Building the Sustainability Pyramid :
Using the AtKisson Method as a sustainability planning tool

Are you looking for a framework & process for sustainability problem solving?

Do you want to reinvent yourself or your organization as a sustainability change agent?
Do you wanting to contribute to the transformation of society so that current and future generations can thrive?… then the AtKisson Method Toolkit is for you!

Pyramid-building workshop in Toronto, Canada

Praise for Pyramid & Compass from two sustainability champions …

“Building the Pyramid is a powerful way to galvanize diverse stakeholders toward a common end. It seamlessly imbeds systems thinking & clarifying metrics as it builds to an exciting action plan.  And it’s fun!”
Bob Willard, Author and Speaker, Sustainability Advantage

“The Sustainability Pyramid Program was amazing.  It enabled participants to look at sustainability opportunities and problems through a systems perspective.  I can see how this tool would be valuable for sustainability strategy development, problem solving and defining new sustainable products, processes and services.”
Kathryn Cooper, President and Chief Learning Officer, Sustainability Learning Centre

Riverdale Farm Pyramid
Pyramid-Building workshop for Riverdale Farm, an urban farm belonging to the City of Toronto, Canada


Riverdale Farm Reinvention Project – a group of agri-food specialists build a pyramid to clarify options for transforming this urban farm in downtown Toronto into a public education hub on urban agriculture and agri-food issues. Participants built the ‘sustainability pyramid’ as they: 1) examined critical food-based trends, identified systems forces that shape these trends, 2) generated innovations to help shift the trends, and 3) strategized steps to move towards a new public engagement program.

Building Pyramids Around the World
Pyramid-building has become a popular planning tool around the world, conducted by Alan AtKisson and members of the AtKisson Group.

Improve quality, processes, and performance excellence…
with the AtKisson Method of Sustainability Planning 

Using the AtKisson Method your organization will:

  • Facilitate rapid and effective group learning
  • Improve decision-making in a highly inter-disciplinary context
  • Acquire new skills for visioning, training, team building, problem solving, and strategic planning
  • Learn a new process for engaging diverse stakeholders, within or outside of your organization
  • Gain insights into promoting an organizational cultural of change

The AtKisson Method – or V.I.S.I.S.

Vision – generating an image of an achievable future you are striving for

Indicators – assessing the trends that characterize and shape the reality you are living with now, related to your vision

Systems – mapping all the inter-related forces that are shaping the world as we know it, in order to identify leverage points that offer opportunities for cascading change if the right innovation can be brought to bear.

Innovation – to generate new ideas – but not just any new ideas.  These must be ‘out of the box’ ideas – ones that have to potential to lead to new outcomes.  And they need to be designed to be implemented at the identified ‘intersection points’.

Strategy – to generate a plan to implement the ‘out of the box’ innovations, which often will test an organization that is designed to do its work in certain ways.  The strategy is critical for bringing along staff so that everyone feels included and ‘part of the team’ as innovation becomes part of new organizational norms.

The AtKisson Method is a process that will help you:

  • Assess the health of your organization or situation
  • Identify key leverage points for change
  • Successfully implement innovations that are aligned with your goals
  • Improve efficiency and productivity
  • Enhance employee and customer satisfaction
  • Manage risk and minimize unintended consequences
  • Use the lens of sustainability to maximize results

The AtKisson Method will help participants use the Compass of Sustainability as a framework for achieving their goals, keeping in mind four critical dimensions of sustainability – Nature, Economy, Society and Wellbeing.  Through a combination of presentations, information sharing and small group work, organizations that choose to build the Sustainability Pyramid will also develop skills in the four critical areas of sustainability planning:

Roberta Fernandez, Senior Associate of The AtKisson Group (USA), provides an introduction to the AtKisson Method


Some background on Alan AtKisson and The AtKisson Group

Alan AtKisson  4053102 atkisson-sustainability-transformation-book parachuting-cats-into-borneo-1

Alan AtKisson, is a senior strategic consultant, professional trainer, and author in the field of sustainable development. He has been working in the field since 1988, and helped to develop the field as a profession. He introduced the term “sustainability change agent“ and is considered one of the pioneers in sustainability consulting: tools and methods developed by him and his colleagues have been adopted for professional use in over twenty countries.

He is the author of three major publications — Believing Cassandra: How to be an optimist in a pessimist’s world, and The Sustainability Transformation: How to accelerate positive change in challenging times. Both books were re-released in new editions (Earthscan) in late 2010.  Most recently, he and Axel Klimek authored a new volume called Parachuting Cats into Borneo and other Lessons from the Change Cafe.

His books have been adopted by university courses and professional training programs in several countries.

Alan leads the AtKisson Group, an international consultancy with Affiliate offices in Asia, Europe and the United States. Alan and his team have worked with over 150 organizations around the world, ranging from United Nations offices and global companies, to regional planning programs and international commissions, to cities and educational institutions. A dual citizen of Sweden and the United States, he lives in Stockholm with his wife Kristina (who also works in the field of sustainable development) and their two children.

The following videos provide a glimpse into Alan AtKisson’s approach to the challenges of sustainability:
Happiness as a New Measure of Performance – for governments and business

The 7 Principles of Sustainability

Parachuting Cats into Borneo