Big Sustainability

Developing a Framework


First published on January 27, 2019


The perspectives and tools previously presented can be used to develop a framework for developing pragmatic sustainability solutions.

A New Framework

Big Sustainability strives to framework a process to develop robust, holistic solutions to sustainability challenges, featuring:

  • Account for deep root causes such as build-up of potential, and resulting rise-fall bubble patterns & market oscillations.
  • Insist on both physical and social practicality. Brutally and honestly challenge assumptions and listen to the data and people.
  • Timed, dynamic solutions that account that take into account changes over time and self-correcting feedback loops.
  • Seek “global” optimization while maintaining flexibility to meet individual needs.

Developing Goals, Core Values, Unifying Principles

The first step in the process is to identify your goals, core values, and principles that can be used to unify your group. It is important that most people you work with have similar, or at least compatible goals.

”If you don’t know where you’re going, you will end up someplace else.”—an old adage.

Compatible core values help to set expectations and guidelines for working with each other. Incompatible values can be a source of friction and disappointment. An example of a core value might be “respect for the truth” or “we all agree that there is an objectively verifiable reality.” Another core value might be “we do not discriminate against others on the basis of gender, race or sexual orientation.”

Design Principles: Applying the Big and Small Filters

A solution should be designed with a goal in mind. Yet at the same time, a robust, practicable design must take into account applicable constraints.

The process of developing and designing a solution is literally as important as the result. Without a good process, the likelihood of achieving a great result is greatly diminished.

After a statement of the goal, the next step is brainstorming. Many ideas should be thought of and recorded. No ideas should be rejected during the brainstorming stage.

Then after all of the ideas are written down and considered, many of the ideas can then be rejected because of constraints. An example of constraint for a physical product is size. One can only fit so many eggs at once into a dozen-pack container, so if the goal requires more than that, then that container will not be a solution to the egg storage goal and must be rejected. A social constraint may be the biases of a population that cannot overcome. If the goal is to provide a better measurement system, and the US population is incapable of emotionally accepting the Metric system, then the metric system is not a practicable solution.

  • A solution must be achievable in a physical sense
  • A solution must be achievable in a social/psychological sense.


Many ideas reach the physical reality filter. Fewer ideas reach the psychological reality filter. Only a few ideas survive both.

Ideas winnowed through physical and social filters

Projecting Forward In Time

Many people think of long-term solutions only in the long-term, the final desired end-state. However, people live in the short- and medium-term. What matters between now and the long-run greatly affects our lives.

Hence, it is important to project the progression of the path towards the solution, as well as the progression of the solution past its desired end-state.

Delivering Solutions

  1. Research roots of social and physical drivers, and how they translate into human psychology; use the intersection of science, technology and design principles to create a unified science and language of sustainability
  2. Develop new tools using system dynamics, cellular automata, new visualization techniques and will create interfaces to new technologies such as big data, AI and new types of data.
  3. Create an easy-to-understand and -to-understand use approach to big sustainability
  4. Build an interdisciplinary, international and intercultural community of people who are big sustainability-literate and are passionate about making a positive impact for everyone.
    Solve real problems we are facing everyday regarding environmental, economic and social sustainability.

Exercise: Projections

Try to use the tools we have discussed to project a social, economic or environmental trend.

Workshop: Developing Framework, overcoming barriers

  • Goals
  • Unifying Principles
  • Overcoming barriers

Reactions to conservation and exponential function positions

Overcoming social, economic and psychological challenges

A physical solution might not be of much use if people decide not to use it.

Hence it is important to be able to overcome social, economic and psychological challenges. Ideally, by this point, among a choice of multiple physically suitable solutions, the least psych/socially undesirable or difficult has been selected.

Below is an example framework.

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