Sustainability Science

, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp 497–512 | Cite as

Quality criteria for visions and visioning in sustainability science

  • Arnim WiekEmail author
  • David Iwaniec
Review Article


Envisioning how a desirable future might look is a long-standing effort in human evolution and social change. Utopian thought and visions provide direction for actions and behavior; more so, they create identity and community. Accordingly, the discourse on sustainability and sustainable development has recognized that positive visions about our societies’ future are an influential, if not indispensable, stimulus for change. Visioning is, thus, considered a key method in sustainability research and problem solving, for instance, in transformational sustainability science or in planning for urban sustainability. Yet, quality criteria for sustainability visions and guidelines on how to rigorously craft such visions are scattered over different strands of the literature and some are insufficiently developed. The goal of this article is to review and synthesize such quality criteria and design guidelines to inform sustainability visioning methodology. The review provides a concise reference framework for sustainability students, researchers, and professionals on how to enhance their sustainability visioning practices.


Transformational sustainability science Visions Visioning Sustainable futures Methodology Participatory research 



We would like to thank the handling editor, Karel F. Mulder, two anonymous reviewers, and our colleagues Braden Kay and Lauren Withycombe Keeler (Arizona State University) for helpful comments on earlier versions of this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Japan 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of SustainabilityArizona State UniversityTempeUSA

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