Barbara Heinzen
Scenarios in a time of systemic change (2019)

Public talk by Barbara Heinzen

Aug 28, 16:00-19:00
Nymøllevej 78, 2800 Kgs. Lyngby

The talk will draw on Barbara’s experiences from three decades of work with scenario planning in organizations such as Shell, Singapore Airlines, World Business Council for Sustainable Development and Society for International Development in East Africa. She will give a brief history of how scenario work has been used to guide corporate strategic thinking and public dialogue at critical times in organisations and society. Finally the talk will outline lessons from the achievements and shortcomings of scenario planning while offering modest advice for today’s planners and organizations working with difficult, long term issues. After Barbara’s presentation she will be available for an extended conversation with the audience.

The talk will be the first of four public events at Primer this fall, focusing on the conditions and methods for working with the future and working thematically from the ongoing project and current exhibition ‘The Future Hides that it Hides Nothing’.


After 30 years in London, Barbara Heinzen is now based in upstate New York, 15 miles south of Albany. She is a freelance geographer with a PhD from the School of Oriental & Africa Studies, University of London. Her independent professional practice in long range scenarios and planning began in 1987 in London after working for two years with Royal Dutch Shell where she was trained in scenario planning and strategy. She is particularly interested in societies in transition, with experience in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America. Her book, Feeling for Stones, explores how ecological societies might be invented in the coming decades.

In 2006, she began working with colleagues in East Africa to create an experiment called the Barbets' Duet. This will create new institutional forms which integrate ecological principles in everyday social, political and economic affairs. These new institutions will be invented by both Western and non-Western people engaging with each other in order to design and run institutional experiments on equal terms. The group held their Invention Convention in Tanzania in October 2009 and organised the Safari Convention in April 2011. That same year, she moved to her new place on the west bank of the Hudson River, 15 miles south of Albany. This is the first North American learning site in the Barbets Duet.

Over the next few years, Barbara Heinzen will be using her experience with the Barbets Duet to develop other experiments in systemic change. She has also been speaking widely about the challenges of management in a time of systemic transition.