QFR Alternative Futures Methodology/Process

QFR Process Background

Every four years, the wildland fire community conducts a Quadrennial Fire Review (QFR), led by U.S. Forest Service (FS) and the Department of the Interior (DOI). The 2014 QFR team is gathering diverse stakeholder input to help Federal wildland fire managers look 10-20 years into the future to identify emerging issues – “what we aren’t seeing” – and ultimately, develop effective strategies to mitigate risk and support mission accomplishment.

The 2014 QFR is employing a variety of approaches to gather input, including one-on-one interviews, focus groups, facilitated workshops, and crowdsourcing. The QFR team executed six Strategic Foresight workshops between May 19 and June 4 at four locations across the United States (Missoula, MT; Boise, ID: Denver, CO: and Washington, D.C.). Each of these workshops included diverse groups of 14-20 stakeholders from across the wildland fire management community (Federal, State, Tribal, local, private sector, non-profit/academia) and employed an approach called ‘alternative futures’ to explore major shifts and changes that could alter the way we manage wildland fire in the 2024 to 2034 timeframe. Those workshops form the basis for Phase II of the QFR crowdsourcing effort..

Four Quadrants

Before each workshop, participants received a 2x2 alternative futures matrix (see Figure 1 below) that posed four possible scenarios for the future of wildland fire management. The matrix is centered around two variables: the ‘Federal Management Approach’ on the X-axis, and the ‘Wildfire Environment’ on the Y-axis. On the X-axis, the matrix defined the spectrum of possibility as ‘low intervention’ to ‘high intervention’ in terms of Federal wildland fire management. On the Y-axis, the matrix defined the spectrum of possibility as ‘low’ to ‘high’ in terms of the negative impacts of wildfire on the landscape, natural resources, communities, and individuals.

Upon arriving at the workshop, a QFR team facilitator guided participants through an in-depth exercise designed to identify:

  • Trends shaping the future of wildland fire management;
  • Likely characteristics of each quadrant (or future scenario) in 2034 and possible events/shocks that could drive the community from one quadrant to another;
  • Advance indicators suggesting the emergence of any particular future; and,
  • Additional information or research that could help fire leaders better integrate indicators into decision-making.

Crowdsourcing Phase II

Phase II of the 2014 QFR crowdsourcing effort seeks to engage a broader array of wildland fire management community stakeholders, particularly those who were unable to participate in the six alternative futures workshops. Phase II is employing the output from previous workshops as the basis for a scenario-based exercise designed to build on and supplement the input received during those workshops.

The image below depicts the input provided by workshop participants as scenarios. The quadrants represent plausible alternative futures for wildland fire management in the 2034 timeframe and are the result of efforts by the QFR team to synthesize key insights from the workshops. Phase II seeks additional stakeholder input by: (1) requesting that participants imagine themselves in 2034, and (2) posing the following series of questions about each:

  • What trends, events, or shocks (i.e. unexpected occurrences with major implications) could drive us to this future?
  • What changes to strategy, organizational structure, capabilities, and infrastructure would be necessary to address the future we are facing?
  • What information could help mitigate the risks presented by this future?
  • What information could help capitalize on opportunities presented by this future?
Four Possible Alternative Futures of Wildland Fire Management in 2034