SSM in needs analysis - Bryan Hopkins

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Using Soft systems Methodology in needs analysis

Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) is an approach developed by Peter Checkland of Lancaster University. It is described as an 'interpretive' approach, meaning that we imagine the situation we are considering to be a system, and then compare this with reality, in order to identify issues which may or may not be problematic.

Essentially, SSM follows a five-stage process, as shown in this diagram.
The first stage is to draw what is known as a 'rich picture'. This is a simple graphical representation of the situation of interest, and it is often developed collaboratively, with inputs from different stakeholders.

The rich picture shown here represents various issues raised during early discussions about developing a training programme on deforestation and its impact on climate change. Notice that it shows actors, issues and their relationships. Notice also that the level of graphical skill required is not high!
The diagram to the right shows a 'conceptual model', which is created during a subsequent part of the SSM process, and is used to think about how systemic the actual situation is compares to a theoretical model of what it could or should be.
You will find further information about this and other systems thinking methodologies in my book "Learning and Performance: A Systemic Model", (2017), published by Routledge.
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