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The ‘Wild Cards’ of European futures: Planning for discontinuities?

An article in Futures, vol. 42, Issue 8, October 2010, Pages 846-855, by Christopher J. Smith and Alexandre Dubois, Nordregio.


The use of Wild Cards has been extensively developed in the corporate world, particularly by companies dealing with strategic commodities in global markets, i.e., the nexus between warfare, oil, and energy use. One of the purposes of Wild Cards is to test the ability of a system – usually a large organisation – to react to unforeseen but high-impact events. The work presented in this article was undertaken in the context of the project on 'Spatial Scenarios' for the European Spatial Planning Observation Network (ESPON) Programme. In this project, four Wild Cards were introduced: "an era of energy scarcity", "the demise of Europe's social security system", "the gulf stream stops", and "the dollar goes down the drain". These Wild Cards were introduced to investigate how external events may have asymmetric impacts across the European territory, to include some reflections on themes that were not included in the integrated scenarios, and to raise awareness of the fact that today's policy choices have to be evaluated not only in the light of current policy goals but also in the light of possible, sometimes dramatic, future events. In this way the Wild Cards helped to highlight the potential impact of external events on the territorial development of Europe and their particular impact on the internal disparities between the regions.

Smith, Christopher J. & Dubois, Alexandre: The 'Wild Cards' of European futures: Planning for discontinuities?. In: Futures, vol. 42, Issue 8, October 2010. Pages 846-855.