A Wayfinder process will draw together different types of data and information, and involve a range of different stakeholders. This will take time and commitment, and the process will be dynamic with many unexpected and emergent issues along the way. While this may sound challenging, a well-conducted Wayfinder process will also be rewarding, resulting in a legitimate and capable Coalition for change, and in-depth, systemic understanding of the sustainability challenges at hand, and a concrete and plausible Change Narrative, in the form of an innovative Action Plan, that is ready to be tested in reality.

What will a Wayfinder process lead to?

In this guide, the process phases, the modules and the work cards are presented as distinct and sequenced. Although there is an element of logic progression from phase one to five, in practice we strongly encourage a more iterative approach where you move back and forth and revisit the different phases, their modules, and work cards as needed. While it is an old cliché, it is as much about the journey as it is the destination. Treating the whole process as a collective learning journey rather than a project is likely to result in richer, shared insights and an increased likelihood for lasting positive change. In concrete terms, a Wayfinder process will generate three main outcomes:

1. It will bring people together forming a capable and legitimate coalition for change that can lead the way forward. The coalition will consist of people with both the legitimacy and agency needed to lead the change process forward and with the systems understanding required to do so in a good way.

2. Through the Wayfinder process, participants will develop an in-depth understanding of the social-ecological system dynamics at the root of the sustainability challenge, and which prevent people from reaching their aspirations. This provides an entry point for being able to design strategies that actually will have an impact on the system’s development.

3. Finally, the process will generate a concrete and plausible change narrative that highlights systemic leverage points, the agency to influence those leverage points in relation to the overall opportunity context that allows or hinders change, summarized in a strategic action plan consisting of innovative strategies for adaptive and/or transformative system change.

What should you think about before starting?

The road to these outcomes will probably not be straight-forward. Social-ecological systems are by their very nature complex. So is the process of assessing, planning and acting for sustainability in the Anthropocene. A Wayfinder process will therefore be dynamic with many unexpected and emergent issues. It includes both desktop work and work done in meetings or workshops, and involves a range of different actors at different times. It draws on and synthesizes many different types of data, information and knowledge. There will typically be lots of processes and activities running in parallel with lots of information and feedback being generated. Organizing information, running stakeholder engagement, communicating well and pulling together a coherent output from the process can be a major juggling act.

While time requirements will differ between different contexts, we estimate that one iteration of a Wayfinder process will require approximately 6-12 months of intensive work. But the work should not stop there. Instead, we encourage you to see that as a start of a much longer learning journey, where you continuously improve your systems understanding and your strategies for change. Thus, running a Wayfinder process will requires both skills and sufficient resourcing to be effective. Before embarking on a Wayfinder journey, it is therefore important to reflect on whether or not this is the right process for you and your team, right now.

Applicability in different contexts

In terms of applicability and usefulness in different contexts, Wayfinder is generic enough to be used all around the world, but the process is designed to focus on a social-ecological system at a given focal scale, such as a catchment, a community or a food system. While it varies from case to case what the relevant focal scale is, it is generally larger than the individual or the household. These smaller scales also matter since for example much capacity-building and decision-making happens there, but to achieve systemic change towards sustainability, larger organizational scales need to be in focus. In its current format, Wayfinder is probably best suited for driving change in contexts where people have an immediate relation to surrounding ecosystems and natural resources, through their livelihood strategies and lifestyles. Its suitability in highly urbanized contexts, such as mega-cities, is at this point still unclear (although admittedly a very important issue for the global sustainability challenge).

Furthermore, while Wayfinder is primarily designed for development practitioners, municipal planners, policymakers and other types of changemakers, the process is deeply collaborative. To stake out a course and navigate forward, Wayfinder draws together different groups of stakeholders and actors, who sometimes experience reality in quite different ways. To run a fruitful Wayfinder process, these different groups of people must be able to meet and discuss relatively freely, and there must be some possibility for individuals to express themselves and influence their own situation. Wayfinder is therefore not suited for highly conflictual contexts. In such cases a conflict resolution process, or similar, might need to proceed a potential Wayfinder process.

In what way is Wayfinder different from other approaches to resilience practice?

Resilience practice has received considerable attention in recent years. A broad and varied landscape of resilience-based approaches to decision-making, planning, and programming across a range of disciplines continues to evolve and grow. Dozens of guides and frameworks for assessing and measuring resilience in practice are now available. While they all use a similar terminology, it is important to understand that these frameworks have been developed with different goals in mind. That is, while seemingly similar on the surface, they actually set out to do quite different things.

Wayfinder is the result of a two-year effort to synthesize the frontier in resilience and sustainability science into a clear, coherent and hands-on approach for managing and actively influencing the development of social-ecological systems. While it shares its roots and builds on earlier resilience assessment approaches that emphasize social-ecological dynamics, Wayfinder is also different in three important ways:

1. The framing of Wayfinder is new. Wayfinder specifically sets out to address the challenges of sustainable development in the Anthropocene. It has a clear goal (navigating towards sustainable, safe and just development trajectories), and vision for how to get there: through biosphere-based approaches that foster a sense of stewardship for Planet Earth and of reciprocity between people near and far

2. Wayfinder goes beyond resilience assessment and planning. Through a consistent focus on process design, reflexivity, and strategies for developing individual capacity, Wayfinder emphasizes action.

3. Wayfinder synthesizes the frontiers in resilience and sustainability science, integrating the key scientific advancements of the past decade.

Embarking on your journey

While the Wayfinder process may at first sound challenging in its scope, its design is intentional. We strongly believe there are no shortcuts to enable deep, systemic change. Navigating towards a more sustainable future will take time and commitment, and it will require that we deeply engage with the complexity of the Anthropocene, challenging the “efficiency paradigm” to the extent that we replace it with a “learning to live with uncertainty paradigm”.

There is a real opportunity to seize at present. The uncertainty we face also means that the future is not pre-determined. We should make use of this opportunity, nurture innovation and harness the amazing creativity that humans all around the world display, in order to actively shape the change ahead of us and co-create a sustainable, safe and just future for all. The Wayfinder guide will help with this journey of exploration, providing concrete advice for how to collectively learn our way forward. Wayfinder combines an accessible overview of the current frontier in resilience and sustainability science, together with a set of illustrative cases, tools, worksheets, and checklists that will be useful along the way.

We, the team behind Wayfinder, wish you good luck on your journey. We look forward to hearing back from you and learning from your experiences, so that we together can build the next generation of resilience practice for sustainable development!