Causal Mapping in Large Group

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Causal Mapping in Large Group[edit]

This script is used initiate and elaborate the whole group causal loop diagram by converging the sub-group causal loop diagrams and elaborating the conversation. It usually comes after Causal Mapping in Small Groups.

Status: Promising Practice

Primary nature of group task: Convergent


Preparation time: 90 minutes

Time required during session: 40 minutes

Follow-up time: 20 minutes


Either blank flip charts, OR wall space on which several flip charts are taped, OR a whiteboard, markers and flip chart


Reference model

Graph over time charts

Sub-group causal loop diagrams

A list of primary and secondary variables, and new variables elicited by sub-group models

A list of overlapping loops, categorized conflicting ideas and parked issues elicited by sub group models

A core structure of causal loop diagram elicited by sub group models


  • Interim output/product: increased consensus on dynamic hypothesis, or a possible structural explanation for observed behavior within sub-groups
  • Deliverable: a convergent causal loop diagram model.


  • Facilitator with experience in system dynamics model building and group facilitation skills
  • Co-facilitator with experience of drawing causal loop diagrams
  • Community facilitator who is culture sensitive and familiar with stakeholders in the room and some group facilitation skills
  • Observer (optional) with experience of group model building experience


  1. The facilitator converges the group after the break.
  2. The facilitator reviews the dynamic problem, and previous sub group discussions by presenting main loops elicited by sub group conversations, while co-facilitator draws out core structure on the blackboard or flip chart. The facilitator will the check with the whole group if the core structure reflects overlapping ideas.
  3. The facilitator reviews the headlines of main themes generated from individual sub-group loops, conflicting ideas and parked issues. The facilitator will then invite all participants to discuss by following the following steps:
  4. Ask participants to examine loops from the collected list if that is true or not, and add to the core structure. When someone makes a suggestion, include this in the drawing of the model in order to visualize what is meant, the facilitator needs to check with other group members if they agree with the proposed relation. If someone disagrees, the facilitator can ask for clarification and try to determine what the group thinks the relationship should be. Remind the group that if a discussion goes on too long, the group can choose to temporarily 'park' this item and continue with another part of the model.
    • Remind participants to draw variables from the collected list of variables or suggest new variables if they need to
    • After spending some time doing this, identify the main feedback loops and remind groups to proceed to the consequences of changes in the problem variable
  5. The facilitator will summarize by pointing out main reinforcing and balancing loops.
  6. The facilitator will review again the group what has been done and what will happen with the final products.

Evaluation Criteria:

  • Improvement in quality of communication, insight, consensus on the problem, and commitment with regard to the group causal loop diagram
  • Participants converge a causal loop diagrams that reflect group consensus on the problem


Ellis Ballard, Associate Director of Social System Design Lab