...a procedure to involve stakeholders
in research or management processes and a method to extract and analyze different kinds of knowledge
about complex systems
and their functioning (including relations between humans or institutions as in Social Network Analysis).
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During the mapping process social learning and understanding of the system between the participants is fostered. In the interview phase the participant(s) create a fuzzy cognitive map (FCM). FCM structures a process in which the perception of stakeholders on a certain system (or problem) is uncovered and a representation of the system is created. This can be very valuable in the context of conflict management.
FCM can be used to depict complex systems as perceived by different stakeholders. A FCM consists of a number of elements (concepts/nodes/factors) and their causal influences on each other depicted with weighted arrows between the elements (see graphic below taken from Ozesmi & Ozesmi 2004). Concepts in a map can include various elements like aesthetical values, which originated in the social & cultural sphere, as well as institutions, physical structures like infrastructure, ecosystems or individual species.
The goal of FCM analysis is detecting and interpreting relations between entities found in a map and understanding its structural properties and dynamics. The structured way of collecting and coding data enables a comparison between different case studies and even aggregation of data. This also fosters the linking of FCM with other management or modelling approaches.
Modelling & Scenarios:
FCM has the capability to incorporate feedback processes. It can be used to simulate the changes of a system over time and address "what if" questions. In regards of modelling FCM combines aspects of qualitative methods with the advantages of quantitative methods. FCM allows to dynamically simulate the resulting system and to test the influence of management scenarios on system components.
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