National Taiwan University students headed to Oxford to compete in Map the System 2022 Finals

This year’s competition saw student teams self-select topics to explore through systems mapping. Issues included teenage pregnancy, challenges facing social workers, and the urgent need to shift the behavior of the global economy from extractive to regenerative.

The winning team, comprised of students and recent graduates from three different NTU departments, examined the causes behind why schools in Taiwan too often fail to meet students’ psychological needs, despite the fact that Taiwan’s counseling guidelines are aligned with global best practices. 

Through a systems thinking approach, we identified the “shifting the burden” systems archetype. Not only are problems left unsolved, but the situation also leads to reliance on intervention counseling and overloaded guidance teachers, further reinforcing the mental models of both homeroom and guidance teachers.

The winning team will travel to Oxford this month to compete in the global final, meeting 44 other teams from institutions around the world. 

Map the System is a global student competition for young social entrepreneurs with the aim to ensure they take requisite time to “get on the balcony,” sidestepping the instinct to dive in and take action that might otherwise duplicate existing efforts, trigger unintended consequences, and fail to achieve lasting change. 

Students use systems mapping to depict the causal theory behind why the same problems occur again and again. They are encouraged to go beyond what is readily apparent and uncover the “rules of the system” created by power dynamics, relationships, and the mental models of system stakeholders. Students are also asked to survey the range of previously attempted interventions -- both locally and in similar situations around the world -- identifying the gaps in design or implementation that need to be addressed in future attempts. 

Joe Hsueh holds an adjunct faculty appointment at National Taiwan University where he has been teaching systems thinking, mapping, and leadership since 2015. Judging this year’s competition, Prof. Hsueh was joined by Prof. Jiun-Yu Yu from the NTU D-School as well as SIMFO systems mapping associates, Ian MacRae and Brian Blankinship. 

In Map the System, we expect the participating teams to apply various systems thinking approaches to develop different perspectives to analyze the problem. The key to systems thinking is to identify the relationship between structures and behaviors, as well as the effect of time delays. The more we apply these tools, the closer we will get to the leverage points which may generate inspiring results.

- Prof. Jiun-Yu Yu, National Taiwan University

SIMFO was pleased to support NTU in its first year of competition and is currently developing partnerships with other like-minded university faculty, institutions, and corporations looking to put systems thinking into practice to address complex social and environmental challenges.