Scriptapedia/Graphs over Time with Offline Structure Building

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The purpose of this script is to rapidly engage participants in eliciting variables and reflect back provisional structure for discussion.

Status[edit | edit source]

Promising practices

Primary nature of group task[edit | edit source]


Time[edit | edit source]

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Time required during session: 45 minutes

Follow-up time: 15 minutes

Materials[edit | edit source]

  1. Stacks of 8.5x11 white paper with X and Y axes drawn on them
  2. Large blank wall (8'x10')
  3. Thick tipped markers
  4. Blue painters tape or tacks
  5. Camera or other method to capture the graph
  6. Computer with Vensim or Stella installed for modeling

Inputs[edit | edit source]


Outputs[edit | edit source]

Candidate variables for the dynamic model; preliminary model structure

Roles[edit | edit source]

Facilitator who has experience with building causal structure to elicit graphs over time and reflect back narratives of graphs in language that can inform model structure

Experienced Modeler who has experience rapidly building stock and flow structures

Wall builder with little or no experience in SD who will cluster graphs and talk about themes

Recorder to document the session and photograph the clustered graphs

Runner (optional) to bring the graphs from the facilitator to the wall builder if the group is large or the space is cavernous

Steps[edit | edit source]

  1. Based on group size, decide whether to break participants into subgroups. In smaller groups (N<10), allow individuals to work and present independently. In larger groups (N >10), divide participants into subgroups of roughly 3-5. Ask the subgroups to sit together.  The modeler should be positioned off to the side, where she is able to see the wall
  2. The modeling team hands out sheets of white paper to each participant.
  3. The facilitator gives an example of how to draw a graph over time, carefully labeling the X-axis as “Time,” and adding a start time, end time, and the present time indicated with a vertical dashed line. The Y-axis is labeled with a variable name. The facilitator then sketches the behavior over time.
  4. The facilitator then asks participants to draw one variable over time per piece of paper. The participants should be given the option of including hoped for behavior, expected behavior/business as usual, and feared behavior on the same graph. 
  5. The facilitator and wall-builder wait for 2-3 minutes, then walk around and help participants with the task if they need it. Allow 7 minutes or until the group runs out of steam to complete the task.
  6. With 1 minute left, the facilitator asks participants to stack their graphs in order of importance, with the most important on top and the least on bottom.
  7. Reconvene as a large group.  The facilitator asks participants to share one graph at a time, noting that if a variable has already been shared, they can skip and go to the next on in their stack. ○    If N<10, the facilitator takes one graph at a time from each participant, holds it up in front of entire group, and asks him/her to talk about it. Clarify timescale, variable names, etc. ○    If N>10, instruct subgroups to share their graphs with each other and choose the ones they think are most important. The facilitator then goes to each subgroup and holds the first graph they have selected up in front of entire group. The subgroup spokesperson talks about the graph. Clarify timescale, variable names, etc.
  8. The facilitator then rephrases the graph in language that highlights the stock or flow of interest, and how that stock or flow has changed over time. She then hands the graph to the wall-builder.
  9. While the facilitator is rephrasing the graph and asking for confirmation, the Modeler is building new structure on Vensim or Stella to reflect the emerging story.
  10. The facilitator repeats steps 6 and 7 with each participant or subgroup, taking one graph at a time until all graphs are shown or time has run out. Finish by asking if any participant has something else that really ought to be shown. 
  11. During steps 7-8, each graph is posted on the wall. The wall-builder tries to cluster the graphs meaningfully on the fly based on themes and variables, revising as she goes.
  12. After all relevant variables have been shared, the facilitator asks the wall-builder to explain the clusters of graphs on the wall. The wall-builder tries to summarize dynamics that help to characterize the problem that emerges from the participants’ graphs.
  13. While the facilitator and wall builder are reflecting on the clusters of graphs, the modeler is rearranging the emergent structure and developing a story to subsequently unfold in the next activity. This may continue for 10-15 minutes after the script finished during a break.
  14. The wall-builder may hold aside one or two graphs that they are not sure where to place, requesting participants to talk about the clusters and the characterization of the problem they imply.
  15. Consider labeling the clusters based on themes or related variables. There is potential for the modeler to close by highlighting the diversity of graphs as well as the ways that the stories accompanying the graphs tell stories of causal relationships and feedback thinking

Evaluation Criteria[edit | edit source]

  • Interesting, self-sustaining group discussion about clusters described by the wall-builder    
  • Meaningful clusters identified
  • A preliminary stock and flow structure has emerged that reflects the variables and clusters
  • Members of the group appear to have a better understanding of the scope of the problem

Authors[edit | edit source]

Peter Hovmand & Ellis Ballard, 2017

History[edit | edit source]

Adapted from the Graphs Over Time script presented by George P. Richardson & David F. Andersen

Revisions[edit | edit source]


References[edit | edit source]


Notes[edit | edit source]

This script is a variation on the Graphs Over Time script.  It has been used in situations where the goals of the session is to visualize a preliminary stock and flow structure of the system, but where available time is limited. The script requires a modeler who has significant experience in parsing stories and building structure, as well as a facilitator who can reflect back narratives of graphs over time in language that can be easily presented in stock and flow structure.