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Map the System at Vanderbilt: Overview

Resources for understanding and mapping complex systems.

Long-term trends, Current practices & Niche innovations

Systems map of education inequity in Nashville, TNStarting points for Systems Mapping

Systems maps can look very simple, but getting there actually requires a lot of collaborative research. 

A system map involves researching the perspectives from different parts of the system: experts, stakeholders and intended beneficiaries. It requires taking both a 'bird's eye view' of facts and figures, what the experts are investigating, and 'on the ground' localized knowledge of everyday people.

Each of the tabs in this guide provides resources for researching these different perspectives. 

From research to synthesis: towards a systems map

If you're starting out with a general topic or issue, here are some questions to guide your research in order to identify system elements, relationships and dynamics: 

  1. What are long-term societal, environmental, economic trends
    • Are things getting better? or worse? How do we know?
  2. What are current practices in terms of: 
    • Institutional structures (rules, regulations, power structures)?
    • Culture (norms, values, taboos, preferences, jokes)?
    • Individual level practices (routines, behaviors, 'best practice')?
    • Organizational and community level practices (policies, rules of conduct)?
  3. What are some niche innovations (project, products, service, initiatives, programs) that signal promising new ways forward?


Librarian for Experiential Learning

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Leslie Foutch
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