Systems Tools & Resources

To select a resource to use, you should begin with clarity about what you are trying to achieve. To help with this, we have categorized the resources in three ways:

  1. Resource Type. Are you a visual person? Do you prefer narrative stories? There are resources in this guide for every kind of thinker and doer.
  2. Systems Questions. Are you interested in learning about the system's social network and how to influence it? Do you need to understand the events and forces affecting the system? There are resources in this guide to help you answer questions about the different aspects of the system you need to understand and influence. 
  3. Grantmaking Stages. Do you need a resource to help you develop your grantmaking strategy? Identify and select grantees? There are resources for every grantmaking stage and some that span all of the stages. 

You can filter and sort the table below to find the resources most useful to you.

Read more about the resources

Resource Type

  • Visual Mapping

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    These resources result in a visual representation of systems, each through a particular lens (e.g., social relationships, political power, issues and concepts).

  • Narrative Reporting

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    These resources analyze large amounts of data to describe all the elements in the system.

  • Process

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    These resources include approaches for systems change that can be broken down into fluid stages involving stakeholder engagement in meaning making and decision-making. They often include multiple types of resources.

  • Theories and Frameworks

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    These resources inform the lens through which a grantmaker uses other systems grantmaking resources.

Systems Questions

  • People

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    What is the social network and how can we influence it?

  • Variables

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    What are the events, activities, actions, behaviors, and forces that affect the system, and how can we influence them?

  • Patterns and Structure

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    What are the patterns of behavior, structures, and archetypes in the system, and how can we influence them?

  • Learning

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    How do we think and learn about the system?

Grantmaking Stages

  • Develop grantmaking strategy

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    Resources in this category can help you understand the system, identify outcomes and determine grantmaking interventions.

  • Identify and select grantees

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    Resources in this category can help you understand who is in the system, the strength and content of their relationships, who is missing and the power dynamics among them.

  • Shape and monitor grants

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    Resources in this category can help you as you implement and refine your grantmaking strategy. Some of the more participatory resources in this category overlap with other grantmaking stages.

  • Assess impact and learn

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    Resources in this category can help you assess impact and learn. Since learning is often an iterative and emergent process in systems grantmaking, these resources may overlap with other grantmaking stages.

Resource Title Full Profile Time Expertise Participation

ABLe Change Framework

A six-step process for guiding stakeholders through systems change. The process includes defining the problem, engaging diverse perspectives, scanning the system for conditions influencing the problem, making sense of the data, developing a shared systems change agenda and facilitating a systemic learning process to create a continuous learning environment. It also involves improving implementation and building systems capacities and includes tools and exercises to guide the process. It is well suited for community change efforts.

Read the full profile

Process PeopleVariablesLearning Develop grantmaking strategy Identify and select grantees Shape and monitor grants Assess impact and learn

Has Full Profile 6-12 months Someone who has been trained on the resource Highly participatory

Appreciative Inquiry

Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is a highly participatory process that focuses on how the future can be built on the best parts of the past, believing that we have the capacity to create the world we want. Participants consider the following questions: What’s working? What might be? What’s next, and who will benefit? Who will do what, by when? What else is needed to support the changes? Appreciative Inquiry is particularly helpful in understanding and integrating the perspectives and experiences of multiple systems stakeholders to build shared understandings and a common vision for the future. For more information, see: Reframing Evaluation through Appreciative Inquiry by Hallie Preskill et al. and The Power of Appreciative Inquiry by Diana Whitney et al.

Process VariablesLearning Develop grantmaking strategy Assess impact and learn

No Full Profile Less than 1 month Someone who has been trained on the resource Highly participatory

Causal Loop Mapping

A visual mapping technique that shows the interconnected variables causing system outcomes and the direction of influence among variables. Causal Loop Maps usually do not show magnitude of influence, so it is difficult to determine the net impact of multiple variables. By dampening, amplifying, or breaking relationships among these variables, one can influence the system. It is helpful when trying to address a specific problem or issue within a system. This technique can be used independently or as a part of a Systems Mapping process.

