In its third year, the Map the System competition’s Global Final is set to be the biggest yet; with 15 competing teams arriving here in Oxford from six continents.
This competition is a chance for students and recent graduates, of participating educational institutions, to learn more about the issues they care about and present their findings to the world.
We believe that tackling global challenges starts with understanding a problem and its wider context, rather than jumping straight into a business plan or an idea for a quick fix. Participants are asked to demonstrate a deep understanding of a pressing social or environmental issue by mapping out the landscape of the current solutions and identifying missing opportunities for positive change.
27 educational institutions took part in the 2018 competition, with over 470 applications from teams within them. Australia, Canada, Chile, China, South Africa, U.K, and U.S.A are the seven countries represented in the Global Final from 1-3 June.
How will it work?
Each finalist team is made up of students or recent graduates working in teams of up to five, who have chosen a social or environmental issue to “map”. Prior to the presentations, finalists have each submitted three documents as part of the competition: a visual map or chart, a report summarising their research analysis, and a bibliography. Each of these has been reviewed by the judges.
On the day, students will have 10 minutes to deliver their presentation, followed by approximately 5-10 minutes of Q&A from a panel of judges. The purpose of the presentation is to highlight the key insights and learnings from the students’ research of their chosen issue. Each presentation will focus on four key areas:
Identification of gaps and levers of change
After all 15 finalists have presented on Saturday, the judges will select just six to present again in front of an audience on the Sunday afternoon. Then from those final six teams, just three winners will be selected as the 2018 winners, with each team awarded cash prizes of £4,000, £3,000 and £2,000. .
Meet the finalists
EYE OF THE AUTISM
Hainan University, China
Humanistic Concern. The team from Hainan University have focused their research on the current situation of social workers involved in autistic families, specifically those living in Haikou City. Their research investigates how to have a positive impact on them, for example, how to improve the child’s condition and family’s economic situation.
MEI YINGYING, WEI YUXIANG AND LI CHENGJIA
Henan University of Urban Construction, China
Environmental Sustainability. This team have researched the urgent needs of mining area reconstruction and urban transformation in Pingdingshan, Henan Province. Pingdingshan is the third largest coal producing base and coking coal production base in China, and hence is causing mass pollution and damage in the surrounding areas.
Mount Royal University, Canada
Healthcare. Roisin has focused her research on the opioid epidemic in Canada, with a particular focus on fentanyl. Many Canadians have passed away as a result of taking illicit substances whilst unaware they are laced with fentanyl, and this research investigates solutions aimed at educating and disseminating information on this topic.
Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University USA
Peace & Human Rights. The Kellogg-Northwestern team have conducted their research about Colombian child soldier reintegration. Several team members are connected with Colombia or have attended an entrepreneurship course there, and are passionate about children’s rights and the implications on similar global uses of child soldiers.
TO THE ROOTS
Royal Roads University, Canada
Environmental Sustainability. Canada has one of the highest rates of food waste annually, and while other countries make policies to prevent and combat food waste issue, Canada remains complacent. The Royal Roads team’s presentation will shed light on these inadequacies and outline the opportunities for impact in this area.
Shanghai Institute of Visual Arts, China
Environmental Sustainability. Team IDEAL have explored ecological co-living residential design in Shanghai. Due to the close proximity of the residential properties to the main industrial area, problems with the environment and health issues in this area are prominent, and so IDEAL have mapped and designed a ventilation solution to help with this problem.
BRIDGING THE GAP
Simon Fraser University, Canada
Healthcare. Bridging the Gap has explored the mental health and mental wellness outcomes of Second-generation Asian immigrant youth aged 14-25 in the Greater Vancouver region. This group experience unique mental health challenges due to the mental stressors imposed by processes of acculturation.
+Chilenas en STEM
Teach for All, Chile
Education and Gender. Evidence has shown significant gender disparities in maths subjects at school where girls tend to get lower results, leading to fewer women participating in STEM careers. The +Chilenas en STEM team posit that part of this gap is produced by gender stereotypes, which can be unconsciously reproduced in the household and in the classroom. This team have therefore investigated a new initiative to work with teachers on gender-stereotype awareness.
Graduate School of Business, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Water and Sanitation. FemWash have looked at menstrual hygiene management and the barriers that women face with respect to water, hygiene and sanitation. They have focused their research on South Africa, particularly the rural areas, such as townships that often lack infrastructure, sanitation and water – but have also examined developing countries with similar geographies to the South African landscape.
The University of Melbourne, Australia
Healthcare. Team Luna Baby have researched the issue of premature birth, specifically looking into supporting parent and infant well-being in Australia. Due to the powerful role that parents play in the development of their premature infants, the team have focused their research on the support given to these parents in neonatal nurseries and how it can be improved.
University of Oxford, UK
Gender Equality. Team Daughters has focused on gender inequality in the U.S. State of Utah. With a team that have deep Utah roots, they have witnessed first hand the impact on gender disparity in their own families and in the community. Their research maps solutions to educate communities and reduce the impact of gender inequalities in this state.
RETHINKING REFUGEE CAMP FIRE DISASTERS
University of San Diego, USA
Emergency Response, Health and Wellbeing. After one team member’s direct experience of working in Thai refugee camps, the University of San Diego team were motivated to examine the issue of fire disasters in Thailand’s refugee camps. Based on their frustration at this seemingly intractable issue, they have endeavoured to understand the system so that potential solutions come from an informed perspective.
Utah Valley University, USA
Environmental Sustainability and Healthcare. Team Lakeridge has researched Utah’s Ogden-Salt Lake-Provo area (the Wasatch Front), and its unique geography that creates ‘inversion’ – a lid that traps cooler air in the valleys. This layer traps toxic air particles released by natural sources and human activity, which leads to health issues, stifled economic growth, and the general deterioration of quality of life in the region.
HEALTH BEHIND BARS
Vanderbilt University, USA
Healthcare. The team from Vanderbilt University have focused their research on the healthcare provided to incarcerated persons in Tennessee, United States. The team’s mix of disciplinary backgrounds in law, business, and community psychology has enabled them to recognise the need for a better understanding of the correctional healthcare system, in the hopes of increasing the health of incarcerated individuals and benefitting the overall state of health in the United States.
Watson University, USA
Mental Health. This team has researched the issue of depression and anxiety in American colleges. Motivated by first hand personal experiences of this issue, the team has examined the lack of resources in the current system and has mapped the solutions landscape with a view to positively impact this area.
On the judging panel will be;
Jasmine Lau, a social entrepreneur and educator from Hong Kong, Jasmine is also the Founder and Executive Director of Philanthropy In Motion (PIM).
Odin Mühlenbein, a Partner at Ashoka Germany and Lead of Advisory at Ashoka Globalizer.
Daniela Papi-Thornton, former Deputy Director of the Skoll Centre, and thought-leader in systems change education.
Chintal Barot, Founder and Director of CoSustain Consulting Limited.
Please join us if you would like to watch the concluding part of our Global Final to Map the System, on Sunday, 3 June. Learn about complex issues facing people and planet, and understand how taking a systems approach to tackling them can identify gaps and levers for positive change.
How can Design and Systems Thinking really help when looking at a large complex issue you want to tackle? Our current Early Career Research Fellow, Tanja Collavo, breaks it down in the true meaning of the process. If you’re not convinced by this methodology now, you will be after reading this!
I recently joined a webinar organized by Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) on how to employ Design and Systems Thinking to produce social impact. It consisted in a recap of both techniques and in a key message: although Design and Systems Thinking have been used to deal with social issues for some time, it is their combination that can really foster innovative and creative ideas for lasting social impact. So, I thought it might be relevant to share how the two techniques can be combined in an effective way.
