achieve a transition. By thinking in terms of the present you are more likely to remain caught up in familiar thought patterns.

What do you do?

Backcasting essentially involves defining one or more future scenarios for a sustainable future and then identifying the steps needed to achieve them from the present situation.

Backcasting produces a strategy for achieving a sustainable future scenario. You then suggest a series of specific activities with a relatively short time horizon for implementing that long-term strategy. These activities can be grouped in a programme.


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More information

  • Robinson, J. (1982). Energy backcasting: a proposed method of policy analysis.Energy Policy 10 (4). pp. 337-344.
  • Robinson, J. (2003).Future subjunctive: backcasting as social learning, Futures 35 (8) pp. 839-856.
  • Vergragt, Ph. J. and J. L. A. Jansen (1993). Sustainable technological development: the making of a Dutch long-term oriented technology program. Project Appraisal, 8, pp. 134-140.
  • Quist, J. and Ph.J. Vergragt (2006). Past and future of backcasting: The shift tostakeholder participation and a proposal for a methodological framework, Futures, 38 (9), pp. 1027-1045.
  • Backcasting 101 Slide presentation on the history and practice of backcasting, ASIS & TIA Summit Preconference, April 10 2008.
  • Used by

    Among others: Philip Vergragt, Tellus Institute: or John Grin, UvA: