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Joining Minds Group Modeling to Link People, Process, Analysis, and Policy Design. GP Richardson, DF Andersen, LF Luna-Reyes Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy State University of New York at Albany

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Joining minds group modeling to link people process analysis and policy design

Joining MindsGroup Modeling to Link People, Process, Analysis, and Policy Design

GP Richardson, DF Andersen, LF Luna-Reyes

Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy

State University of New York at Albany

(Presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management, 2004)



  • What is group modeling?

  • An extended example: Welfare Reform

  • Other cases

  • The Albany group modeling approach

  • Evaluating group model building efforts

  • Why does it work?

Ancestry of gmb

Ancestry of GMB

  • GDSS

    • Quinn, Nunamaker, Eden & Ackmann, DeSanctis & Gallupe, …

  • Decision conferencing

    • Milter & Rohrbaugh, Schuman & Rohrbaugh, …

  • System dynamics

    • Forrester, Richardson & Pugh, Sterman, …

  • Mental models & systems thinking

    • Checkland, Senge, …

  • For a rich history, see Zagonel

What is group modeling

What is Group Modeling?

  • A form of group decision support, involving a group of stakeholders with a complex problem

    • Group facilitation

    • Model building and refinement in public

    • Simulation of scenarios and options

    • Extensive facilitated discussion and analysis

    • Facilitated policy design and decisions

What is group modeling1

What is Group Modeling?

  • Management team (10-20) with a Modeling/Facilitation team (2-4)

  • Four full days over 3-to-4 months

  • Extensive between meeting work

  • Rapid prototyping of model with finished simulation product

  • Facilitation of implementation plans

Primary gmb references in the system dynamics community

Primary GMB references in the System Dynamics Community

  • “Decision modeling”: Reagan-Cirincione et al.

  • “Teamwork”: Richardson & Andersen

  • “Scripts”: Andersen & Richardson

  • “Group model building”: Vennix

  • Special issue of the System Dynamics Review on GMB (1997)

Why system dynamics modeling

Why System Dynamics Modeling?

Why system dynamics modeling1

Why System Dynamics Modeling?

Why system dynamics modeling2

Why System Dynamics Modeling?

Why system dynamics modeling3

Why System Dynamics Modeling?

Why system dynamics modeling4

Why System Dynamics Modeling?

Why system dynamics modeling5

Why System Dynamics Modeling?

The albany teamwork approach

The Albany Teamwork Approach

  • Facilitator / Elicitor

  • Modeler / Reflector

  • Process coach

  • Recorder

  • Gatekeeper

Components of the process

Components of the Process

  • Problem definition meeting

  • Group modeling meeting

  • Formal model formulation

  • Reviewing model with model building team

  • Rolling out model with the community

  • Working with flight simulator

  • Making change happen

A typical room gmb session

A Typical Room GMB Session

An example welfare reform in new york state counties

An Example: Welfare Reformin New York State Counties

  • Initial interest within NYS Department of Social Services

  • TANF model in Cortland County

  • Safety net model in Dutchess County

  • Joined TANF/SafetyNet model in Dutchess

  • Calibration in Cortland, Dutchess, & Nassau

  • Implementations in Cortland & Dutchess

First group model building meeting

First Group Model Building Meeting

  • Introductions: Hopes and Fears

  • Stakeholders

  • Introduction to simulation: Concept models

  • Client flow elicitation

  • Policy resources and clusters

  • Mapping policy influences

  • Next steps for client group and modeling team

Who was in the room

DSS Commissioner

Deputy commissioner

DSS director of medical services

DSS director of administrative services

DSS director of income maintenance

NYS DSS representatives

Health commissioner Mental health administrative manager

Executive director of Catholic Charities

Representative from the Department of Labor

Minority leader of the county legislature

Managed care coordinator

Who Was in the Room?

Introduction to simulation

Introduction to Simulation

  • Concept models

    • Introduce the stock, flow, and causal link icons used throughout the workshop

    • Demonstrate there are links between feedback structure and dynamic behavior

    • Initiate discussion about the structure and behavior of the real system

  • Less than 30 minutes

Concept model progression models are ours to change and improve

Concept Model Progression:“Models are ours to change and improve.”

Concept model progression behavior is a consequence of structure

Concept Model Progression:“Behavior is a Consequence of Structure”

Client flows in the resulting tanf model

Client Flows in the Resulting TANF Model

Client flows in the safety net

Client Flows in the “Safety Net”

Confidence building processes

Confidence building processes

  • Structure of the model emerging from group process

  • Parameters based on administrative data everywhere possible

  • Parameter and table function group elicitations

  • Group contributions to tests of model behavior

Simulated vs actual caseload

Simulated vs Actual Caseload

Three policy mixes

Three Policy Mixes

  • Base run (for comparison)

    • Flat unemployment rate

    • Historical client behaviors

  • Investments in the “Middle”

    • Additional services to TANF families

    • Increased TANF assessment & monitoring

    • Safety net assessment & job services

  • Investments on the “Edges”

    • Prevention

    • Child support enforcement

    • Self-sufficiency promotion

Investing in the middle

Investing in the “Middle”

Investing on the edges

Investing on the “Edges”

Base edges and middle compared populations on the welfare rolls

Base, “Edges,” and “Middle” Compared:Populations on the Welfare Rolls

Total job finding flows from tanf

Total Job-Finding Flows from TANF

Program expenditures

Program Expenditures

Emerging lessons

Emerging Lessons

  • Unemployment dominates system performance

  • Loss of eligibility will shift the next economic cycle’s costs and caseloads

  • Endogenous management makes a smaller difference

  • Employment programs at the middle of the system are low leverage points

  • Policies at the edges of the system have high leverage

  • Community-wide partnerships are needed to implement “Edge” policies

  • Performance measures continue to be problematic

Resource allocation unpacking the policy resources for implementation

Resource allocation: Unpacking the Policy Resources for Implementation

  • 43 participants about 30 agencies and organizations in the county

  • Three stage process

    • 9 groups

    • 6 larger groups

    • 3 final groups

  • Ending with five initiatives, costing about $675,000

Final proposals implemented in cortland

Final proposals implemented in Cortland

  • Job center ($150K)

    • Centralized location for all referrals

  • Resource center ($150K)

    • Coordination of community effort toward diversion

  • Program to support employed self-sufficiency ($200K)

    • Job counselors, case managers, private sector

  • Computer-based comprehensive assistance ($150K)

    • Link all providers and case managers, shared database

  • Expansion of child-care services ($75K)

Does it work

Does It Work?

  • Categories of evaluation data

    • Modeling team reflections

    • Participant reflections

    • Measurable system change

  • Results

    • Methodological problems

    • Implementation in about half of GMBs

    • Positive measure of success in about half of the implemented interventions

Why does it work

Why Does It Work?

  • Engagement

  • Mental models

  • Complexity

  • Alignment

  • Refutability

  • Empowerment

What are we really doing

What are we really doing?

  • Microworlds?

    • Data-based representations of a policy reality

    • Tools for finding what options really work best to solve a complex dynamic problem

  • Boundary objects?

    • Socially constructed representations of a negotiated world that may not exist

    • Tools for facilitating discussion and agreement in contentious environments

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