Projects workflow: How will IGC studies be carried out?

The IGC was conceived as a means to compare the approaches and experiences of globally dispersed teams studying the geodesign projects they would normally do, but using a common framework of guiding assumptions, project sizes, scenarios, analytical systems, and presentation formats. Using these guidelines enables direct comparisons among projects, revealing insights into the different priorities and constraints of teams working in contrasting climate, demographic and governmental settings.


We continue to make adjustments to the workflow to make it easier for projects to follow the guidelines. Returning IGC participants will see the same project system constraints, the same scenario guidelines, and slightly adjusted project sizes.  Impact reporting via the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) remains with more explicit guidance on how to use the metrics of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) for support. Guidance is provided with respect to reporting carbon sequestration and tree-planting date. Reporting formats are adjusted to accommodate the new reporting requirements, and we provide guidelines and templates in those areas.

For summary descriptions of the elements of the common framework, refer to the accompanying webpage: Requirements for Projects.

Standard study area spatial extents. In metric.

All study areas should be square to allow for project-to-project comparison. The square size must be sized to encompass the entire study area and analyses should include the entire square as immediate context to the study area. Please use metric measures for all IGC reporting.

For correct location of projects, please report latitude and longitude in decimal degrees. For example, this project in the United Kingdom is 52.33, -1.51.  
(Use to convert to decimal degrees. Note that latitude values in the southern hemisphere and longitude values in the western hemisphere will have negative decimal degree values.)

Project nesting and project size distribution from IGC 2019.

IGC encourages "nested" projects as in A and B above so that designs for small size projects are demonstrably integrated into larger sized projects so that the impact metrics for the small projects can be examined to assess their effects on overall impacts within their encompassing areas.

IGC 2019 projects ranged in size from less than 1 x 1km to greater than 160 x 160km. IGC encourages 2021 projects that address yet larger project sizes, including to the point of encompassing entire nations or major watersheds.

Geodesign systems and colors

IGC requires all teams to use the Eight plus Two color scheme shown in the left-hand column below.
The additional two may be chosen from the more detailed right-hand column or adapted to local needs.
This allows participants more flexibility in including special and locally significant landscape systems.

Are there flexibilities in system selection?

Yes. First, we encourage participants to use the list on the right above to find additional systems for which we have already defined colors. If your system is different, please make a proposal, accompanied by an RGB specification for its color so that we can make your proposal available to all.

What if a locale has different official standard colors?

For purposes of visual comparison, IGC requires a common color code for preparing IGC presentation material within the collaboration but understands that participants with other needs may set up parallel versions of maps and other graphics to suit local needs.

Identify Project Requirements based on Global Assumptions, and Identify the System Innovations that designers can use to address the assumptions.

  1. An expert group identified twelve assumptions about global change expected to impact the world in the period to 2050.

  2. We identified nine systems that are fundamental to geodesign. Expert groups were asked to identify system innovations that will occur by 2035, and others by 2050, that identify useful design and planning response strategies.


The Assumptions and Innovations are available to read or download on the Global Assumptions and System Innovations webpage.

Global Assumptions for Change


Water Infrastructure Innovations


Assumptions and Innovations:
Acronyms and Titles

Project impacts 

To truly address global sustainability, IGC projects must report their outcomes and impacts in a common framework, although we realize there is no easy way to achieve that. However, as a step toward this goal, we require that all IGC projects indicate how well their design scenario outcomes would address the global sustainability goals of the United Nations Development Program, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). (UNDP website)

Figure 2. Seventeen Sustainable Development Goals, seven directly affected by biophysical design and planning (green tabs), five indirectly affected (orange tabs).

The land use/land cover decisions made during geodesign operations shape how global biophysical resources can address the SDGs, regardless of project type or scale.  In the case of those marked with green in Figure 2, the connection is direct; to address hunger there must be enough land and water for agriculture. For those marked orange, the connection is indirect but still vital; to address health there must be clean air, parks for recreation, land for growing food, etc.

Figure 3 indicates the performance of a notional design relative to the UNDP SDGs. The assessments of performance against any SDG can be achieved by the expert judgments of the project team, or by model-based assessments. Either approach is appropriate and enables project teams to compare alternate scenarios, and teams to compare their projects' performance with that of other IGC teams.​ Again, more details to be found on the Requirements for Projects page.

Assessing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 

It is very important to be able to compare the outcomes of international geodesign collaboration (IGC) projects so that we can learn from one another, but it is challenging to find a commonly understood set of evaluation measures. For this reason, the IGC has adopted the United Nations-sanctioned sustainable development goals (SDG) as the standard format for assessing the impacts of the 2050 scenario-based designs—Early-adopter, Late-adopter and Non-adopter. Click on SDG logo to go to UN SDG web resources.


