Seven methods for mapping systems

By Pete Barbrook-Johnson and Alexandra S. Penn

1. Pete Barbrook-Johnson (biography)
2. Alexandra S. Penn (biography)

What are some effective approaches for developing causal maps of systems in participatory ways? How do different approaches relate to each other and what are the ways in which systems maps can be useful?

Here we focus on seven system mapping methods, described briefly in alphabetical order.

1. Bayesian Belief Networks: a network of variables representing their conditional dependencies (ie., the likelihood of the variable taking different states depending on the states of the variables that influence them). The networks follow a strict acyclic structure (ie., no feedbacks), and nodes tend to be restricted to maximum two incoming arrows. These maps are analysed using the conditional probabilities to compute the potential impact of changes to certain variables, or the influence of certain variables given an observed outcome.

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ICTAM: Bringing mental models to numerical models

By Sondoss Elsawah

Sondoss Elsawah (biography)

How can we capture the highly qualitative, subjective and rich nature of people’s thinking – their mental models – and translate it into formal quantitative data to be used in numerical models?

This cannot be addressed by a single method or software tool. We need multi-method approaches that have the capacity to take us through the learning journey of eliciting and representing people’s mental models, analysing them, and generating algorithms that can be incorporated into numerical models.

More importantly, this methodology should allow us to see in a transparent way the progression on this learning journey.

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