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What is scenario mapping?

Scenario mapping is making assumptions about what might happen in the future and how your organisation may operate, run your sport, provide an outdoor experience, and so on. While there are many different options that might happen (for example, what restrictions will be lifted), this process enables a few variables (for example, 100 person max, lifting of 1.5m rules) to be focused on at a time.

While all of the planning is carried out in an environment of extreme uncertainty, scenario mapping will enable some focused and clear planning to take place based on a specific future state. This mapping will not help you to predict the future or develop hard and fast action plans, but it will provide a starting point for the development of actions that can easily be manipulated based on the actual decision.


Scenario mapping will:

  • provide a clear starting point for future planning
  • focus thinking and attention to specific variables
  • provide an easy-to-manage number of outlooks for the future
  • provide some plausible/realistic future states to use in your recovery planning.

How is the scenario mapping completed?

In the past four stages, we have generally taken an internal focus on the organisation, activity or location. Now is the time to take an external look at what might be coming next. Always be realistic and try to find the right balance between being too optimistic or pessimistic.

It is important to be informed of the current restrictions and some of the realistic lifting of restrictions that could happen in the future. There are a number of ‘points of truth’ that should be reviewed when identifying the current state of restrictions.

You should also contact your regional, State or national governing body and the relevant land manager to see what sport, activity or location-specific restrictions there are in place. Remember that while the Australian Institute of Sport and Sport Australia have released the National Principles for the Resumption of Sport and Recreation Activities, it is important to note that State Governments will be responsible for decisions on the resumption of sport and recreation activities at both the community and professional levels. The ultimate determination on the relaxing of restrictions is made by the Commissioner of WA Police (as the State of Emergency Coordinator) following consultation with top public health officials.

The scenarios do not need to be considered based on a specific date/time frame as this will come into the recovery planning phase. We will be setting the scenario and then asking just one question that is not reliant on a time frame or ‘crystal balling’ around when it will happen. Also do not try to anticipate any unknown inputs that may impact the lifting of restrictions. For example, start this stage at the point a restriction is lifted, without trying to anticipate how many COVID-19 ‘zero case’ days it will take to allow full contact sport to resume or regional borders to be opened.

While the current environment may not lend itself to an extensive consultation process, some quick and targeted feedback or comments may be warranted from your stakeholders. It may also be of value to include some people who are external to the organisation. For example, past members or local government leaders. If this plan is communicated to a wider audience then do not forget to include an introduction stating that these are potential scenarios and any future decisions, actions or change in operations will depend on a final review and formal endorsement by ‘ABC’.

Preparation of the scenario mapping

Step 1: Identify important uncertainties

This may include future restrictions being lifted, decisions by your State/national governing body and/or access to places and spaces that are managed by local governments. As the lifting of restrictions may play the biggest part in setting potential scenarios, you may want to further define what they are and use these as the first change to be considered. This is because they will impact on the availability of a venue and/or the decisions of the governing body, for example:

  • social distancing — 1.5 metres between people and four square metres per person
  • size of gatherings — 10, 100, 500 or no restrictions
  • permitted venues — indoor, outdoor, gymnasiums, sporting venues/centres, pools, local government facilities
  • international and inter/intra-state regional border restrictions.

Step 2: Develop a number of scenarios

This is where we determine what our potential future scenarios are. You should try to set a smaller number (for example, three  or four) rather than 10 to 15 (unless you have plenty of time). Depending on the size and complexity of your organisation, activity or region, you may want to set your scenarios on a few of the uncertainties. For example, a club may set the scenarios as:

  • the State sporting association enabling games/competition to start
  • gatherings of 100 people for indoor venues
  • social distancing removed for sporting activities.

A regional outdoor track or trail may have only a few scenarios to consider, for example:

  • lifting of all intrastate regional travel bans, or
  • opening restaurants and bars for in-house dining (from a tourism perspective).

Step 3: What are the implications?

There may be a number of implications for each scenario, which is why it is important to focus on a small number. For example, the recent change in increasing the maximum gathering size to 10 but not the opening of indoor sporting venues meant that while indoor sport is prohibited, the same activity or sport could be carried out in an outdoor setting. It also meant that the seven-person committee could meet face-to-face in a suitably sized room.

The areas of focus/impact for each scenario can be linked back to those considered in previous phases. Once again, do not be tempted to think too much further as the action plans (what we do next and how we do it) will be identified at the recovery planning phase. Consider the impacts on training, competition, administration, travel, participation, opening of the club gym/hall, and so on.

Also, do not forget that while we acknowledge the National Principles for the Resumption of Sport and Recreation Activities provide a good guide for the resumption of sport and recreation, the WA State Government’s State of Emergency Declarations will always take precedence.

You may choose to list the scenarios and the implications in table form or describe them through a paragraph. When developing the recovery plan, a clear list/table approach may help but it is up to each group to pick their preferred method. 

Step 4: Ongoing review/monitoring

From time to time, there may be comments in the media or from friends that a restriction may be lifted or ‘if we don’t have any more cases then we can go back to full contact rugby on Sunday’. It is important that you do not change your recovery plan immediately or start making commitments based on this information. While you should always make your final decisions on the facts, you may wish to add to the implications identified at Step 3 listed above. Do not forget you are making assumptions and predictions based on the best information you have at hand, so it is fair to realign your thoughts based on new/changing information.


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Page reviewed 11 September 2023