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Blue Futures: Realising East Anglia’s blue growth ambitions – from land to sea

February saw the launch our collaborative ‘Blue Futures’ project between the University of East Anglia, Blue Ltd., the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, Norfolk and Suffolk Coastal Councils, the Environment Agency, Orbis Energy and the RSPB.  This exciting new project is driven by a desire to better utilize NERC funded research to drive innovation and forward thinking in the delivery of future sustainable coastal management and economic growth.


Work is well and truly underway and in May we hosted the first participatory workshop involving the project partners, research team and some key regional stakeholders.  Using hindcasting and forecasting, we considered past and plausible future events that have been or may be important in shaping the character of the region in the context of the terrestrial and coastal zones, the marine environment, the regional economy and people and communities.    Participants were encouraged to think radically and think about the legacy of decisions, events and policies.  The output from this workshop has informed the development of a series of draft future scenarios for the Eastern region, covering the next 100 years.


Reflections by Professor Tim O’Riordan OBE FBA:

‘This has been an exercise in sharing the past to shape the way we think about the future. We have sometimes become unhinged by being too past-dependent. We touched on the 1953 pivot point – a time which represented a big change in society, technology and social organisation. In the future, around 2050, there are some significant potential changes in the future way society works. Technology, economic collapse, the end of the age of GHG’s; and a potentially very different society ahead of that. Leading to 2050, things will happen which lead to what comes next. We may see human and artificial intelligence becoming synergistic. How will we manage resources, organise information, understand and predict the future. The generation of 2100 may be very different. Questions will arise around free will? Will we come full circle?

There is optimism; we have a limitless capacity for handling the future and change. All things are possible and we haven’t begun to explore the significance of this. M-KEN isn’t just a knowledge exchange – it is a partnership of creating information by learning and creating together. If we can include government, civil society, business and academia working together then we can deliver an adaptable and resilient coastline as a symbol for our capacity to be more resilient and resourceful.

We may either suffer from uncertainty and fear, freeze and become immobile, or become selfish and aggressive to get out of the fire first. There is a third place; in which we think creatively in a new way, genuinely recognising the common good and that we can create it. Everyone in society is becoming adaptive and co-operating, leading to a world that we don’t fear where imaginable unknowns lie. MKEN is very important in setting this path through confidence sharing and learning.’


This month we will be bringing together the project partners and the research team once again, to test and critique the draft scenarios.  Scenario development is a means for exploring the future and setting the scene for informed strategic planning. Essentially, we are aiming for the scenarios development process to generate a set of potential storylines about the region’s ‘blue’ future. This approach provides us with a way of visioning possible changes and interactions, based on near term certainties in the context of long-term critical uncertainties.

The workshop in September will be followed by three future orientated, thematic workshops in November as follows:

  • 2 November |Norwich: Environment
  • 7 November | Lowestoft: Economy
  • 14 November | North Norfolk: Society


Participants in these workshops will critique and embellish the pre-developed set of future scenarios by exploring the interactions between different variables/forces of change; some to some extent predictable (e.g. transportation investments) and others less so (e.g. political and economic trends, sea level rise).  Through an interrogation of the scenarios and discussions about their drivers, impacts, outcomes, and so on, we hope that participants will be able to both identify and challenge assumptions about how the region will function in the future. Also on the table will be discussions around trade-offs, and guiding principles for future sustainable development in the region

Attendance at these workshops will be by invitation only, however we are keen to invite and involve additional interested stakeholders where possible.  If you would like to express an interest in attending any of these workshops please let us know via

Posted by Lisa Johnson on Fri, 16 Sep 2016

Lisa Johnson

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