Problem-focused; change-oriented

In system dynamics we often repeat the phrase “we model problems, not systems”.  This means that our collaborations focus on generating insight into complex or thorny problems, not stopping at describing a system as it is now

Commitment to justice and equity

We are committed to applying our methods and investing our time on projects that support individual and collective wellbeing and push for more equitable organizations, policies, and communities.

Developing Capabilities

Our approach emphasizes the development of capabilities within communities and among partners with whom we work.  This takes the form of scoping projects, co-design, inclusion of students and community members in modeling work, and partners learning-by-doing


The process of scoping projects, whether they are short introductory presentations or multi-year research projects is based on collaborative design.  This approach may often seem very process-heavy, but we have found that the up-front investment of time in meaning-making and common language pays dividends when inevitable shocks or twists emerge down the line.

Methodological Innovation

The term “Lab” in Social System Design Lab is an intentional choice.  We are constantly revisiting our underlying assumptions and challenging ourselves to find new ways to advance the methods of system dynamics for human services and communities.  This approach can be frustrating to some who want a straight-forward training, or are looking to replicate a workshop design conducted on a previous project, but this emphasis on methodological innovation is central to the identity and sustainability of the SSDL.