Collaborative Systems Mapping and Visioning

Speakers: Julia Leventon, Zuzana Harmackova, Silja Zimmermann, Jan Christian Polanía Giese, Bruce Goldstein

Panelists will describe their collaborative mapping processes, engage in dialogue about the similarities and differences in design, implementation, and purpose, and engage session attendees in exploring these questions related to how to engage diverse communities in identifying transformative outcomes and pathways, including leverage points for change. We will consider questions that include:

  • How do we cultivate a shared understanding of what systems are, how to think about defining them, and their boundaries?
  • What insights can collaborative systems mapping offer to addressing capacity needs/gaps and strengths/contributions?
  • How can these insights better strengthen transformative leadership within organizations and initiatives?
  • How can we use collective visioning and systems mapping/analysis to inform, guide, inspire?
  • How can we used these methods both in community-based collaboratives (at a variety of scales) and stakeholder-based/sectoral transformations initiative?
  • How does this field need to develop and how can we contribute to it?

This session will include these three presentations:

Tipping the Iceberg: Leveraging a food transition for Indigenous communities in the Bering Sea by combining complex systems thinking and transdisciplinary approaches
Silja Zimmermann

As the world becomes more interlinked, humanity faces ever more complex challenges. Solutions to these problems are progressively difficult to identify, and traditional approaches are often refacing sustainability issues but do not lead to sustainable systems. Tackling these interlinked problems demands us to move beyond isolated disciplinary research and towards problem-driven, transdisciplinary approaches. Arctic Indigenous food systems often struggle with a plethora of such complex challenges whilst at the same time being highly interlinked and involving multiple scales and actors. In other words, increasingly complex challenges in Arctic Indigenous food systems require new strategies to find and implement successful solutions. We have carried out a systematic literature review of Arctic Indigenous food systems research and found three promising directions for future research. Building on the insights from our review, we believe (1) the decolonisation of research practices and the Western scientific paradigm, (2) the acknowledgement of cross-scale feedback between shallow and deep leverage points, as well as (3) transdisciplinary action-oriented research collaborations to be of particular importance to enable effective system transformations towards futures of increased food security for Arctic Indigenous communities. To put the vision of such co-produced complexity approaches into practice, we have teamed up with the Aleut community of St. Paul Island to co-design a transdisciplinary project that deploys methods from complex system science to gain a holistic understanding of the Indigenous St. Paul Island food system and its complex challenges to find key leverage points for sustainability transformation. Thus, the Tipping the Iceberg project provides a unique opportunity to assess whether complex systems science combined with transdisciplinary approaches can lead to actual changes on the ground.

BIOTRAILS Framework of Transitional Pathways and Leverage Points
Jan Christian Polanía Giese

BIOTRAILS is a Horizon Europe project, funded by the European Union, which aims to generate knowledge and develop tools that will inspire and accelerate biodiversity-relevant transformative change in society. The project takes into account the complex interrelations between the indirect drivers of change in four value chains of traded products: cocoa produced in Peru; fisheries and aquaculture products supplied by the Mediterranean basin; gold mined in Ghana, and forest-based cultural products created by indigenous communities in the Brazilian Amazon. This oral presentation presents the results of a preliminary analysis of the four value chains, drawing on two theoretical concepts from systems analysis, the “leverage points” framework (Meadows 1999) and “Attitudes-Facilitators-Infrastructure (AFI) framework” (Akenji and Chen 2016). The preliminary analysis identifies levers for successful transformational change in the four value chain systems. The results of the analysis will be discussed with a view to refining the specific leverage points relevant in each case. The ambition is that, in a next step, the potential interventions triggering those leverage points will be assessed to design transitional pathways and to derive a set of specific and practical recommendations for each value chain context. Ultimately, the goal is to derive broader policy recommendations and implications for other systems.

Systems mapping approaches for designing and critiquing change towards sustainability
Julia LeventonI will reflect on how systems mapping approaches can contribute to designing and critiquing change towards sustainability. I will use examples from research and practice relating to creating change in the food and textiles sectors, and to thinking about scaling of behaviour change for transformations. Using a set of illustrations, co-created with an artist and team of researchers, I will: consider how leverage points and systems thinking can be applied to target intervention activities and to exploring pathways of change; highlight the scope and limits of these interventions; and consider the role and positionality of research. We can also draw on this work to think about how systems thinking frameworks help organize different knowledge types into bigger pictures of transformative change.