Visioning

Compiled by:
Stefanie Keller (seecon international gmbh)
Adapted from:
DFID (Editor) (2003)

Executive Summary

Visioning is a technique that is used to support a group of stakeholders in developing a shared vision of the future. It involves asking the group of participants to appraise where they are now and where they can realistically expect to be in the future. All the key stakeholders in a development activity or organisation that go through a considerable change regarding sanitation and water issues should be represented in the visioning workshop. There are different approaches of using visioning techniques such as using pictures or keywords or so called organisational and guided visioning methods. The visioning process should be implemented before decisions are made.

What Is Visioning?

Visioning is a participatory tool that brings citizens and stakeholders together and is used to assist a group of stakeholders in developing a shared vision of the future. By asking the group where they are now and where they can realistically expect to be in the future, you can develop a vision together. The goal of visioning is to develop written and visualised statements of a community’s long term goals and strategic objectives in the field of sustainable sanitation and water management.

Visioning is typically done at the beginning step of any planning process at all levels. It can be used in:

 

  • Activity planning. What will be the end result of the activity?
  • Organisational change. What kind of organisation do we want? How will it be structured? How will effectiveness be improved?
  • Formulating an overarching development vision or strategy.

 

When Should You Use Visioning?

In the planning process of a new activity, visioning is usually done after the problem and situation analysis has been completed and before the detailed planning and decision making process with the involved stakeholders (e.g. with a logical framework analysis).

The results of the problem and situation analysis help the participants to define State A (Where are we now?). The outcomes of the visioning workshop describe State B (Where do we want to be?). The vision provides a basis on which to develop the goal and purpose of the activity. Visioning can be used at any stage to help clarify where the activity is going and to decide whether the activity design needs to be changed for the vision (the activity’s purpose or goal) to be achieved.

Similarly in organisational change, visioning is an essential step at the outset of the process (to gain a shared vision of the kind of organisation the group wants to develop) and during Implementation (to check that the change process is on track).

The visioning process should be implemented before decisions are made. A visioning process can last one day, several days, or months depending on the complexity of issues facing the community.

  DFID 2003

Visioning should take place after the problem and situation analysis and before the formulation of the logical framework. Source: DFID (2003)

How to Conduct Visioning

  AGRIDEA (n.y.)

This picture illustrates the process of visioning: The community reflects where it is at the moment and where they would like to be (realistically) in the future. Source: unknown 

(Adapted from INTERCOOPERATION 2005)

All the key stakeholders in a development activity or organisation that go through a considerable change regarding sanitation and water should be represented in the visioning workshop (see also stakeholder analysis). Ideally, representatives of all stakeholders should come together in the same workshop, and arrangements made to allow full participation by each stakeholder. There should be experienced facilitators who are guiding the workshops. The responsibilities of a facilitator can be described as the following:

 

  • Producing a comfortable atmosphere for learning: warm, open, friendly, and encouraging.
  • Introducing written materials such as agendas, minutes, and general information.
  • Guiding problem solving.
  • Stimulating discussions and asking questions.
  • Keeping discussions on track.
  • Explaining the goals and methods.
  • Setting out the ground rules and agenda.
  • Making links to previous exercises.
  • Being aware of and sensitive to group dynamics.
  • Summarising and clarifying key points.
  • Motivating participants.

 

See also facilitation for more information.

Visioning Using Pictures

This method of visioning is often used where participants speak different languages and/or many of the stakeholders are illiterate. It can also be used in workshops with literate participants who all speak the same language, though the keywords approach may be more effective for them.

Pictures can be very powerful ways of communicating, helping participants to show the relationships between different components and to visualise positive outcomes of an activity. Poetry, music or drama to aid the visioning process can supplement the use of pictures. The materials needed are large sheets of white paper and coloured flipchart pens.

Stage 1: State The Objective

Use the Stage A to Stage B model to explain the objective of the workshop in order to come to a shared and realistic vision. Agree with participants what the end product will be: a picture summarising the vision, which will also be described in words and written down.

