Intro to Systems Approach Framework

The Systems Approach Framework (SAF) Handbook provides a stepwise guide to sustainable Integrated Coastal Management (ICM). 

Sustainable Integrated Coastal Management

Coastal systems are highly complex, often behaving in non-linear fashion and need a holistic approach for sustainable management. The Systems Approach Framework (SAF) aims to provide a step-wise approach to sustainable Integrated Coastal Management (ICM) and provides a platform for integrating scientific evidence and stakeholder knowledge. 

The SAF for use in ICM, was initially developed within the EU project SPICOSA (, and further developed in the BONUS BaltCoast project ( The developments made within the BONUS BaltCoast project aims to enhance science-policy integration and prevent stakeholder fatigue.

Six steps process

The SAF breaks down the ICM process into six steps. The original five steps ( were revised and merged into four steps, and two new steps introduced. The SAF guides the ICM process from the identification of an issue to the implementation of policy decisions and validation of the process.

The Ecological-Social-Economic (ESE) Assessment (blue boxes in the figure) is conducted in collaboration with stakeholders throughout all the steps.

Systems Approach Framework
Click to see larged version of the figure


A SAF application from Issue ID to Implementation can be conducted within 12-18 months with an experienced team.

Learn more

Learn more about SAF in the Learn more box on this page. 



Learn more

Video: Intro to SAF

Video: SAF for ICM

This video provides and overview on Coastal Management (ICM) and introduces SAF as future perspective for improving the practical application of ICM.

Video: SAF/ICM case study, Lithuania

This video introduces SAF and each of the six SAF steps (based on the SAF Handbook) and presents their practical application based on a Lithuanian case study.

E-learning material

Additional litterature

  • von Bertalanffy L. (1968). General Systems Theory: Foundations, Development, Applications. New York: George Braziller.

14 JULY 2024