Useful Resources

Below are some ideas and inspiration to help you in your research.


Map the System Resources

Map the System Resources

Student Guide to Mapping a System

This twelve-step Guide, designed for students participating in Map the System will help walk you (and your team, if you have one) walk through the process of mapping a system. This Guide will provide you with advice and additional tools for each step of the process, from picking a social or environmental challenge, to researching it and presenting your analysis and ideas (visually, orally, and in writing)

PDF File image of Student Guide to Mapping a System, showing blue globe background with bold lettering 'Student Guide to Mapping a System'

Guide to Mapping a System


Map the System Evaluation Criteria

Submissions will be evaluated based on their level understanding of the problem, ability to clearly present the complex web of existing solution efforts and identify opportunities for impact that build upon lessons already learned. Participants will also be evaluated based on their application of a systems thinking approach to their research. Each of these question areas should build upon the previous one so that the submission is clear, concise, and tells a compelling narrative.

PDF File image of Submission Evaluation Criteria, showing white background with text

Submission Evaluation Criteria

Competition Resources

Oxford LibGuides: Map the System

The following webpage, hosted by the Saïd Business School’s Sainsbury Library, provides a selection of research databases and presentation resources for participants in the Map the System.

Systems Thinking Resources

Introduction to Systems Thinking

Before diving into the research, we highly recommend participants first begin by developing an understanding of ‘Systems’ which provides participants with an important introduction to systems thinking concepts. Submissions will be evaluated based on a participant’s ability to demonstrate their understanding and application of these key concepts. We recommend participants prioritize their understanding of ‘systems’ and ‘systems thinking approaches’ prior to beginning their research. We have shared some of our favourite resources on systems thinking below.

To Read:

Introduction to Systems Thinking | Daniel H. Kim

Systems Thinking: What, Why, When, Where and How? | Michael Goodman

The 6 Fundamental Concepts of Systems Thinkers | Leyla Acaroglu

Thinking in Systems: A Primer | Donella H. Meadows

Why Social Ventures Need Systems Thinking | Article | Harvard Business Review


To Watch:

Systems Practice Mindsets | Systems TOG
Why use a systems practice mindset?

Systems-thinking: A Little Film About a Big Idea | Cabera Research Lab

What do we mean by “systems-thinking”? This short film provides an introduction to the basic concepts.

Watch the Introduction to Systems Thinking | The Systems Thinker

Systems Thinking Tools

Systems Thinking Tools

Where to start

9 Why’s

Impact Gaps Canvas

The 5Rs Framework


Exploring Root Causes

Iceberg Model

Causes Diagram


Exploring Systems Dynamics

Causal loop diagrams

Feedback loops


Exploring Levers of Change

Leverage points

Systems Mapping Resources

For the first submission component, participants are required to visually present their findings in the form of a visual systems map. There are many ways you can do this and many different tools you can use to create the visual systems map – and we encourage you to get as creative as possible! Here we have suggested a few online tools and resources you can use to create your map:

Introduction to Systems Mapping

To Read:

Tools for Systems Thinkers: Systems Mapping | Leyla Acaroglu

Making Systems Mapping More Approachable

Demystifying System Mapping

The Systems Thinking Tool Box: Systems Map | Burge Hughes Walsh

An Introduction to Systems Mapping | FSG


To Watch:

Systems Mapping | Systems Innovation
What do we mean by “Systems Mapping”? Hear from Systems Innovation share the basic concepts on systems mapping.

Systems Mapping – The Basics
This video provides the basics on the value of stock and flow mapping, a core systems thinking approach.

Mapping Society for a More Meaningful World
Steve Whitla is the founder of Visual Meaning, a company that helps large organisations make sense of how they work, and how they need to change, using conceptual maps. In this video, Steve explains how system maps could revolutionise our ability to understand and change the world.

Mapping Tools and Design Applications

Kumu – A data visualisation platform that helps organise complex information into interactive relationship maps. Free to use if you are willing to share your work publicly. Kumu is suggested as a tool to consider using at an early stage in your mapping.

InsightMaker – Like Kumu, this tool is designed to help you visually illustrate complex system, and has a simulation tool. Free and open source.

Plectica – Allows you to collaboratively assemble a map from different locations (like Google Docs).

SimpleMind – Mind mapping tool to help organize thoughts and generate ideas. Limited functionality in the free version.

Venngage – An easy-to-use infographics tool. Although there is a free version, many students end up preferring the paid version.

Canva – A graphic-design tool with a library of off-the-shelf infographic templates. Free with a paid Premium version.

LucidChart – A Visio alternative that is easier to use.

Noun Project – A massive library of creative commons-licensed visual icons.