In this phase of Wayfinder we move from system assessment to strategic planning. Drawing on your understanding of system dynamics, the focus here is to design innovative strategies for adaptive or transformative change that adress the dilemmas, while at the same time maintain option space in the system. Wayfinder emphasizes the need for strategies that help break entrenched patterns and “re-wire” social-ecological interactions so as to open up for sustainable, safe and just development trajectories.


The task in Phase 4 is to design innovative strategies for change, with a focus on biosphere-based development approaches where people become active stewards of their own environment. Wayfinder’s approach to designing change strategies builds on the Change Narrative. As illustrated below, we use the models of system dynamics developed in Phase 3, to identify actions that target leverage points, while taking into consideration where the agency exists to influence those leverage points, and the overall opportunity context for creating change. Through this process, the Change Narrative evolves into an Action Plan that is plausible and concrete enough to be implemented and tested in reality.

Wayfinder’s approach to designing change strategies builds on the Change Narrative and draws heavily on the models of system dynamics developed in phase 3. Illustration: E.Wikander/Azote

Wayfinder emphasizes the importance of innovation and finding new ways to create change. We focus particularly on developing novel combinations of actions to help break entrenched patterns and to “re-wire” social-ecological interactions in ways that foster new development trajectories that enhance both the productive capacity of the biosphere and improve human wellbeing. The table below summarizes a set of design criteria for innovative strategies that the work cards in this phase helps you consider.

From now on in the process, it is important to tap into networks where innovation occurs and new ideas are generated. You should ensure that key changemakers are deeply involved in the process as you work through the next 3 modules and later move into Phase 5.

Phase content

Module A is about preparing yoursef to come up with innovative and effective strategies for change. The first part here is to establish an open and creative mind-set, and the second part is to agree on and articulate a higher-level goal for the Wayfinder process. This goal should specify the level of system change you are aiming for, i.e. adaptation, adaptation while preparing for transformation, or transformation.

In Module B, you start developing specific actions by identifying leverage points and designing actions that specifically target these points. Next it is important to reflect on, and mobilize, the agency required for implementing the actions, while analyzing the overall opportunity context for creating the proposed change. This exercise will lead to modifications to the list of possible actions for various reasons, such as lack of influence or because the system is not ready for that type of change yet. The remaining actions are then filtered through a set of criteria to ensure they are both feasible and effective. In the last part of this module, the “short-listed” actions are interrogated to identify any unintended consequences they may produce, and how they might influence long-term options in the system. This is an iterative work process, that may involve revisiting previous work cards to ensure that the actions you design meet all required design criteria and have a high likelihood of success.

In Module C, the actions are bundled into strategies that consider how the different actions need to be coordinated across scales and sequenced in time. Through this process the strategies are packaged together into an Action Plan that will be shared with all relevant stakeholders. Before moving to phase 5, where the strategies begin to be tested, it is important to reflect on the new Change Narrative.


Phase 4 will result in a strategic Action Plan for changing your system. This plan is a concrete manifestation of your evolving Change Narrative, which by now should be plausible enough to be tested in reality.

Design criteria for innovative change strategies

Target leverage points – The actions that you design should target leverage points, those critical locations in a system where a small change can induce a much larger change in system structure and function are the most effective for shifting systems towards more sustainable, safe and just configurations.

Target deeper rather than shallower leverage points – Actions that target system contexts and worldviews are more powerful than those that target flows and local feedbacks. For example, changing how decisions are made about allocation of irrigation water will have more impact than changing the specific amount of irrigation water allocated.

Influence dynamics at multiple scales – Actions that create change in multiple scales are more powerful than actions that just target one specific level of the system. You can influence dynamics are multiple scales through coordinated and sequenced actions, or through actions that propagate and spread through the system.

Changemakers known and opportunity context conducive – Carefully consider who has the agency to implement the actions you design. Make sure important change agents are known, and that the overall social and institutional context is conducive to change, for example align your actions with an upcoming change in a relevant policy.

Be feasible and effective – Only implement actions that have a reasonable chance of succeeding under current social, cultural, and ecological conditions. Only implement actions that you have reason to believe will be effective. Where the chance of success is unknown, implement trials or small-scale test to learn more before scaling out and up.

Maintain or increase the system option space – Actions should not undermine the capacity to cope with future change, unexpected events and shocks, and they should not lock you in on any particular path. Preferably, your actions should contribute to strengthening key dimensions of option space.

Minimize unintended consequences – All interventions in complex systems produce both intended and unintended consequences. You must make sure that your actions do not cause harm and that they do not merely move the problem elsewhere.

Robust across multiple possible futures – Actions should be designed so that they are robust across the widest range of possible futures. For example, rather than investing in a particular water harvesting technology, a more robust strategy may be to build capacity among farmers to use a range of different water harvesting techniques.