Imagine methodology – The Systemic and Prospective Sustainability Analysis

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"IMAGINE" – The Systemic and Prospective Sustainability Analysis


Plan Bleu and Dr Simon Bell (Open Systems Research Group, Open University, UK) have developed, tested and consolidated the “IMAGINE” method which aims at facilitating the shaping of a sustainable development vision and an area project by committing stakeholders within a participatory process. Originally designed to conduct systemic and prospective sustainability analysis, the “IMAGINE” approach was used in several Coastal Area Management Programs (CAMPs) implemented by the Mediterranean Action Plan (MAP); “IMAGINE” has been successfully used in Malta (2000-2002), Lebanon (2002-2003), Algeria (2003-2004), Slovenia (2005) and Cyprus (2006-2007). In this context, Plan Bleu has supported the work of the local teams to facilitate the implementation of the method and to apply it in the CAMPs. Users of this method have been trained and, in some cases, have encouraged its use in other similar projects.


By using several tools “IMAGINE” aims at:

  • Building a sustainable development vision and an area project by mobilizing actors within a participatory process;
  • Describing, assessing and examining as completely as possible the level of sustainability of a local (eco-socio)system in the past, present and future;
  • Setting goals to be achieved and following progress of the system towards sustainable development.

Outputs / Results

  • Supporting a participatory dynamic,
  • Building scenarios, exploring the future,
  • Defining and selecting a set of indicators to measure the sustainable development of an area in the past, the present and the future,
  • Developing and implementing an action plan, and disseminating the outputs.

Method / Approach

IMAGINE” approach includes 4 stages implemented in 4 or 5 workshops. It is a dynamic process and a lively approach in constant development according to the different frameworks in which it is used. The 4 stages are the followings:

  1. 1st stage: studying and understanding the system, with a holistic vision of the territories, of the pressures and state. Identification of the main issues and the relevant indicators.
  2. 2nd stage: connecting and studying. A minimal and maximum value is given to each indicator, between which the criteria for adhering to sustainable development are assessed; this is what is called the Band of Equilibrium.
  3. 3rd stage: modelling and exploring through scenario method the trends and the alternatives regarding the future of the area. Diagrammatic representation of indicators compared to the band/belt of equilibrium provides a visual image of the “sustainability” of the area and of its possible futures.
  4. 4th stage: suggesting and acting: definition of an action / monitoring plan.


  2. “A practitioner’s guide to “IMAGINE” – the Systemic and Prospective Sustainability Analysis” in English or French

See also

  1. ECO-IMAGINE_-_European_COnferences_and_forum_for_Integrated_coastal_MAnagement_and_Geo-INformation_rEsearch
  2. PEGASO Workshop 1 - Understanding the context
  3. PEGASO Workshop 2 - Connecting and investigating
  4. PEGASO workshop 3 and 4 - modelling and exploring
  5. PEGASO Workshop 5 - Suggesting and acting
The author of this article is UNIVE team
The article has been reviewed by Plan Bleu and PAP/RAC
Please note that others may also have edited the contents of this article.