Read the full profile

Visual Mapping Variables Develop grantmaking strategy Identify and select grantees

Has Full Profile 1-5 months Someone who has been trained on the resource and/or An expert with specialized knowledge or technology Flexible from no/some participation to highly participatory

Cognitive Mapping

A visual mapping technique that shows the multiple, interconnected variables in a system. This technique is similar to Causal Loop Mapping, but specifies both the direction and weight of influence among variables. Thus, it can quantitatively model system dynamics, test possible intervention scenarios, and identify differences in how stakeholders perceive a system. It is helpful in the context of a specific issue or field. For more information, you can read “Fuzzy Cognitive Maps for Modeling Complex Systems” by Maikel Leon et al. and the Mental Modeler online platform for creating cognitive maps. 

Visual Mapping VariablesPatterns and Structure Develop grantmaking strategy Identify and select grantees

No Full Profile 1-5 months An expert with specialized knowledge or technology Flexible from no/some participation to highly participatory

Collaboration Muscles and Mindsets

A framework of the capacities needed for systems thinking, collaboration and innovation, and a set of "workouts" for developing those capacities. There are several mindsets, such as innovation, slow down to speed up, flexible reality, shared understanding and “we.” There are also 16 muscles for nurturing relationships, sensemaking, doing tasks and participating in dialogue while navigating power. For more information, see “Faster than 20” by Eugene Eric Kim.

Theories and Frameworks Learning Develop grantmaking strategy Assess impact and learn

No Full Profile Less than 1 month Someone who has been trained on the resource Highly participatory

Collective Impact

A highly structured process that brings together stakeholders from across sectors who agree on a common set of goals to influence a social issue and a shared set of success measurements. It requires a backbone organization to guide the process and relies on stakeholders’ willingness to change their own behavior, communicate and coordinate. It is well suited for communitywide change efforts. For more information, read “Collective Impact,” by John Kania and Mark Kramer.

Process PeopleVariablesPatterns and StructureLearning Develop grantmaking strategy Identify and select grantees Shape and monitor grants Assess impact and learn

No Full Profile More than 1 year Someone who has been trained on the resource Highly participatory

Community Assessments

A variety of processes for understanding a community’s needs and assets. Often, they are highly participatory and action-oriented processes, and many use visual mapping techniques to analyze and communicate multidimensional issues. They uncover strengths and opportunities, gaps to fill, disparities relative to other communities to address, and potential causes and solutions of community issues. They are well suited for community change efforts, particularly in a community organizing or community development context. For more information and a useful suite of resources, see the the University of Kansas’ Community Tool Box.

Process PeopleVariables Develop grantmaking strategy

No Full Profile 1-5 months A skilled facilitator Highly participatory

Concept Mapping

A visual mapping technique that uses a six-step process to depict how different types of stakeholders cluster ideas into larger concepts. This process is useful for identifying and aligning varying beliefs about how to change a system, understanding how different groups of stakeholders contribute to a systems change initiative, and creating a collective plan for systems change. It is helpful in the context of a specific issue or field.

Read the full profile

Visual Mapping Variables Develop grantmaking strategy

Has Full Profile Less than 1 month An expert with specialized knowledge or technology Highly participatory

Containers, Differences and Exchanges Model

A framework to assess and create the conditions for people to self-organize in ways that disrupt and change system patterns. CDE is part of a larger process for managing change in complex adaptive systems and can be applied to organizations, issues and fields. It is also useful for developing the participants’ capacity to be systems thinkers and building social capital among participants in ways that are clearly linked to systems change.

Read the full profile

Theories and Frameworks PeopleLearning Develop grantmaking strategy Identify and select grantees Shape and monitor grants

Has Full Profile 6-12 months A skilled facilitator Highly participatory

Critical Systems Heuristics

A framework that explicitly identifies a system’s boundaries through an inquiry into the four sources of system influence and 12 key boundary decisions made in reference to them. By surfacing boundary decisions about who and what is included/excluded in the system, it is particularly useful for ensuring that stakeholders draw boundaries in ways that do not contribute to power imbalances and inequities. It also enables users to understand and incorporate multiple perspectives into systems change. It is not intended to be used as a worksheet to fill out but rather for learning and meaning-making during systems change. For more information, see the work of developer Werner Ulrich.

Theories and Frameworks VariablesLearning Develop grantmaking strategy

No Full Profile Less than 1 month Someone who has been trained on the resource Flexible from no/some participation to highly participatory

Cultural Geography Problem Solving

A place-based framework to guide a community assessment. There are ten factors of cultural geography such as domestic life, transportation culture, and public culture. Community stakeholders are engaged in a dialogue to surface the relationship between these cultural factors and a community issue or problem. It is well suited for community change efforts, particularly in a community-organizing context. For more information, see “Cultural Geography and Place Based Problem-Solving” by the Design Studio for Social Intervention.

Theories and Frameworks Learning Develop grantmaking strategy

No Full Profile Less than 1 month A skilled facilitator Highly participatory

Cynefin Framework

A decision-making framework that posits that behaviors within a system fall on a continuum from more predictable (i.e., obvious and complicated) to less predictable (i.e., complex) to unpredictable (i.e., chaotic). Where something falls on this continuum determines how to make decisions. For example, complicated issues should draw on experts while complex issues should draw on participatory, emergent approaches. For more information and other resources, see "A Leader’s Framework for Decision Making” by David Snowden and Mary Boone.

Theories and Frameworks Learning Develop grantmaking strategy

No Full Profile Less than 1 month A skilled facilitator Not participatory

Developmental Evaluation

An evaluative process that is being used to understand and influence systems dynamics. It integrates planning, design, monitoring and evaluation. While it does not have a specific methodology or set of steps, developmental evaluators bring a set of practices to the project and are part of the design team. They help to frame questions, support iterative testing and rapid decision-making, and track what has and hasn’t happened and why. Developmental Evaluation is well suited for the early stages of innovation — where there is a need for real-time learning, uncertainty and multiple stakeholders. For more information, see the work of Michael Quinn Patton as well as The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation's developmental evaluation primer and practitioner’s guide.

Process Learning Shape and monitor grants Assess impact and learn

No Full Profile 1-5 months Someone who has been trained on the resource Highly participatory

Donella Meadows Leverage Points

A decision-making framework that identifies twelve leverage points for intervening in a system based on a stock and flow diagram. Two examples of levers include 1) lengths of delays relative to the rate of system change; and 2) the structure of information flow (i.e., who has access to what kinds of information). Meadows cautions that it is very challenging to intervene and create systems change even with rigorous analysis. For more information, visit The Donella Meadows Institute.

Theories and Frameworks VariablesPatterns and StructureLearning Develop grantmaking strategy

No Full Profile Less than 1 month Someone who has been trained on the resource Not participatory

Force Field Analysis

A narrative reporting resource that shows the factors influencing a system. Factors are broadly defined (e.g., organizations, events, values, policies, etc.). They are divided into two groups: 1) restraining forces that support the current state of the system; and 2) driving forces that move the system in the desired direction. To influence the system, one stops the restraining forces and enables or adds to the driving forces. This resource can help stakeholders generate creative ideas about factors but may also lose important nuances about the system. There is a range to how participatory the technique can be. For more information, please refer to “Force Field Analysis” via the Ohio Literacy Resource Center.

Narrative Reporting Variables Develop grantmaking strategy

No Full Profile Less than 1 month A skilled facilitator Flexible from no/some participation to highly participatory

Four-Stage Systemic Change Process

A four-step process for grantmakers and stakeholders from across the system to embed systems thinking principles and tools in a change management framework. It mobilizes stakeholders by integrating thinking systemically with convening systemically. This includes tools such as: stakeholder mapping, the iceberg, causal loop mapping, systems archetypes, the bathtub analogy, mental modeling, surfacing the hidden benefits of business as usual, shared visioning, identifying leverage points and designing a systemic theory of change. It is well suited for addressing a specific problem or issue area and for community-level change.

Read the full profile

Process PeopleVariablesPatterns and StructureLearning Develop grantmaking strategy Identify and select grantees Shape and monitor grants Assess impact and learn

Has Full Profile 6-12 months Someone who has been trained on the resource Highly participatory

Future Search

A three-day process based in action research and scenario planning. It brings together many stakeholders affected by an issue to understand how the past and current trends affects today, develop future scenarios, identify common ground, and create an action plan towards an ideal vision of the future. It is well suited for community change efforts. For more information, see the Future Search Network.

Process Variables Develop grantmaking strategy

No Full Profile Less than 1 month Someone who has been trained on the resource Highly participatory

Human-Centered Design (HCD)

A three-step process for innovation that lasts from two days to many months. The three steps are: 1) hear from those affected; 2) create ideas and prototypes; and 3) deliver solutions that are scalable, feasible, and financially viable. Each step includes tools, exercises, and visual mapping techniques. HCD has been used to understand the various points of intervention in a system. For instance, stakeholders can assess current programs at each intervention point for scalability and impact and then design ways to improve programs that would more effectively intervene in a system or scale impact. HCD is well suited for community change and issue-based efforts. For more information, please see IDEO's The Field Guide to Human-Centered Design.

Process VariablesLearning Develop grantmaking strategy Shape and monitor grants Assess impact and learn

No Full Profile Less than 1 month Someone who has been trained on the resource Highly participatory

Landscape Scans

A narrative reporting resource for understanding a system at one point in time. It can include a review of issues; actors; events; historic strategies; market supply and demand; and social, political and economic context. Depending on the approach taken, Landscape Scans can: surface gaps in the system, narrow issues of importance, clarify key stakeholders and influencers, identify drivers in a system, provide a market analysis, explore funding opportunities, etc. This may be done using qualitative and/or quantitative research and usually focuses on a specific issue, field or geography. For more information, see GrantCraft’s "Scanning the Landscape 2.0: Finding Out What’s Going on in Your Field."

Narrative Reporting PeopleVariables Develop grantmaking strategy Identify and select grantees

No Full Profile 1-5 months A skilled facilitator Flexible from no/some participation to highly participatory

Movement Building Indicators

This framework proposes metrics for analyzing the success of movement building work and is intended for use by foundations and grantees. The metrics capture both quantitative, transactional outcomes as well as transformational, qualitative outcomes and are organized around ten movement building strategies commonly used by organizations and networks. For more information, see "Transactions, Transformations, Translations," by Manuel Pastor, Jennifer Ito, and Rachel Rosner. This is a useful complement for the Social Movement Capacities Framework, developed by the same author.

Theories and Frameworks Learning Assess impact and learn

No Full Profile More than 1 year A skilled facilitator Flexible from no/some participation to highly participatory

Multiscale Analysis

A narrative reporting resource related to System Dynamics Modeling. By using advanced technology and methods to analyze “big data,” scientists, economists, and other experts are able to identify how patterns change across different conditions. They can identify patterns that are universal and that are replicated in sub-systems. They can also identify a few variables that most influence the system. This allows one to create simple models to monitor a system, to test what would happen as a result of different types of intervention, and to predict what might happen to the whole system and to sub‐systems if the variables changed. The New England Complex Systems Institute has used this approach, for instance, to understand the relationship between civil unrest and food prices globally and then to predict what might happen if U.S. corn prices rise. Please visit their website for more information.

Narrative Reporting VariablesPatterns and Structure Develop grantmaking strategy

No Full Profile 1-5 months An expert with specialized knowledge or technology Not participatory

Outcome Mapping

A learning process that integrates evaluation, program planning, and monitoring. It is an iterative way of examining the actions of a group of stakeholders or partners and how their behaviors change over time. It helps to intentionally change these behavior patterns, thereby, creating the conditions for broader systemic change. Given the nonlinear, dynamic nature of complex adaptive systems, outcome mapping does not try to attribute impacts solely to a program, organization, or particular intervention. For more information, refer to the manual from the International Development Research Centre.

Process VariablesPatterns and StructureLearning Shape and monitor grants Assess impact and learn

No Full Profile More than 1 year A skilled facilitator Highly participatory

Power Analysis

A visual mapping technique that shows stakeholders on two intersecting continuums: 1) from opposing to supporting a systems solution, and 2) from having no power to significant power to make decisions about the systems solution. It is used to identify ways to change the power dynamics in a system that will lead to systems change. It is helpful for movement-level change and for community organizing, policy or advocacy campaigns.

Read the full profile

Visual Mapping People Develop grantmaking strategy Identify and select grantees

Has Full Profile Less than 1 month A skilled facilitator Highly participatory

Rapid Realist Review

A narrative reporting resource to understand quickly which interventions are likely to change a system, under what circumstances, through which mechanisms (e.g., structures, processes, activities) and with whom. Rapid Realist Review goes one step further than Landscape Scans to analyze patterns of relationships among contexts, mechanisms and outcomes. It includes a focused literature review using a template for data extraction followed by a data validation process with knowledge users and stakeholders. It is particularly useful for specific issues or in the policy-making context.

Read the full profile

Narrative Reporting PeopleVariablesPatterns and Structure Develop grantmaking strategy Identify and select grantees

Has Full Profile 1-5 months Someone who has been trained on the resource Not participatory

Root Cause Analysis

A narrative reporting resource that shows the root causes of problems within a community or field. Root causes are less visible variables that affect a problem. In the past, this analysis was associated with a linear approach to identifying the underlying cause of a problem. Today, it is used to identify multiple, interconnected variables and interlocking systems to understand why problems continue to persist. It is helpful in multiple contexts: community, movements, issues and fields. For more information, see Building Movement Project’s guide.

Narrative Reporting Variables Develop grantmaking strategy

No Full Profile Less than 1 month A skilled facilitator Flexible from no/some participation to highly participatory

Scenario Planning

A five-step process for envisioning possible futures. The process identifies existing and potential systemic forces affecting a specific issue, narrows down to two to three forces based on their importance and level of uncertainty, and then engages diverse stakeholders to develop scenarios for different combinations of these forces. These stories about what to do given a possible future then inform strategies for systems change. It is helpful when focused on a specific issue, and it is most useful in situations where there is long-term uncertainty. For more information, consult the Monitor Institute’s guide by Diana Scearce et al.

Process Variables Develop grantmaking strategy

No Full Profile 6-12 months Someone who has been trained on the resource Highly participatory

SenseMaker®

A narrative reporting resource that uses proprietary software for large-scale data collection. It identifies patterns of behavior based on individuals’ stories as they relate to a particular issue or event. These stories are self-analyzed, which reveals patterns that are difficult to surface in collective meaning-making endeavors. The self-analyzing also enables people to understand their own environment, removes researcher bias, and leverages peer-to-peer knowledge flow and innovation. When the data are collectively analyzed in the SenseMaker® software, it creates visual maps with overlays that show how individuals and networks interact with multiple system variables to change systems and generate new patterns. It is helpful when focused on a defined set of stakeholders in a community or field.

Read the full profile

Narrative Reporting VariablesPatterns and Structure Develop grantmaking strategy Shape and monitor grants Assess impact and learn

Has Full Profile 1-5 months An expert with specialized knowledge or technology Highly participatory

Social Movement Capacities Framework

A capacity-building framework that identifies 10 elements of successful movements. Three examples of elements are: 1) having a common vision and frame, 2) having an authentic base of key constituencies, and 3) having a strategy to scale up. This framework may be used to map movement actors who contribute to each element; identify areas for greater collaboration, coordination, or differentiation; and reveal gaps in the movement that need to be addressed. For more information, see “Making Change: How Social Movements Work and How to Support Them,” by Manuel Pastor and Rhonda Ortiz, and Management Assistance Groups “A Tool for Mapping Successful Movements.” 

Theories and Frameworks VariablesLearning Develop grantmaking strategy Identify and select grantees

No Full Profile Less than 1 month A skilled facilitator Highly participatory

Social Movement Mapping

This visual mapping technique creates a social network map of a movement. There are three steps: 1) identify organizations and actors in a movement; 2) analyze their network ties and issue areas; and 3) analyze how people perceive themselves and others as being core, peripheral, or outside the movement. It can be used to influence movement boundaries, identity and membership. For more, please refer to “Cooptation or Convergence in Field Level Dynamics: Social Movement Structure, Identity and Image,” by Andrew Hoffman.

Visual Mapping People Identify and select grantees

No Full Profile Less than 1 month An expert with specialized knowledge or technology Flexible from no/some participation to highly participatory

Social Network Analysis

A visual mapping technique used to show a system’s social structure. It identifies key actors, roles and relationships and how information, action and behaviors flow across the network. It is most useful when you are trying to influence and build social capital at the community, field or movement level.

Read the full profile

Visual Mapping People Identify and select grantees Assess impact and learn

Has Full Profile Less than 1 month Someone who has been trained on the resource and/or An expert with specialized knowledge or technology Flexible from no/some participation to highly participatory

Soft Systems Methodology and Rich Picture

A process for identifying the ways a problem situation is understood from multiple perspectives, and creating change that is desirable and feasible given these perspectives. There are seven steps, some of which are: describe the problem situation, separately identify the many perspectives of the situation, create ideas about how the situation “ought” to be from each perspective, compare these ideas with each other and with how the situation is, and develop a plan that bridges the “real world” with the desired world. For more information, please refer to Soft Systems Methodology in Action by Peter Checkland and Jim Scholes.

A key step is describing the situation (not defining it). It is useful to create a “rich picture” that is not structured like a logic model. Rich Picture has become a tool in its own right used to pictorially represent complex systems. These pictures include a social network analysis of the stakeholders as well as the interrelationships among structure, process and stakeholder concerns. For more information, please refer to “The Rich Picture: A Tool for Reasoning About Work Context” by Andrew Monk and Steve Howard.

Visual Mapping PeopleLearning Develop grantmaking strategy Identify and select grantees

No Full Profile 1-5 months Someone who has been trained on the resource and/or An expert with specialized knowledge or technology Highly participatory

Stock and Flow Diagrams

A visual mapping technique that shows how stock (e.g., amount of fish) increases or decreases over time as a result of specific flows (e.g., rate of regeneration of fish). While easily confused with Causal Loop Mapping and Cognitive Mapping, Stock and Flow Diagrams are different in that they are more precise about how much variables relate to each other over time. These diagrams are helpful in the context of a specific issue or field (e.g., fishery conservation). They can be used independently, as part of a Systems Mapping process or for System Dynamics Modeling. For more information on Stock and Flow Diagrams, please see Thinking in Systems: A Primer by Donella Meadows.

Visual Mapping VariablesPatterns and Structure Develop grantmaking strategy

No Full Profile Less than 1 month Someone who has been trained on the resource and/or An expert with specialized knowledge or technology Flexible from no/some participation to highly participatory

Structural, Attitudinal, and Transactional (SAT) Method

A process of facilitated workshops where stakeholders use Causal Loop Mapping to surface how variables enable or inhibit a particular issue or system. There are three types of interlinked variables: 1) structural (i.e., institutions); 2) attitudinal (i.e., norms, beliefs, networks); and 3) transactional (i.e., processes and skills). This shared understanding is then used to rethink how a network can operate and learn together to change systems. The SAT Method was developed for use in the international development and peace-building field, but can be applied to other fields. For more information, please review the website and publications of the method’s developer, Robert Ricigliano.

Process Variables Develop grantmaking strategy Identify and select grantees

No Full Profile 1-5 months Someone who has been trained on the resource Highly participatory

Sustainability Framework

A six-step process to engage local stakeholders in sharing responsibility for generating system change outcomes. It includes defining system boundaries and which stakeholders to include, creating a vision for the future and scenario planning, agreeing on indicators of change and an assessment plan, and continuously learning and improving. It has been used in global health initiatives, and could be applied to other fields or communities. More info can be found in “Advancing the Application of Systems Thinking in Health,” a report about a Concern Worldwide health initiative.

Process PeopleLearning Identify and select grantees Shape and monitor grants Assess impact and learn

No Full Profile More than 1 year Someone who has been trained on the resource Highly participatory

System Dynamics Modeling

A narrative reporting resource that requires advanced technology. First, one creates a detailed systems map (see Systems Mapping); a causal loop map without a stock and flow diagram would not be adequate. An expert may then turn the systems map into a mathematical model and create computer simulations of the system. The simulation can be used to identify those variables that most influence the entire system as well as subsystems. 

The simulation can also test possible system interventions. System Dynamics Modeling is helpful for influencing a system at a macro, global or multinational level. For more information, see the Systems Dynamics Society and the New England Complex Systems Institute. Forio is one potential option for online modeling.

Narrative Reporting VariablesPatterns and Structure Develop grantmaking strategy Assess impact and learn

No Full Profile 1-5 months An expert with specialized knowledge or technology Not participatory

Systemic Action Research

A participatory process to understand and change the relationships and interactions among system variables and their resulting patterns of behaviors. It combines design, planning, action and evaluation into an action-learning cycle that is repeated every few months to enable real-time learning. It is helpful for fields, issues and movements when there is a need to engage multiple stakeholders.

Read the full profile

Process PeopleVariablesLearning Develop grantmaking strategy Identify and select grantees Shape and monitor grants Assess impact and learn

Has Full Profile 6-12 months A skilled facilitator Highly participatory

Systems Mapping

A visual mapping resource that looks at how variables interact over time and form patterns of behaviors across the system. This is not the common vernacular of systems mapping, which refers to any way to understand and depict a system. Rather, Systems Mapping rigorously combines Causal Loop Mapping with Stock and Flow Diagrams. Systems Mapping helps grantmakers identify the most influential variables. Thus, there is the potential for elegant solutions to influence patterns over time that can be replicated and scaled for different geographies. It is also often used as a tool for stakeholder engagement by “bringing the system into the room.”

Read the full profile

Visual Mapping VariablesPatterns and Structure Develop grantmaking strategy Identify and select grantees

Has Full Profile 1-5 months An expert with specialized knowledge or technology Flexible from no/some participation to highly participatory

Theory U

A five-step process to shift consciousness and awareness among system stakeholders. It includes observing the reality of a system, reflecting on what learning emerges, and prototyping a future reality using fast feedback loops. It incorporates shifting the inner state of change agents, and allows a group of stakeholders to let go of the past; open their hearts, minds and will; and forge new patterns of behavior in the system. Theory U is well suited for community change and issue-based efforts that involve multiple stakeholders. For more information, see Otto Scharmer’s Presencing Institute

Process VariablesPatterns and StructureLearning Develop grantmaking strategy Identify and select grantees Shape and monitor grants Assess impact and learn

No Full Profile More than 1 year Someone who has been trained on the resource Highly participatory

Values Network Mapping

A visual mapping technique that shows how system stakeholders produce value. It includes mapping roles in a system, the transactions between roles, and the deliverables that are exchanged in these transactions as well as sequencing the transactions (some may be simultaneous). It is possible to see how the system is actually functioning to get work done and identify where there are failures, conflicts and inefficiencies. With its origins in the private sector, it has been expanded to service delivery systems. There is a range to how participatory users make the mapping process. For more information, please see Verna Allee’s work and "Illuminating the Invisible: Mapping Austin’s Adolescent Health System Using Value Network Analysis,” by Maya Townsend.

Visual Mapping People Develop grantmaking strategy Identify and select grantees

No Full Profile 1-5 months Someone who has been trained on the resource and/or An expert with specialized knowledge or technology Flexible from no/some participation to highly participatory