Stage 2: Create Working Groups

Create mixed stakeholder groups of six or seven participants each. Ensure that the groups are gender-balanced (see also gender in water and sanitation). If it becomes clear that some stakeholders are not participating effectively in discussions, rearrange the groups to try to overcome the problem. If necessary set up single stakeholder groups and/or provide a higher level of coaching and support.

Stage 3: Describe State A

Ask each group to describe State A (Where are we now?) using a picture, and to be ready to present the picture in a plenary session. Encourage participants to reflect for a while on their own picture before starting group discussions. The facilitators should move among the groups, encouraging participation, creativity and imagination.

Stage 4: Present State A

Ask each group to present its State A picture in a plenary session and to explain in detail what the picture is trying to convey. The facilitators should attempt to draw out the similarities and differences between pictures, and assist the workshop to reach a consensus description of the State A.

Stage 5: Describe State B

Ask participants to continue working in the same groups and to describe State B (Where do we want to be?), again using a picture, and to be ready to present the picture in a plenary session. Encourage participants to imagine they have the authority and power needed to implement their preferred solutions to the problems identified in the State A description.

Stage 6: Present State B

The facilitators should draw out the similarities and differences among the pictures presented. Now, the workshop should be assisted to reach a consensus on State B.

Stage 7: Turn The State B Picture Into Words

The facilitators should now assist the workshop in translating the picture into words. This can be done either in plenary session or using a small group comprising members from each of the working groups. Once drafted, the statement of the vision should be agreed in a plenary session.

Vision statements are usually up to one page in length, though there is no fixed rule for this.

Visioning Using Keywords

This method is often useful where participants share the same language and are literate. The materials needed are for example flipcharts for working groups, coloured flipchart pens and coloured cards or sticky notes. The process is similar to the visioning process using pictures.

Stage 1: State The Objectives of The Workshop

As stage 1 in the picture method, except that here, the end product will be a written statement of the group’s vision of the future.

Stage 2: Create Working Groups

As stage 2 in the picture method.

Stage 3: Describe State A

Explain to each working group that the aim is to create a list of keywords describing the current situation, then to use the keywords to develop a brief description of State A. The list of keywords and the description will be presented by a group member in a plenary feedback session.

The facilitator should invite individuals to think, on their own, of five keywords that describe the current situation. The facilitator should then go round the members of each group in turn to supply one word, not previously said, to be written on a sticky note or coloured card and placed on the flipchart or an area of wall. Once all the words have been recorded, the group should be asked to suggest how the keywords could be grouped to describe different dimensions of the current situation. These groupings of keywords can then be used as a basis for a brief description, in a few sentences, of State A. The different descriptions of State A are then presented in a plenary session.

One of the facilitators highlights the similarities and differences between the descriptions, and assists the workshop to reach a consensus on State A.

Stage 4: Describe State B

Ask participants to continue working in the same groups and describe State B, using keywords to arrive at a brief description, and to be ready to present this in a plenary session. As in stage 4 of the picture method, facilitators should encourage participants to imagine they have the authority and power needed to implement their preferred solutions to the problems identified in the description of State A.

Each group is then asked to give a detailed presentation of its vision (State B) in a plenary session. One of the facilitators should attempt to draw out the similarities and differences among the presentations, and assist the workshop to reach a consensus on the vision of the future.

Organisational Visioning

Conducting visioning at an organisational level can be both more complex and more challenging.

The most difficult action for the participants of a visioning workshop is often to imagine how their organisation should look like in future. Here, it will be the facilitator’s task to assist the participants through this visioning.