It is not necessary for IGC to constrain the methods that teams use to make the assessments, but all summary impact reporting should conform to the format shown in figure 3 where the contribution of resource system designs to each of the relevant SDGs is assed in five levels ranging from most beneficial to most detrimental.

Figure 3. The seventeen Sustainable Development Goals, arrayed against geodesign systems.

These assessments require a single summary judgment. We acknowledge that impacts may have a range of values across the affected areas, they may be influenced by the spatial pattern of changes, and they may be influenced by conditions outside the square study area. Regardless of these complications, summary judgments will need to be made, to enable comparisons of our case studies. Those comparisons, even though summary, may inform and feed back into the design process.

Evaluation process:

  1. Invite a group of colleagues, or students, who are knowledgeable about the study area and the systems to assess the impacts, either as a group or as specialists, referencing their special knowledge of local employment opportunities, cultural value, and potential contribution to SDG values. Details on SDG assessment targets and indicators can be found at the SDG website linked above. Each Goal is fully explained, e.g., see for SDG2, End hunger,

  2. Assess the potential impact of system designs by comparing assessments of impact weight multiplied by the area over which designs operate to evaluate the project's contribution to SDG targets. For example, compare three designs’ weighted values of agricultural development multiplied by the area over which each design acts, in addressing SDG2 and SDG15, or the weighted values of industrial development in addressing SDG8 and SDG9.

  3. If designs do not address specific systems, e.g., IND and INST in the Late adopter scenario, leave those columns blank.

  4. If designs do not directly affect specific SDGs, e.g., 4, 5, 10, 16, and 17 as shown, leave those rows blank.

  5. Ask your colleagues or student experts who have made the initial evaluation models to assess all three designs referencing the expert evaluations of external factors and use the SDG matrix to indicate where impacts are beneficial, neutral or detrimental. 

  6. Include the SGD icons for the eight most influential systems in project posters and presentations. Please order the SDG icons from most influential (highest scoring) to least, from left to right.


Comparison of the three 2050 designs using the SDG matrix is one of the requirements for the 2020 posters and the presentation at the IGC meeting in Redlands California in February 2020. See Figure 4. Instructions for including the comparisons in poster displays can be found on the IGC 2020 Presentation Formats page.

Example estimations of impacts of a proposed design on Sustainable Development Goals.

Figure 4. Eight most impacted SDGs, ordered left to right from most improved (score 25 in Sum column of Early Adopter chart above) to eighth (score 10)

Download composite
3-scenario sheet

Download zip file of SDG icons

Advice from a recent implementation of Sustainable Development Goal evaluations:

Two studies have already accomplished this task and we offer the following advice. In both studies, the assessment was done by the judgment of the people who were most knowledgeable about a particular system, usually those who had prepared the original evaluation maps. The empty SDG assessment template in Excel format was downloaded from the IGC website and printed on paper as a worksheet. Three laptop computers were placed side-by-side, with each showing one of the designs. The assessment person or group was asked to work in the sequence of the SDG goals, each time comparing all three designs before making the judgments of impact. This turned out to be much more efficient and equitable than evaluating the designs sequentially. 

Figure 5. Team members making comparisons of SDGs for Early-, Late-, and Non-adopters

To aid our comparisons the project team summed each row of each scenario, enabling scenario-scenario comparison.  It must be recognized that the total score is based on oversimplified assumptions about the targets, sizes and patterns in the design, and equivalent SDG weighting,…… but in both studies they revealed the positive or negative contributions to SDGs in early adopter vs. late adopter vs. non-adopter…..see attached worked example below.

Figure 6. Worked example from University of Ljubljana workshop

We do not specify HOW teams should carry out their studies.


There are many paths and support options to accomplish the IGC workflow using GIS tools such as ArcGIS, QGIS or geodesign tools such as Geodesignhub or Esri GeoPlanner and others. There are numerous ecosystem services assessment tools that are applicable to those GIS tools. IGC can facilitate some software capabilities that can be applied in diverse settings and workflows (including the schools’ existing capabilities). Please see the Support Technology page of this website for more information. The choices are up to the individual teams.


We do expect that the typical workflow will be similar to that below, based on Steinitz (2012).

Starting today (assumed 2020), and with regard to expected innovations (see IGC global assumptions and projected systems innovations), each change team should evaluate the study areas, then make a 2035 design and assess its impacts (likely in a few iterations), then update the evaluation maps, and then make a 2050 design and assess its impacts. These designs for the three scenarios and their three stages should be compared for impacts, etc. (See IGC Requirements for Projects).

Figure 4. Geodesign workflow

Schedule for team and individual tasks

The overall IGC schedule (below) and the required January 15, 2020 deadline are provided for guidance but we are aware of considerable variation in worldwide academic schedules.  

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