Scriptapedia/Initial Policy Options

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Initial Policy Options

This script is used to help the group model building team frame the problem and elicit variables implicitly, or by implication, toward the beginning of a group model building session.


Best practices

Primary nature of group task



Preparation time: 5 minutes

Time required during session: 45 minutes

Follow-up time: 0 minutes


  1. Markers
  2. 8.5x11” (or A4) paper
  3. Glue sticks, blue tack, and/or masking tape for posting on the wall




The list of specific candidate policy options


  • Facilitator with modest experience in SD
  • Wall-builder to cluster the policy options on the wall and describe the resulting theme groups (clusters)


  1. The facilitator sets up the task by asking participants to write short phrases naming policies that participants would like to see discussed, modeled, and simulated in the course of the work. There should be one policy per page. They could be policies tried currently or in the past, or policies being talked about for the future. This includes ideas that are considered realistic, as well as “wild” ideas that exceed expectations for what is feasible.
    • The participants may work in pairs to build confidence and share thinking while still keeping the divergent nature of the group task.
  2. The facilitator collects policy pages one at a time (receiving one page per pair and going on to the next pair to assure complete involvement) and asks each pair to talk about their proposed policy option.
  3. The wall-builder posts the policy pages on the wall, clustering them on the fly according to emerging themes.
  4. Repeat steps 2 & 3 until done, or time runs out.
  5. The facilitator asks the wall-builder to describe the theme groups (clusters), justify the choice of clusters, and talk about what he or she sees in the clustering.

Evaluation Criteria:

  • Long list of candidate policy options
  • List of realistic and appropriate policy options
  • List of policy options helpful for the model building




This script was used by Andersen & Richardson, individually and as a team, for years. This script could be said to stem from Nate Mass’s 1980 observation on a draft of the Richardson-Pugh text (expressed to Richardson) that defining problems dynamically is only part of the story, that many times consultants and modelers have only lists of policy options to use to begin the modeling process.


Some revisions have probably been made, but because the script is simple, revisions would have been few and probably hard to identify. Clustering could have been a revision early on.