Causal Layered Analysis (CLA)

This method is based on the ideas of the futures studies researcher Sohail Inayatullah.“Causal Layered Analysis identifies the driving forces and world views underpinning diverse perspectives about the future and what it means to groups.” (Shaping Tomorrow 2017) The aim of this method is to encourage the deconstructing of conventional thinking to produce a shared view of possible future outcomes that can break existing paradigms of thinking and operating. This is achieved by group discussions, sharing of diverse perspectives, and surfacing contrasting world views and underpinning myths.


Identifying the critical issues or controversial trends is the first step to implement a CLA. Afterwards you can apply the CLA method. Participants share ideas through brainstorming: The first step is litany: quantitative trends, problems or issues, usually presented by the media, are collected. The second step tries to give interpretation to the quantitative data. Therefore social causes, like economic, cultural or political factors are considered. The question is: what is causing the issue as it appears to participants (e. g. rising birthrates). The third step includes discourse/worldview that supports and legitimates the issues (e.g. population growth): “Ask whose worldview is shaping the issue, whose voice is being heard and whose is not.” (Shaping Tomorrow 2017). The last layer is at the level of myth and metaphor: “identify stories and myths that underpin the dominant and minority world views to demonstrate the depth of thinking that is generating the issues we see today.” (Shaping Tomorrow 2017)


“Usual results are differences that can be easily captured in alternative scenarios; each scenario in itself, to some extent, can represent a different way of knowing. However, CLA orders the scenarios in vertical space.” (Dator 2002)

Pros and cons


  • Collaborative and appealing to wide range of participants
  • Integrative with other foresight methods
  • Supports the development of powerful and richer future scenarios
  • Useful check that constructed scenarios are robust across diverse perspectives
  • Develops shared visions of a preferred organizational future
  • Links short, medium and long-term strategic thinking


  • Needs a clearly expressed question to be prepared
  • Needs to be connected with other foresight methods to generate future scenarios
  • May reduce individual creativity
  • Needs time and patience and requires experienced facilitator

(Shaping Tomorrow 2017)

Complementary methods

Brainstorming is one part of the CLA-method. Also scenario building can be a complement to this method.