Look at your community system as a whole.

System change is a process designed to alter the current state of affairs by shifting the function or structure of a system with intentional interruptions. It’s a journey that requires significant change in people’s perspectives as well as in the way people work. System change brings about sustainable change by altering underlying structures and supporting mechanisms which make the system operate in a particular way. These can include policies, routines, relationships, resources, power structures and values.

Of course, to change the system, you need to first understand the system, and mapping helps us do that. A “system,” as described by Julia Coffman in her 2007 framework for evaluating system change, is “a group of interacting, interrelated, and interdependent components that form a complex and unified whole.” A system’s overall purpose is met through the actions and interactions of its pieces.

Below are the different ways we approach mapping the system to represent system elements and connections.


Actor Maps
Show which individuals and/or organizations are key players in the space and how they are connected.

Mind Maps
Highlight various trends in the external environment that influence the issue that is present.

Issue Maps
Lay out the political, social or economic issues affecting a given geography or constituency.

Causal-loop Diagrams
Focus on analyzing and developing the feedback loops (positive and negative) that lead to system behavior.

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