Mother Pelican
A Journal of Solidarity and Sustainability

Vol. 14, No. 10, October 2018
Luis T. Gutiérrez, Editor
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Wayfinder: Resilience Guide for Navigating
Towards Sustainable Futures

Stockholm Resilience Centre Staff

Originally published in
Stockholm Resilience Centre, 13 September 2018
under a Creative Commons License

Source: Elin Enfors-Kautsky, Wayfinder Project Leader, Stockholm Resilience Centre

What is Wayfinder?

Wayfinder is a process guide for resilience assessment, planning and action in social-ecological systems. It represents the frontier in resilience and sustainability science, synthesized into a clear, coherent and hands-on approach. Encouraging a new generation of resilience practice, Wayfinder will help development practitioners, project teams, policymakers and other changemakers navigate towards sustainable, safe and just futures.

Through the Wayfinder process, participants work together to strengthen and refine their understanding about the system in focus, the sustainability challenges they face, and to develop strategies for creating adaptive and transformative change. At the same time, they build their own capacity for creating the change they want to see. At the core of this process is the recognition that sustainable development in the 21st century requires that we, as humans, find a way to reconnect to ecosystems around us, that we become active stewards of Planet Earth and that we foster a sense of connection and reciprocity between people near and far.

Why is it Needed?

We live in a new era, the Anthropocene, where humans have become the dominant force of change on our planet. While many parts of the world have seen rapid social, economic and technological development, there are still severe problems of poverty and inequity. At the same time, and linked to this, we face challenges of accelerating climate change, biodiversity loss and growing pressures on natural resources, to the extent that we are approaching critical planetary boundaries. Many places and systems around the planet, in developed and developing contexts require deep, transformative change if we are to achieve a sustainable, safe and just future for all.

As our world becomes increasingly globalized and connected, social and ecological changes in one place cascade across scales and link distant regions together in surprising ways. This represents a fundamentally new reality. Conventional solutions for how we manage resources, respond to change and develop our societies will not be enough to tackle the sustainability challenges that we face today. Instead we need approaches that actively engage with the complexity around us and help navigate forward in contexts of deep uncertainty. Drawing on the latest insights from resilience science and practice, Wayfinder provides you with a structured approach for doing just that.

How Does it Work?

The Wayfinder process consists of five phases. Each phase is divided into three modules, and all modules consist of a set of work cards that describe specific concepts, tasks, and activities.  Conducting a Wayfinder process requires skilled facilitation and involves a range of stakeholders that are engaged at different points in the process. Wayfinder is designed to balance the need for a legitimate, fair and transparent process through which knowledge is generated and decisions are made, with the need for solid and relevant systems analysis that considers the complexity of sustainability challenges in the Anthropocene.

Sounds challenging? Well, it probably will be. But that is because there are no shortcuts to systemic change. The problems we face are too deeply rooted and complex for quick-fix approaches. Navigating towards more sustainable futures will take time, effort, investment and long-term commitment. At the same time, there is a real opportunity at present, to shape the change ahead of us and to create a sustainable, safe and just future for all as we collectively learn our way forward.

Get started with the Wayfinder Guide


For more information, visit the Wayfinder Website


We are an international group of resilience experts, from Stockholm Resilience Centre, Resilience Alliance and the Australian Resilience Centre, committed to translating resilience science into practical approaches for navigating towards a more sustainable, safe and just future. For the past 15 years, we have been working with resilience assessment approaches, in a variety of contexts around the world.

Recent advances in resilience science combined with a growing appreciation of rapid and complex change in the Anthropocene, make the time ripe for a new and updated approach to resilience assessment, planning and action that specifically targets the challenge of sustainable development in the 21st century. Stewards, managers and policymakers of social-ecological systems around the world struggle to find pathways towards a more sustainable future. This has led to a growing demand for resilience-based development approaches. At the same time, resilience science has made many important advances, which helps us understand the complex and intertwined world we live in today, but requires that a more direct link between theory and practice be established.

Email us if you have questions about Wayfinder or if the platform isn’t working properly. Contact address:

"It takes a very unusual mind to
undertake analysis of the obvious."

Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947)


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