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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 guidance on how to complete the IGC reporting format.


New guidance is provided for implementing tree counts and estimating carbon sequestration. 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.

For instructions on preparing presentation materials, refer to this webpage: IGC 2021 Presentation formats.

Elements of an IGC Geodesign

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.)


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.

IGC_8+2systems color codes Arial 06Jul19

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 have been used 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 below where the contribution of resource system designs to each of the relevant SDGs is assessed in five levels from most beneficial to most detrimental.

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.


Comparison of the three 2050 designs using the SDG matrix is one of the requirements for 2021 presentations at the IGC meeting in June 2021. See below. Instructions for including the comparisons in poster displays can be found on the IGC 2021 Presentation Formats page.

Download composite
3-scenario sheet


Assessing contributions to the Trillion Trees Initiative and to project and global Carbon Storage 


A critical goal of IGC2021 is to be able to demonstrate the extent to which IGC projects can demonstrate that it is feasible, or not, to plant a Trillion Trees beyond the numbers already planted and to be conserved, and the resulting changes in global stored carbon, the key to controlling climate change. There are thus two key numbers to be reported, the net increase in tree numbers over conserved and replaced trees (e.g. commercial harvest and replanting), and the net increase in carbon stored per person in the study area. These numbers are needed at two levels, the project level where there is an immediate measure of the climate change amelioration performance of the geodesign, and the national level where it can be assessed whether the project is contributing meaningfully to national targets. Note that trees are counted at the National level in Billions. 


As with the SDGs, it is not necessary for IGC to constrain the methods that teams use to make the assessments, but examples are available at the Estimate Trees and Carbon tab.

The summary reporting should include the elements shown below.


Example slide show presentation of project outcomes (link to presentation details) :

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 Jue 2021 deadline are under development as we are aware of considerable variation in worldwide academic schedules.  

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