Method that combines information from diverse sources in one visual overview, supporting complex cooperation for systems change.
To identify the most promising actions in order to trigger change within complex systems.
- Defining the purpose of the mapping project.
- Gathering information
- Connecting and structuring the information
- Identifying leverage points and planning actions
Visual representation of a complex system, that combines the perspectives of diverse stakeholders. Actions based on the understanding of the system as a whole, accessing high leverage points.
Learn the Method
Take the How to get started with Systems Mapping workshop.
The Systems Mapping process starts by clearly defining the purpose of the project. From there, the relevant information is gathered. This information can come from a combination of sources, like for example existing documentation, surveys, interviews or dialogue sessions. These pieces of information are then connected, structured and visualized in a systems map. A first version of the map can provide a framework for further discussion, iteratively adding more information to the map. Once a sufficient representation of the system has been created, this overview will be used to identify high leverage points and plan actions to access them.
Systems Mapping allows to identify the most promising actions in order to trigger change within complex systems and supports the cooperation of diverse stakeholders. The method can for example be used by NGOs to define their impact strategy in a way that supports the work of their partners, or by impact startups to help them identify the gaps they can fill in order to change the structure of the system. Or by municipalities to identify the most effective interventions and coordinate cooperation towards a shared goal.
The Systems Mapping process consists of four main steps:
- Defining the purpose of the project.
- Gathering information.
- Connecting and structuring the information.
- Identifying leverage points and planning actions.
Systems Mapping combines and connects information from multiple information sources and stakeholders in one rich overview. Within this visual representation of the complex system, high leverage points can be identified and actions planned in order to access them. By taking the whole system and its interconnectedness into account, the chosen actions are much more likely to have the desired impact. At the same time, involving all relevant stakeholders in the mapping process and integrating their perspectives in the systems map, fosters support and motivation to carry out these actions and facilitates cooperation.
Strengths and weaknesses
Systems Mapping facilitates a deeper understanding of the behaviour of complex systems, helping people to see their role within this system, how their actions influence it and how they are influenced by it. It also helps them to look beyond their own direct sphere of influence and gain a more holistic view of this system. From there people can identify high leverage points together and cooperate to carry out the actions needed in order to access these leverage points. Systems Mapping can not be successful if the people involved are not ready yet to face and accept the complexity of the system they are part of and are looking for “quick fixes”. People need to be open to look beyond “their” part of the system.
- Contact us to discuss opportunities for working with Systems Mapping in your context.
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In our work, we use a broad range of methodologies and approaches that lean on decades of experimental research. We gratefully build on the theories and concepts developed by our teachers and colleagues. To achieve sustainable results, we determine which method fits every project best.
Methods we frequently use: