What IS Social System Mapping?

What Social System Mapping . . .

. . . is NOT

A classic cause and effect, stocks and flows

System Map

A classic

Social Network Analysis Graph

A classic

Asset Map

A classic

Power Analysis Map

A classic

Stakeholder Map

Each of those maps is useful in and of themselves - we're just breaking down the boundaries between them so that we can think about the interconnections, patterns, and dynamics across the frames. Because, in real life, understanding how the patterns of power in a system impacts the patterns of asset flows, and how each of those impacts causes & effects & leverage points, and then how all that impacts and is impacted by the social cohesion/tensions among the ACTUAL ACTORS within the system - being able to see ALL THAT TOGETHER . . . Well, one system mapper we've worked with calls that the holy grail of mapping.

Social System Mapping is . . .

. . . ALL of the Above

A Social System Map is a unique mash-up of any or all of those types of maps above.

It's also:

        • Dynamic
        • Iterative
        • Layered
        • Multi-dimensional

The foundation is a dynamic Social Network Analysis (SNA) - so we can visualize and understand the connections among the network's ACTUAL ACTORS. Beyond pure network structure, we're also interested in how the different social dimensions of the network (such as identity, experience, stakeholder perspective, roles, etc.) are reflected in the network's patterns to help understand the role that power plays within the network. So we ask about and visualize whatever social differences in the network might make a difference.

We generally also layer in the fundamental wisdom of Asset Based Community Development - an Asset Map that visually represents the abundance within the community as well as identifies the areas of individual or collective need. This layer is often called the 'offers and asks' layer, helping to identify areas where our gifts can make the most difference.

From there, we add in the actions taking place in the network - who is working on what, what goals are being addressed, what strategies are being employed, what motivations are driving energy.

And on top of that, the highest-level-conceptual layer is to connect up the network's actions with the forces in the system that the network is trying to transform.

 

What this mash-up means is that even though

Human systems are created, enacted, and upheld by individual human beings. Transforming human systems requires understanding the systems in question from the high level of collective forces (those causes & effects revealed by a good system map), through the

all the way down to the level of the deeply-held beliefs of the individuals that comprise and are impacted by the system.

No-one can see, let alone understand all those layers from their own individual experience. No-one. It's not even possible for any single organization or project to be able to see, understand and take wise action at the systemic levels necessary for true transformation.

A Social System Map is built on the assumption that systemic transformation is generated by networks, not disconnected entities, and that the level of systemic insight needed for transformation requires

break out of the constraints contained within each of those kinds of maps and combine

It starts from the perspective of the members of a network that has some intention around action, transformation, purpose. It crowd-sources information about those members relationships to one another, and then layers in their relationships to other dimensions of the system they are trying to transform.

It's about understanding the network as a human- or social- system, as well as understanding the system that the network wants to transform THROUGH understanding the network.

It takes the causes and effects in the system, and looks at who

longest time, barrier was the data-gathering

is this a reality yet? no - but the barrier isn't in the tools, it's in our collective understanding of how to use them.

Human systems are created, enacted, and upheld by individual human beings. Transforming human systems requires understanding the systems in question from the high level of collective forces (those causes & effects revealed by a good system map), through the

all the way down to the level of the deeply-held beliefs of the individuals that comprise and are impacted by the system.

No-one can see, let alone understand all those layers from their own individual experience. No-one. It's not even possible for any single organization or project to be able to see, understand and take wise action at the systemic levels necessary for true transformation.

A Social System Map is built on the assumption that systemic transformation is generated by networks, not disconnected entities, and that the level of systemic insight needed for transformation requires

break out of the constraints contained within each of those kinds of maps and combine

It starts from the perspective of the members of a network that has some intention around action, transformation, purpose. It crowd-sources information about those members relationships to one another, and then layers in their relationships to other dimensions of the system they are trying to transform.

It's about understanding the network as a human- or social- system, as well as understanding the system that the network wants to transform THROUGH understanding the network.

It takes the causes and effects in the system, and looks at who

longest time, barrier was the data-gathering

is this a reality yet? no - but the barrier isn't in the tools, it's in our collective understanding of how to use them.