Normative future visioning: a critical pedagogy for transformative adaptation

Thaisa Comelli*, Mark Pelling, Max Hope, Jonathan Ensor, Maria Evangelina Filippi, Emin Yahya Menteşe, John McCloskey

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Normative future visioning (NFV) offers a critical approach that can respond to the challenges of transformative adaptation. In the context of climate crisis, an understanding of the diversity of desired end-states and pathways for good urban futures is fundamental to fostering cooperation and inspiring purposeful action that can challenge and transform unsustainable processes and behaviours, and researching these processes. This paper contributes to transformative adaptation and climate resilient development by conceptualising NFV as a critical pedagogy. This framing understands NFV as a collective learning experience that can lead to emancipation and transformative action. A novel Encounter–Change Framework is proposed as a general mechanism for evaluating NFV methods. The framework is tested through the Tomorrow’s Cities project across its NFV deployment in nine cities: Quito, Istanbul, Nairobi, Kathmandu, Rapti, Nablus, Dar es Salaam, Cox’s Bazar and Chattogram. General lessons highlight the importance for NFV evaluation of analysing both methodological detail and its positioning within wider policy and planning processes. Detailed empirical findings reveal key lessons and challenges that emerge from practice – related to time, ethics, co-production, diversity, consensus, equity and authorship. These inform both NFV and other participatory experiences that aim at transformation. POLICY RELEVANCE Transformative adaptation has proven difficult to implement in cities. It promises fundamental changes to socio-technological systems and in so doing raises concerns for future populations and generations, particularly those more vulnerable and equity-deprived. This paper puts forward a framework that offers one way beyond this impasse and supports practices that are future-and transformation-oriented: the Encounter– Change Framework. By drawing on key themes and insights from critical (urban) pedagogies (encounters, connections, emancipation and action and change), a way is proposed to evaluate practical NFV experiences. The Encounter–Change Framework is tested across nine cities. The results emphasise two lines of innovation for policy: a) unpacking the process of NFV from a perspective of power to increase its chances for impact and b) evaluating the positioning of NFV, both in relation to other future approaches and questions and as a part of wider adaptation policy and planning strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-100
Number of pages18
JournalBuildings and Cities
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 20 Mar 2024

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank our partners across all nine cities: Quito, Istanbul, Nairobi, Kathmandu, Rapti, Nablus, Dar es Salaam, Chattogram and Cox’s Bazar. The consolidation of this critical pedagogical NFV approach would not have been possible without the insights, commitment and passion of so many people around the world, including community leaderships, urban authorities, civil society organisations and research institutions. The authors acknowledge funding from UKRI GCRF under grant NE/S009000/1, Tomorrow’s Cities Hub.

Funding Information:
The authors acknowledge funding from UKRI GCRF under grant NE/S009000/1, Tomorrow’s Cities Hub.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Author(s).


  • adaptation
  • cities
  • critical pedagogies
  • future visioning
  • normative
  • urban climate action
  • urban planning

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