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Group Design Project

Causal loop diagrams



Causal loop diagrams (CLD) encourage analysis that emphasize non-linear feedback relationships.





Shifting the burden is a pattern of behaviour that shows these characteristics:
  1. A short term fix is applied to reduce or hide symptoms of a problem, but, does not solve the problem itself
  2. Using the short term fix creates a side effect, in that the effectiveness of the short term fix decreases as the symptoms increase
  3. The problem continues to get worse because the short term fix only addresses the symptoms, not the problem itself






Key steps of CLD analysis


  1. Select an issue/question/problem
  2. Identify relevant variables that change over time
  3. Use arrows to show the direction of influence between variables
  4. Connect all variables to create meaningful closed loops
  5. Analyze in small incremental steps





Key steps of CLD analysis


  1. Select an issue/question/problem
    • Select a scope that is large enough to have sufficient data for analysis, but,
    • Keep the scope small enough that it can be solved!
  2. Identify relevant variables that change over time
  3. Use arrows to show the direction of influence between variables
  4. Connect all variables to create meaningful closed loops
  5. Analyze in small incremental steps





Key steps of CLD analysis


  1. Select an issue/question/problem
  2. Identify relevant variables that change over time
    • Names of variables must be a noun or phrase containing a noun
    • Variables must be a value that can be measured!
    • Values must change over time!
  3. Use arrows to show the direction of influence between variables
  4. Connect all variables to create meaningful closed loops
  5. Analyze in small incremental steps





Key steps of CLD analysis


  1. Select an issue/question/problem
  2. Identify relevant variables that change over time
  3. Use arrows to show the direction of influence between variables
    • A positive sign [+] indicates that two variables change in the same manner, i.e. an increase to A will cause an increase to B and a decrease to A will cause a decrease to B
    • A negative sign [+] indicates that two variables change in the opposite manner, i.e. an increase to A will cause a decrease to B and a decrease to A will cause an increase to B
  4. Connect all variables to create meaningful closed loops
  5. Analyze in small incremental steps





Key steps of CLD analysis


  1. Select an issue/question/problem
  2. Identify relevant variables that change over time
  3. Use arrows to show the direction of influence between variables
  4. Connect all variables to create meaningful closed loops
    • A reinforcing loop has an even number of negative causal links and is marked with an R symbol
    • A balancing loop has an odd number of negative causal links and is marked with a B symbol
  5. Analyze in small incremental steps





Key steps of CLD analysis


  1. Select an issue/question/problem
  2. Identify relevant variables that change over time
  3. Use arrows to show the direction of influence between variables
  4. Connect all variables to create meaningful closed loops
  5. Analyze in small incremental steps
    • Reinforcing loops lead to exponential rates of change
      • When providing a beneficial outcome, reinforcing loops are referred to as a virtuous circle that lead to exponential growth
      • When providing a damaging outcome, reinforcing loops are referred to as a vicious circle that lead to exponential decay
    • Balancing loops can exist as a point of equilibrium or as a repeating cycle
      • It is a common mistake to see the downward part of a cycle as a vicious circle, or the upward part of a cycle as a virtuous circle
    • Watch out for delays between variables, which may be indicated with 2 short lines across the arrow of influence
      • Important delays between variables may be difficult to detect!





Eroding goals is a pattern of behaviour that shows these characteristics:
  1. Pressure to meet goals or objectives lead to a tendency to set lower goals or objectives
  2. Each time goals are lowered, it increases the bias to lower goals again when pressure is encountered in the future