Scriptapedia/Concept Model

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Concept Model

This script is used at the start of a group model building project to introduce the process of modeling and symbolism of a model to participants.


Best practices

Primary nature of group task



Preparation time: 180 minutes

Time required during session: 45 minutes

Follow-up time: 0 minutes


  1. White board or flip chart paper on easel with markers
  2. Computer and projector




  • Familiarity with stock and flow and causal icons
  • Understanding that maps can be quantified and simulated
  • Understanding that models can be created for the group's problem(s)
  • Understanding that the model is owned by the group and can be repeatedly modified and improved


  • Experienced modeler to design the concept model
  • Experienced helper to show and run the formal model


  1. The experienced modeler draws by hand the first version of the concept model on the white board. The modeler demonstrates/draws the tub with faucet and drain to explain stock & flow icons.
  2. The experienced modeler then projects the first quantified version of the concept model from the computer. The first quantified version of the concept model is identical to the first version drawn on the white board. Next, the modeler simulates and traces the behavior produced by the model.
  3. On the white board, add one or more elements to the first version to get an amended concept model (second version). The added elements are elicited by the experienced modeler from the participants. Project the second version of the concept model from the computer. Simulate the second version of the concept model and trace its behavior over time. The behavior should be different, and the group should be told, “Behavior is a consequence of structure."
  4. Repeat step 3 one more time.
  5. The experienced modeler summarizes the lessons as follows: the icons that will be used, maps can be quantified and simulated, behavior can be generated endogenously, changing structure changes behavior, maps and models can be repeatedly refined, and groups can own the models they create.

Evaluation Criteria:

  • Participants are talkative, wanting to tell the modeler how the model is wrong and can be improved
  • Participants can use the symbolism of system dynamics to express their own ideas


George P. Richardson


First described by Richardson and Andersen (1995) and then published by Richardson (2013).




Richardson, G. P. and Andersen, D. F. (1995), Teamwork in group model building. System Dynamics Review, 11, 113–137.

Richardson, G. P. (2013). Concept models in group model building. System Dynamics Review, 29, 42-55.