Causal Layered Analysis

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"Causal Layered Analysis (abbreviated as CLA) is an approach and a technique used in foresight to shape the future more effectively. CLA may be used when debating all types of issues, collectively or individually. It works by identifying different levels of analysis to create coherent new futures. The four levels are core to CLA: the litany, the social/systemic causes, the discourse analysis that legitimizes and supports the worldview, and underpinning that worldview, the myth/metaphor deeply linked to culture and long-term history."


2. Chris Riedy:

"CLA is a futures theory and method developed by Sohail Inayatullah. Inspired by poststructural and critical thought, particularly the work of Foucault, CLA ‘takes as its starting point the assumption that there are different levels of reality and ways of knowing’ (Inayatullah, 1998, p. 820). Exploring these different ‘ways of knowing creates the opportunity for “transformation” – opening up new conceptual spaces where genuine alternatives can be discovered and considered’ (de Simone, 2004, p. 486). As such, CLA is a method that is particularly well suited to exploring the concept of human interior transformation.

Inayatullah defines four levels of reality. The first, or shallowest, is the litany, which is the official public or media description of an issue.

The second level ‘is concerned with systemic causes, including social, technological, economic, environmental, political and historical factors’ (Inayatullah, 2004, p. 12, my emphasis).

The third level ‘is concerned with structure and the discourse/worldview that supports and legitimates it’ (Inayatullah, 1998, p. 820). This is the level of culture or worldview. The fourth and deepest layer is concerned with metaphor and myth, focusing on ‘the deep stories, the collective archetypes, the unconscious dimensions of the problem or the paradox’ (Inayatullah, 1998, p. 820). These deep stories can fuel or blind our vision (de Simone, 2004). At this level: ‘The language used is less specific, more concerned with evoking visual images, with touching the heart instead of reading the head’ (Inayatullah, 2004, p. 13). Problems are constituted by unconscious core myths that need to be brought into consciousness. The intent is to draw out and deconstruct conventional metaphors, articulate alternative metaphors and bring the unconscious and the mythic to futures work. Solutions may then emerge in non-rational ways.

CLA moves up and down these four layers and explores the plural scenarios within each layer that are the seeds of alternative futures. The intent is to integrate understanding and solutions emerging from each of the layers. CLA is often used as a collective workshop method."



of the founder of the methodology, i.e. Sohail Inayatullah:

  • Currently the UNESCO Chair in Futures Studies at the Islamic Science University of

Malaysia (USIM), Sohail Inayatullah is a professor at Tamkang University (Taiwan) and at the Melbourne Business School (Australia). He is also an adjunct professor at the University of the Sunshine Coast (Australia) and a professorial fellow at the Centre for Strategy and Policy Studies (Brunei Darussalam). Professor Inayatullah has worked extensively with governments, international corporations, and non-governmental organizations around the globe. A CLA pioneer, Sohail Inayatullah has written and edited numerous books, special issues of journals, refereed journal articles, anthology chapters, and editorial pieces. He is also the director of, an international futures think-tank."


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