Studying, teaching and applying sustainability visions using systems modeling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


The objective of articulating sustainability visions through modeling is to enhance the outcomes and process of visioning in order to successfully move the system toward a desired state. Models emphasize approaches to develop visions that are viable and resilient and are crafted to adhere to sustainability principles. This approach is largely assembled from visioning processes (resulting in descriptions of desirable future states generated from stakeholder values and preferences) and participatory modeling processes (resulting in systems-based representations of future states co-produced by experts and stakeholders). Vision modeling is distinct from normative scenarios and backcasting processes in that the structure and function of the future desirable state is explicitly articulated as a systems model. Crafting, representing and evaluating the future desirable state as a systems model in participatory settings is intended to support compliance with sustainability visioning quality criteria (visionary, sustainable, systemic, coherent, plausible, tangible, relevant, nuanced, motivational and shared) in order to develop rigorous and operationalizable visions. We provide two empirical examples to demonstrate the incorporation of vision modeling in research practice and education settings. In both settings, vision modeling was used to develop, represent, simulate and evaluate future desirable states. This allowed participants to better identify, explore and scrutinize sustainability solutions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4452-4469
Number of pages18
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2014


  • Participatory modeling
  • Sustainability education
  • Sustainable futures
  • Transformational sustainability science
  • Visioning
  • Visions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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