NEW YORK, May 6, 2009 - The New York University School of Continuing and Professional Studies (NYU-SCPS) has been awarded a grant from the Carnegie Corporation foundation to fund its Center for Global Affairs Scenarios Initiative. The quarter million dollar grant will support the program’s mediated workshop series testing alternative U.S policies on China, Russia, Turkey, and the Ukraine, countries that are expected to be critical to U.S interests over the next 10 years—as rivals, collaborators, and/or potential vectors of conflict.
“Receiving the Carnegie Corporation grant is an honor and affirmation of the outstanding applications-focused work of the NYU Center for Global Affairs, and its academic and public outreach efforts to explore solutions to pressing global issues,” says Robert Lapiner, dean of the NYU School of Continuing and Professional Studies.
“The Scenarios Initiative is designed to produce forward-looking, cross-disciplinary critical thinking on issues and countries important to U.S. national security. This series of mediated workshops and the monographs that will be produced from them will contribute to reducing strategic surprise by testing alternative scenarios.”
“We are excited to have a project so aligned with one of the Corporation’s goals: to help policymakers see how global trends affect U.S. foreign policy,” said Patricia Moore Nicholas, project manager, International Peace and Security at Carnegie Corporation. “Housing the project at the Center for Global Affairs presents an opportunity to bring U.S. policymakers, practitioners and academics together with foreign participants—and possibly students—to talk about security challenges.”
The CGA Scenarios Initiative is led by Clinical Associate Professor Michael Oppenheimer, who has for nearly 40 years provided research, consulting, and policy advice for the U.S. foreign policy and intelligence communities, using similar scenarios-building exercises.
"Through the use of scenarios and alternative analyses, policy makers are better able to gain an understanding of a problem, its logic, future evolution, and alternate policy responses,” says Oppenheimer, a faculty member within the NYU-SCPS Master of Science in Global Affairs program.
“The CGA’s Scenarios Initiative is designed to engage foreign policy makers directly in the scenario building and policy testing process, thus adding real value to policy deliberations. Our program also involves global and expert participation to minimize mirror imaging and policy or cultural bias,” he adds.
The Scenario Initiative workshops and reports are built around a pressing issue or pivotal country—chosen by Oppenheimer and associates at the Center for Global Affairs—that combines great importance to U.S. interests with high variability and uncertainty. The 10 to 15 invited participants of the workshops discuss three or four possible scenarios that could arise within the area of focus. The group then builds out each of the scenarios by exploring relevant political, economic, cultural, and global forces at play; critical, “game changing” events; how the U.S. and other major state and non-state actors might behave; and what policy choices the U.S. must confront in each scenario.
The Center piloted the project with two previous full-day scenario workshops attended by noted scholars, policymakers, journalists, and other professionals. The first, in 2007, imagined the future of Iraq after a substantial drawdown of U.S. forces in 2010. The other, in 2008, examined the future of Iran and its relationship with other Middle East actors. (These reports are available for download above). The enthusiastic support of participants such as Steven Cook and Steven Simon of the Council of Foreign Relations, Gideon Rose, managing editor of Foreign Affairs, David Sanger of The New York Times, and Phillip Gordon of the Brookings Institution, led to a formal report of the Iran results to the Council on Foreign Relations in October 2008.
Building on this experience the Carnegie Corporation grant will thus enlarge the impact and scope of CGA’s efforts over the next two years—expanding the range and number of participating experts and policymakers; launching a new publication series based on the workshops; and creating opportunities to brief policymakers and opinion leaders, through presentations, writings, and face-to-face meetings.
“The Scenarios Initiative grows naturally out of the mission of the Center for Global Affairs, to prepare our graduate students and current practitioners for a globalizing, complex, and rapidly changing world.” said CGA Divisional Dean Vera Jelinek. “Our program is interdisciplinary, global in composition, diverse in academic and professional backgrounds of students and faculty, and devoted to improving policymaking in government, intergovernmental organizations, NGOs, and private firms.”