Where an organisation is seeking in a workshop environment to review what its role should be, visioning can be important to the overall success of the workshop process, by divorcing participants from the problems of the present. Visioning allows participants to visualise not only the future role and functions of the organisation but its purpose, its values and its style of operation. Participating in the process can help commit participants to that vision and can provide a base for obtaining subsequent commitment in the wider organisation. Visioning is not a one-time activity, and self-limitations by participants – such as ‘I couldn’t possibly suggest that’ – may harm the outcomes, The facilitator must not be afraid of having repeated attempts, using different visioning techniques, to create a common vision, if the initial results are unsatisfactory (see also facilitator’s role).

Applicability

In the planning process of a new activity, visioning is usually done after the problem and situation analysis has been completed and before the detailed planning and decision making process with the involved stakeholders for the particular activity which is supposed to improve the existing situation regarding sanitation and water.

The visioning process should be implemented before decisions are made. A visioning process can last one day, several days, or months depending on the complexity of issues facing the community. Visioning can be used in activity planning, organisational change or formulating development strategy.

Advantages

  • Visioning is a participatory tool that brings citizens and stakeholders together and assists a group of stakeholders in developing a shared vision of the future
  • Visioning allows all the involved stakeholders to express their wishes regarding future development of their sanitation and water system
  • Visioning is developing written and visualised statements of a community’s long term goals and strategic objectives for sustainable urban and spatial planning

Disadvantages

  • Visioning requires time to bring all the stakeholders together in order to express their wishes and visions they have regarding their sanitation and water system
  • Visioning needs members who can lead the process and are therefore experienced in applying this tool

References Library

DFID (Editor) (2003): Tools for Development. A handbook for those engaged in development activity. London: Department for International Development. URL [Accessed: 22.04.2012].

INTERCOOPERATION (Editor) (2005): Participatory Monitoring And Evaluation. Field Experiences. Hyderabad: Intercooperation. URL [Accessed: 10.08.2010].

Further Readings Library

Reference icon

DFID (Editor) (2003): Tools for Development. A handbook for those engaged in development activity. London: Department for International Development. URL [Accessed: 22.04.2012].

This document gives a good overview of tools used in participatory planning process such as stakeholder analysis, situation analysis, logical frameworks etc.


Reference icon

PHILIP, R.; ANTON, B.; BONJEAN, M.; BROMLEY, J.; COX, D.; SMITS, S.; SULLIVAN, C. A.; NIEKERK, K. van; CHONGUICA, E.; MONGGAE, F.; NYAGWAMBO, L.; PULE, R.; BERRAONDO LOEPEZ, M. (2008): Local Government and Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) Part III: Engaging in IWRM – Practical Steps and Tools for Local Governments. Freiburg: ICLEI European Secretariat GmbH. URL [Accessed: 17.04.2012].

The set of materials entitled “Local Government and Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM)” aims to assist Local Governments with active participation in IWRM. The materials are primarily targeted at local government officials, but are considered equally useful for individuals and organisations that work with local governments in the management of water resources.


Case Studies Library

Reference icon

ALLAN (Editor) (2009): A Vision for a Water Sensitive City / Inspired by the 2009 Transition to a Water Sensitive City Study Tour. Various Locations: Water Sensitive Cities. URL [Accessed: 22.04.2012].

This is a report about a Study Tour in 2009 by a group of leaders from the Australian water sector, who travelled to Europe and Singapore. During the trip, they developed a vision about a Water Sensitive City which is a place where built and natural environments are in harmony. The tour members hope the vision stimulates discussion about the water sector and its ecosystem.


Reference icon

FOKKE, M.; REGOORT, P.; VOSKAMP, T.; STRUKER, A.; BERG, M. van den; TIMMERS, W.; GELDOF, G.; EEM, H. van der; HENDRIKS, A.; WOLDERS, M. O. (2009): Interconnecting Water, Urban Water Cycle Long Term Vision. Den Haag, Gravenhage & Rijswijk: Samenwerken Aan Water. URL [Accessed: 20.10.2010].

This document explains four possible visions in “Interconnecting Water”. The scenarios are not detailed described and some technologies are not even available. The aim of this paper is to inspire people and future generations.