Tool 4 icon

Tool #4 Understanding 'systems'

Putting the data in context

Use these five steps to produce a ‘systems diagram’ of your community.

Understand how different factors can affect one another.  How does population affect housing costs and crime rates?  How are they associated with average incomes?  With traffic infractions?  

What are ‘systems’ and what do they tell us?

Systems diagrams are useful for showing how a change in one factor may impact somewhere else.  They also suggest how a decision to change one factor may involve trade-offs with another.  Sometimes the most obvious ‘solution’ to one problem can make another area worse.

A systems diagram can suggest the long-term impacts of a change and its unintended consequences. Systems diagrams help you understand how complex systems work.  They show a range of factors and the cause-effect relationships among them.

How do I use this tool?

Create your own systems diagram following the five steps below (for logged in users).  

Download the software.  Or, do a systems diagram on paper.  Use butchers paper and sticky notes. 

Last updated 13 November 2015
Last reviewed 12 November 2015
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