Mediated modelling

In the MM workshops representative stakeholders are brought together for several workshops to interactively build a system dynamics model that they agree represents the system of concern. The model integrates economic,  social, and environmental data  and can be used to test solution alternatives. Regardless of whether we are conscious of it or not, everybody ‘models’ in daily life; without the capacity to ‘model’ people would be unable to deal with information overload. Modelling capacity without computer assistance is expressed in experience and intuition. Integrated computer modelling enables far more variables to be taken into account than is possible otherwise and provides a closer replication of the real world which is a complex system rather than just a number of individual components. System dynamics models identify key linkages and feedbacks and can be simulated over-time to illustrate long-term intended and unintended consequences of decisions.

MM is a tool that offers more consensus in a shorter timeframe with less resources and a way to identify strategic opportunities and constraints. As a methodology MM tries to provide a closer tie between users and the benefits of modelling and advocates for inclusiveness.   The MM methodology is highlighted as a useful integrative tool by the European Union Water Framework Directive[i] and by the US Environmental Protection Agency[ii].  The SP2 Science Leader, Assoc Prof Marjan van den Belt, has undertaken a number of MM projects including the Vermont State energy planning project[iii] and the Upper Fox River plan in the USA[iv].

In workshops the MM dialogue is simultaneously facilitated, interpreted and reflected onto a projected computer screen visible to all. The simultaneous reflection of the dialogue onto the computer and immediate feedback allows for completion of ‘listening cycles’ where a participant states an observation, which is interpreted and reflected onto the projected screen and immediate feedback from the participant is requested as to whether the interpretation is accurate or not. Furthermore, other participants can build onto the emerging dialogue, reflected in the model’s evolving structure. This helps to keep the dialogue structured and integrated. It also allows participants to discuss challenges and solutions in an alternating manner; the model structure supports such movements in focus; a general mediated discussion does not allow such flexibility.

[i] http://www.publicservice.vt.gov/planning/mediatedmodeling.html

[ii] http://www.publicservice.vt.gov/planning/mediatedmodeling.html

[iii] http://www.publicservice.vt.gov/planning/mediatedmodeling.html

[iv] van den Belt (2004) Mediated Modeling. Island Press, Washington DC.

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