This phase is about framing the Wayfinder process. Together with a wide group of stakeholders, you begin by focusing in on the system of interest, articulating the aspirations for the system, and discussing the sustainability challenges that you face. Through this process, you collectively zoom in on what is important, provisionally deciding what should be included and what should be left out, eventually arriving at a shared understanding of the identity of your social-ecological system.


Phase 2 requires engagement with a wide range of stakeholders outside the coalition. Exploring multiple perspectives on what people value in the system, what challenges they face, and what kind of future they hope for is part of the process of reaching a shared understanding around the system’s identity. Through this process, you collectively focus on what is important, by provisionally deciding on boundaries and what to include in the system description, as well as what to leave out. This step gives the Wayfinder process its framing and scope and provides a first indication of the types of change that will be needed to meet development challenges and redirect towards a more sustainable future.

Phase content

In Module A, stakeholders express their aspirations for the system in a workshop setting. Beginning with people’s aspirations helps to keep the full range of possibilities for the system open and is also critical for working in a collaborative manner. Starting with aspirations also stops people getting bogged down on the current problems and issue, which is not productive at this stage. Once there is a shared understanding of what people want from the system, the benefits that the system currently provides are mapped, and the social-ecological “dilemmas” i.e., the sustainability challenges and trade-offs that stand in the way of reaching aspirations, are identified. The historical development of the system is also explored, providing a deeper understanding of how the dilemmas have emerged over time.

In Module B, with the shared aspirations and social-ecological dilemmas now articulated, you begin the process of describing what “the system” is and how it is organized. This step includes identifying key social, economic and ecological variables and components, important connections, networks and governance structures, and cross-scale drivers that influence the system.

In Module C, the knowledge generated so far is synthesized into a conceptual model of the social-ecological system that is a key output and tool for the Wayfinder process. Together with stakeholders you will develop an initial draft of a shared Change Narrative that describes how change can happen in this system so that it better meets shared aspirations.


Phase 2 will result in three concrete outputs that are essential for your continued Wayfinder journey. The first output is a framing for the Wayfinder process, which builds on people’s aspirations for a more sustainable, safe and just future, and the social-ecological dilemmas they face at present. The second output is a draft conceptual model of the social-ecological system in focus. This model will form the basis for a more detailed exploration of system dynamics in Phase 3. The third output is a draft of a shared Change Narrative that describes how stakeholders think the Wayfinder process will contribute to change, so that the system better meets people’s aspirations in the future. This narrative will be important later in the process, when you develop strategies for change.