We often describe entrenched social issues, such as homelessness, as systemic issues. Such issues exist as part of a system, a complex network of causation and interconnection.

Systems thinking recognises that to tackle entrenched social issues we need to think about the system as a whole and the relationships between its constituent parts. It is only by understanding how causes interact that we can identify where the system fails and devise solutions that go below the surface to address this complex web of causation.

But how do you identify root causes and opportunities for change within highly complex systems of multiple interconnected issues? A first step can be to map the system, which can help give a clearer view of how it works. We’ve been doing this to understand what influences the recovery journeys of adults experiencing multiple disadvantage, as part of our work with Fulfilling Lives Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham, funded by The National Lottery Community Fund and delivered in partnership with the Centre for Regional Economic Social Research and Groundswell. Fulfilling Lives LSL want to understand the factors that influence the impact of support for adults experiencing multiple disadvantage and more effectively address the contributory factors for the challenges they experience. In doing so FLLSL hope to help shift the support system around multiple disadvantage.

Systems mapping is a tool for visually interpreting the system under consideration, showing the different parts, the connections between them and their causal relationships. Presenting this visually can create a shared understanding of the system and how it works and behaves: the relationships, structures, power dynamics and mindsets that together drive the way that people in the system act.

Read the full article about systems mapping by Giulia Todres at NPC.