Design Thinking is the process of analyzing an existing situation through the perspective of different people who are involved in it, understanding how it could be improved and quickly prototyping designed solutions in order to adopt the most effective one. One of its benefits is the in-depth analysis of the issues of key stakeholders and the inclusion of their opinions and suggestions in the creation of a solution.
Systems Thinking revolves around the creation of a map of all the individuals and organizations involved in a system of reference (e.g. social innovation in the U.K.), representing all the interconnections among the stakeholders, their relative power, resources and concentration, and the critical hubs and connections. This technique is fundamental to keep in mind all the stakeholders that are affected or contributing to a given project and to reflect on possible unintended consequences that might arise from the designed solution.
Both Design and Systems Thinking have the explicit goal of helping people to think outside of the box, to deal with large change projects, and to enable the co-creation of innovative solutions. Additionally, they tend to be complementary, given that one favors an in-depth understanding of a situation, focusing on the thoughts and feelings of individuals and groups, while the other helps to keep in mind the bigger picture and the ways different groups relate to and affect one another. When combined, Design and Systems Thinking can be deployed through a four-stage process, named by the webinar speakers as: Information, Insight, Opportunities and Solutions.
Information: In this phase, Design and Systems Thinking have the goal of understanding, respectively, the core issue(s) to be solved, and the system at hand. This is best done through interviews and ethnographic observations and, in the case of Systems Thinking only, through the drawing of a map of all the stakeholders present in the system. Ideally, in the Information Phase, the collection of primary data should be supported through the analysis of information that is already available, such as expert reports, articles, or news of relevant best practice adopted by players in this or in another system.
Insight: In this second phase the information gathered through primary and secondary sources should be analyzed in order to identify what the key problems are and where enablers and inhibitors lie within the system. Enablers are people, organizations and processes that might favor the creation of social impact or the solution of a problem; whereas inhibitors are issues, people and organizations that might hamper the creation of the desired impact or solution. This phase mostly involves an in-depth analysis of all the information at disposal, the sharing of impressions and ideas, the selection of core problems to tackle, and the identification of where these are originated within the system.
Opportunity: This phase requires a switch from analyzing the situation to creatively elaborating potential solutions and revolves around the repeated asking of the following question: “How might we do something…to solve X…?” This question helps to spur as many potential solutions as possible for the chosen problem, in a brainstorming process. During this process, in order to keep creativity and innovation at a high level, it is necessary to avoid any criticism of emerging ideas. This should be left for the very end of the phase, when solutions should be combined with the map of the system. Such a combination will allow the identification of ‘leverage points’ – components of the system that, when modified, have the potential to trigger change in the entire system.
Solution: In this phase, the ideas identified should be prototyped and tested. Ideally, it will be possible to prototype all chosen solutions as well as multiple variants thereof. Prototypes can range from very simple, DIY solutions that can be created in a couple of hours to full pilot projects coordinated with the necessary stakeholders. Each prototype that is tested should be backed by a specific theory of change and target, and should be modified according to the feedback received. The testing should involve representatives of as many groups of stakeholders as possible from amongst those that will be involved in the delivery of the final project, or that will be affected by it.
The combination of Design and Systems Thinking summarized above is a promising technique to create social impact that takes into consideration the existing situation, its strengths, and the points of view of multiple stakeholders. However, it is also still in its infancy. The effectiveness of this approach is yet to be fully evaluated and what might seem a straightforward process in words is actually very difficult to implement. Indeed, coming up with an innovative idea, that minimizes the harm done while maximizing the social impact created, requires a significant amount of time and resources in data collection and analysis, the involvement of multiple stakeholders, and the contribution of many players for its implementation.
If these downsides do not frighten you, I hope this will represent a starting point to consider a new way of solving social issues or creating social impact. The following resources may be useful if you are interested in looking deeper at the combination of Design and Systems Thinking: