This project has received funding from the European Union's Seventh Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement No 265104


CANVAS Tools for building Visions on land use
PDF Print E-mail


Visions on future land use in Europe are core themes in the VOLANTE project. In 2012 participants from all over Europe worked together in four Visions workshops, to develop visions on land use from the perspective of their sector.

To support the participants, two interactive computer-based instruments, or canvas tools, were developed by the research partners from Alterra, University of Edinburgh, and Århus University.

With the first tool, a user creates a personal vision on life in 2040, consisting of four pages that resemble a graphic novel. [Fig 1].


Figure 1. Individual canvas tool - personal vision on life in 2040.

The second tool functions as a mind-mapping or concept-mapping tool, for a broader perspective. Its objective is to elicit rich visions: multifaceted expressions of ideas on the future including images, graphs indicating trends, explanations of relationships between elements, statements and narrative descriptions. [Fig 2].


Figure 2. Individual canvas tool - work related issues.

We developed these tools for several reasons. Visually stimulating materials help to engage participants, enhance creativity and ‘out of the box’-thinking. Images may overcome language barriers in a workshop, make concepts more explicit, and stimulate associations that widen the scope of the discussion. Interactive techniques support experimenting and structuring ideas.

A further advantage of employing these tools is that they provide data and information that meet demands of researchers in other workpackages of VOLANTE. They provided information on the data they needed which would then be included in the content developed for the tools.

Finally, a pragmatic advantage is that the results of the participants’ efforts can be saved digitally and used for analysis and comparison any time after the workshops.

The individual canvas tool

The goal of the individual canvas tool was to reveal preferences and perspectives of workshop stakeholders on (land use related) aspects of individual life in 2040.

The individual canvas tool resembles an interactive graphic novel, allowing users to build a narrative over four pages, on living, work, recreation and food (shopping). Figure 1 shows the first page of the canvas (on living); figure 2 the page on work related issues.

Each page offers four questions, on home, work food and leisure , and for each question a selection can be made from a list of images. Participants add explanations in text to make their choices more specific, or they can offer a new answer (in text).

The answers provided by the participants are analyzed and compared quantitatively [Fig.3]. The explanatory text additionally contains verbal comments that allow qualitative analysis and interpretation of the quantitative results.


Figure 3. Comparative analisys of responses.


The sectoral canvas tool

The goal of the sectoral canvases was to elicit rich visions of Visions workshop stakeholders on land use in 2040, taking a perspective from their domain.

The concept behind the sectoral canvas tool is that of idea mapping: the materials and functionality support users when they want to express ideas, make ideas explicit, structure ideas, create relationships between ideas, and elaborate on elements of their vision.

The canvases present two questions on land use in 2040: 1. the expected demand of products of the sector, and 2. impacts of these demands on land use. Participants visually express their visions on these issues using materials (content) offered, which are labeled images and graphs. There is a choice of two backgrounds, one showing circles that can be used to group images, the other a map of Europe. Relationships may be created with one or more cross cutting issues; and text boxes are added to explain choices and relationships.

The sectoral canvases were used in the workshop process after discussions and division of the participants into small groups. A facilitator (who led the discussion) and an operator (who helped in creating the canvas) assisted the groups.

Figure 4 shows the layout of the sectoral canvas tool; Figure 5 an example of a vision created in one of the workshops.


Figure 4. Layout of the sectoral canvas tool.



Figure 5. An example of a vision created in one of the workshops.

The content of each canvas was specifically designed for the domain or sector of the Visions workshops, resulting in four versions, one for each workshop domain (Primary Production (food, timber en bio-energy); Nature conservation, leisure and recreation; Settlements and transport infrastructure; and Energy & water). The content consists of images grouped in Themes such as Land use, Agricultural products, Modes of transport, Environmental pressures, etc.


Results and further use

The individual and sectoral canvas tools were appreciated by the stakeholders as well as the researchers involved in the workshops. The tools offered a change in activity, and were especially appreciated by participants who enjoy performing creative and visual tasks. The outcomes are used in the analysis of the Visions workshops and will be used by researchers in other streams of the VOLANTE project.

Since the VOLANTE Visions workshops, several organisations have expressed their interest in using the tools for their own workshops. Researchers from Alterra and UEDIN gave presentations on the tools in Belgrade, for delegates of Balkan countries, and an EIONET meeting in Stockholm. In February2013, the tools will be adapted for and used in a project on the future of Hydropower in the western Balkans, organized by the EEA.

In 2013, the individual canvas tool will be further developed for a crowd-sourcing project, to explore young European citizens’ ideas and desires for their lives in 2040.



Joske Houtkamp  (Alterra Wageningen UR)

Dave Murray-Rust (University of Edinburgh)

Anne Jensen (Århus University)

Marc Metzger (University of Edinburgh)

Marta Pérez-Soba (AlterraWageningen UR)

Inge La Rivière (Alterra Wageningen UR)

Share this post