Causal Layered Analysis (CLA) is a futures technique that can be used in many
circumstances, in particular in the construction of scenarios. Its creater, Sohail Inayatullah,
says that he uses CLA for all scenario writing (pers. comm.). Some suggestions are given
in this recipe.
CLA draws on poststructuralist theory for its foundation. It is based
on the premise that the way issues are framed strongly influences how they are understood,
and therefore limits the perceived scope of possible change. As
a method, CLA attempts to widen the frame in a systematic way.
Inayatullah began developing CLA in the early 1990s, starting from a conceptual base
laid by by Richard Slaughter. A recent description of the approach appeared
in reference .
A forthcoming book, The CLA Reader: An Integrative and Transformative Methodology,
planned for release in 2004 from Tamkang University Press, will illustrate the method
with case studies from around the world.
This recipe is based on reference , as well as the
draft of a chapter in the forthcoming reader, Causal
Layered Analysis: A Cookbook Approach by Serafino De Simone. De Simone
states that the procedure can be adapted and shortened if necessary, depending on the
goals and constraints of the exercise where it is being applied.
Scenario workshop participants
A CLA asks participants to explore four different layers of understanding
the issues of concern:
Litany: Surface, easily-verified comments such as, Water shortages are likely.
These generally leave speaker and hearer feeling that someone should do something.
Social Causes: Statements invoking actors and their structural relationships, such as,
If only government would manage water better there would be no shortages. These statements
tend to suggest incremental policy changes as the solution to problems.
Discourse/Worldview: Grand, big picture statements that challenge assumptions on the
previous two levels, such as, We need a Left-Green water system, not a market system!
The key at this level is to search for positions that reflect deeper, generally
Myth and Metaphor: Folk sayings, slogans, archetypes and ancient stories, such
as God gave earth to man to do with as he wishes, or a story of water and progress,
of mans ingenuity solving the challenges Nature gives.
A CLA conducts both a vertical analysis, which cuts across layers, and a
set of horizontal analyses that examine each layer.
Connecting to Scenarios
There are several ways to connect a CLA to a scenario exercise (Inayatullah, pers. comm.).
Require each scenario to have a clear Litany statement, Social Causes statement,
Discourse/Worldview statement and Myth/Metaphor statement.
Create a scenario at each level (e.g., a Litany scenario, Social Causes scenario, etc.)
Compare and contrast scenarios at each level.
The Vertical Gaze: Uncovering Causaility
This step exposes the underlying causality of the issue in question. Usually this
starts at the Litany level, then moves through to Myth and Metaphor. At each level, the
facilitator may ask prompting questions to guide discussions. For example:
Litany: What might a current overdramatised newspaper headline about this issue look like?
Social Causes: How and why did the issue arise? Who is involved? What is the source of the litany?
Why was it presented? Who is being quoted - what is their involvement? What are the underlying
Discourse/Worldview: Who are the stakeholders? What values do they have? Who usually talks
and lobbies about this issue? What do they stand to lose or gain? Who has the most control
over the issue? Note: As participants become more comfortable with CLA, it is helpful to refer to
ideologies, as a way to frame stakeholder views.
Myth and Metaphor: What is an image or phrase that encapsulates what has been uncovered so
far? What work of fiction, movie, poetry, art, etc. evokes an image of the issue being discussed?
Are there any myths that may constrain thinking or acting in relation to this issue?
Horizontal Gazes: Discovering Alternatives
This step asks questions that allow other ways of knowing to be discovered, within a
given layer. Initially this takes place at the Social Causes and Discourse/Worldview levels:
Social Causes: Use STEEP (Social, Technical, Environmental, Economic and Political)
perspectives to reveal different understanding of an issue.
Discourse/Worldview: Ask, What values have been embodied in the current manifestation
of this issue? Are there other perspectives or viewpoints? What are they? What is
being written in fringe/periphery journals about this issue? How is the influence of
these over views being contained? What would happen if these other views became dominant?
How has this type of issue arisen over time?
Re-Envisioning the Myth and Metaphor
There are two goals at this stage: 1) Uncover the underlying myths and metaphors that
constrain current thinking. 2) Capturing a new story or image of the collective beliefs
that reflect the utopian wishes of the group in regard to the issue. The two visions should
then be contrasted.
Recasting the Issue and Defining Possible Solutions
Starting with the reformulated story/image from the previous step, go up the layers to
recast the issue/problem at each level. The Causal Layered Analysis Table in
the appendices of reference  can help organize this stage.
Selecting and Documenting Solutions at Each Level
Select a manageable number of solutions for further use in the foresight process. Usually,
this involves selecting one issue or solution from each layer:
Litany: Instrumental solutions and quick-fix approaches
Social Causes: Policy-oriented solutions
Discourse/Worldview: Solutions based on changing the prevailing mindset
Myth and Metaphor: Imagery-base solutions
 Inayatullah, Sohail. 2003. Causal Layered Analysis: Unveiling and Transforming the Future
in J.C. Glenn and T.J. Gordon, eds. Futures Research Methodology version 2.0. Washington, D.C.: AC/UNU Millennium