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Research for Systems Mapping: Overview

Resources for understanding and mapping complex systems.

Long-term trends, Current practices & Niche innovations

Systems map of education inequity in Nashville, TNSystems maps can look very simple, but getting there actually requires a lot of collaborative research. 

What kind of research goes into 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
  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 are signal promising new ways to address trends?

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 guides provides resources for researching these different perspectives. 

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