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The project is comprised of four main phases, which ran between 2009 and 2013. During these years, the research team constantly adapted and refined the methodology for migration research and sought the methodological expertise of scenario planning practitioners at the Oxford Scenarios Program at the Said Business School, Oxford Futures Directorate at the Smith School for Enterprise and Environment, and Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies.

Phase 1

In the first phase of the project, the research team carried out an extensive review of migration futures research as well as scenario methodologies, in an effort to combine the two strands and begin to develop a scenario methodology for migration. The team published two papers based on this research:

During this first phase the team also gathered primary data by carrying out interviews with migration experts and stakeholders to learn what they perceived to be important factors impacting present and future global migration patterns, the areas of greatest uncertainty with respect to future migration patterns, and desirable and undesirable scenarios for future migration. We also asked stakeholders about the major constraints that limit the ways in which migration can be beneficial to a society and about how to minimise any negative migration outcomes.

Phase 2

In the second phase of the project, the research team held its first scenario-building workshop in The Hague in June 2010 and drafted 16 first-generation scenarios of future migration in Europe (Northern and Southern Europe), North Africa, and Asia. The workshop was hosted by The Hague Process on Migration and Refugees and involved 25 experts and stakeholders from across the world, with a focus on participants from Europe, and from different sectors in the field of migration. Scenario-building workshops were the main form of data collection for the project, as they consisted of exercises that systematically generated future migration scenarios and identified and defined future relative certainties and uncertainties. They were also the primary vehicles through which participants challenged their own assumptions about migration, enriched their understandings of regional migration processes, and became part of a network of migration experts and stakeholders from different sectors and countries across Europe and North Africa.

Phase 3

In the third phase of the project, the research team developed eight of the 16 scenarios into second-generation scenarios, after reiterating each step of the scenario-building process and conducting further secondary research, re-examining and amending the list of future certainties and uncertainties for each region, and releasing an online survey to more than 50 migration experts and stakeholders across the world and from different professional sectors to critique the plausibility of the scenarios and challenge any of their underlying assumptions. Findings from this process were published in an IMI policy briefing:

The team presented the eight scenarios at a second scenario-building workshop in May 2011 in Cairo. The workshop was hosted by the Center for Migration and Refugee Studies at the American University in Cairo and involved approximately 25 experts and stakeholders, with a focus on participants from North Africa. Participants worked together to give feedback on the scenarios, re-iterate the steps of the scenario-building process, and participate in role-playing exercises to develop policy responses to potential migration futures.

Phase 4

The fourth phase of the project involved a more targeted round of data gathering through the organization of two expert workshops on the key issues identified in Cairo, to further enhance and finalise the project’s scenarios. The first expert workshop was hosted by the annual International Metropolis Conference in Ponta Delgada, the Azores in September 2011, and brought together 11 experts in the fields of demography, migration policy, environmental change, and technological innovation.

Experts were invited to present on significant emergent trends and future uncertainties in their respective fields and reflect on their links to migration drivers and patterns.

The second workshop was convened in Oxford in June 2012 and focused on understanding the relationship between environmental change and migration, the implications for global migration futures, and the space within which policymaking might be most effective in preparing for such futures. The workshop involved approximately 20 scholars, policymakers, and practitioners from the fields of environmental and climate science as well as migration, who were asked to prepare research notes on how we could advance our thinking within this new area of inquiry.

The fourth phase also included an Oxford-based symposium on scenario methodologies in academic research. The symposium was a platform to present and receive feedback on IMI’s Migration Scenario Methodology from researchers and practitioners who have used scenarios in their own work, and to invite others to share their experiences using and adapting the methodology.

Furthermore, the team expanded the geographic scope of the project during this phase and developed scenarios for the Horn of Africa and Yemen, in partnership with the Regional Mixed Migration Secretariat, and the Pacific, in partnership with the University of Waikato. In developing the scenarios for these two new regions, the team worked with its partners to carry out secondary research, implement online surveys, and convene scenario-building workshops with migration experts and stakeholders in the regions. In the Pacific, the scenario-building workshop was hosted by the Pathways to Metropolis Conference in Auckland. The project’s regional expansion enabled the team to understand the extent to which potential future migration drivers, trends, and patterns observed in scenarios for Europe and North Africa converged or diverged with those observed in the Horn of Africa and Yemen and the Pacific.