At a recent evaluation workshop put on by the Tamarack Institute featuring Liz Weaver and Mark Cabaj, I participated in a workshop by Vanessa Timmer. Vanessa demonstrated systems mapping using an ecosystem model, asking us to find the connections between different parts of the system. I’ve used similar tools before, but have struggled with how to make sense of the work beyond the process. Vanessa put my mind at ease, noting that systems mapping is about being curious about connections and patterns. Essentially, the process is a big part of the outcome with this tool. It allows a group to communicate about its assumptions, perceptions and expectations. Seen in that light, I really appreciated what it could do.
We also watched an incredibly illuminating video by Eric Berlow. He showed us how to take something complex and break it down into something simple. He asks two basic questions: 1. What is the sphere of influence you care about most? 2. If you eliminate everything not actionable and not under your control, what is left? The answer is pretty simple.
Take three minutes to watch this brilliant video: