Submission Guidelines

The format of Map the System is designed to help you produce high quality, accessible research on critical social and environmental problems.

Begin your research by deeply exploring an issue you care about. You will use systems thinking and mapping as tools for understanding your chosen topic.


Selecting Your Topic

* Start from what you are passionate about. Choosing a topic that gets you fired up is likely to make the process much more interesting and fun!

* The problem you focus on can be global or local. You can pick an issue in your local community, or one that impacts people around the world. Picking a topic you are more familiar with, or one which impacts people in your local area, is a good place to start as it means you will be more likely to find people to interview and learn from – but proximity to the problem is not a requirement.

* Consider your access to knowledge on the subject. Bear in mind that the more access you have to resources, organisations, and people in the field you have chosen, the better your submission is likely to fare in the competition. Therefore, consider selecting a topic that you have some experience of or connection to already, rather than starting from scratch.

* Narrow it down. Once you have chosen your topic, begin to narrow it down; this could be around a region or demographic, or a particular manifestation of the problem. The topic you focus on should be wide enough in scope that you can interview and learn from a range of people working on the topic, but not so wide that it seems all-encompassing. For example, “poverty in the Democratic Republic of Congo” would be too wide, because “poverty” has too many root causes to explore in the timeline of this competition. But looking at “effective education in refugee camps” in the region might be more manageable if you know about or are able to access information about refugee education in the DRC context and other global examples from which you can learn.

* Think about time allocation. The best submissions will be thorough and describe gaps and opportunities in the current solutions landscape. After you begin your research, ensure that you can do a thorough analysis of the problem and solutions in the time available. If you can’t, narrow your topic further!

* Think about any ethical considerations. As part of your research, we encourage you to conduct first-person interviews or surveys/questionnaires with stakeholders related to the issue you have chosen. If you are intending to do this, you need to consider any ethical implications this may have.
Review the Ethical Considerations page which contains a few principles to help you with this.


Key Questions

Every submission should address three important question areas, and be focused on a single issue. Each of these question areas should build upon the previous one.

Problem Landscape


What is the issue you are looking to understand? What is its history and what are the social, economic, corporate, environmental, cultural and political forces maintaining the status quo? Who is affected by it? What is the size and scope of the issue? What is the relationship of this problem to other areas of concern or opportunity?

Solutions Landscape


Who is already trying to solve this problem? What are they doing? What efforts have been tried or are being tried? What has worked, what hasn’t? Are any of these efforts linked to one another? What networks & resources exist? What has happened in the past, and what could happen in the future?

Lessons and Levers of Change


What is missing from the solutions landscape? Are there any market opportunities, missing links or actionable responses? What role do you see for future private, public, and social sector interventions or collaborations? What are the lessons you have learned from researching this issue?


Submission Format

Every submission must clearly include these three components and address the key question areas listed above.

1. Visual Map or Chart


Ideally you will find a way to present all or part of your findings in a visual system map. Get creative! We will also accept charts, diagrams and infographics that visually represent your findings. We want to make this research accessible and dynamic so find a way to bring your findings to life.

Take a look at last year’s finalists’ submissions for inspiration.

2. Analysis of your Research


Your visualisation should be accompanied by further analysis – not exceeding 3,000 words, excluding footnotes. Acceptable formats include: (1) a traditional Word report (2) a PDF or PowerPoint deck with supporting notes or (3) a Prezi presentation.

This component must offer an analytical perspective on what you have discovered.

3. Bibliography


You must submit a thorough bibliography that cites the sources you have consulted in your research. The best submissions will include a diverse range of sources and materials from academic texts and articles to op-eds and first-person interviews.

The recommendation is to use the Harvard method for citation.


Marking Criteria

Judges will be looking for submissions that show a deep understanding of the problem, clearly present the complex web of existing solutions, and identify opportunities that build on lessons already learned:

%  Thoroughness

To truly understand the ecosystem of a problem, you will have to go beyond simple web searches and a casual skim of websites. You will certainly explore the well-known organisations working to tackle your chosen issue, but the best submissions will also identify important but less famous resources and rising stars. Remember, information about programmes under development and challenges organisations have faced are not typically listed on company websites. You should contact organisations and interview people to find out more. You might want to seek out independent assessments of the organisations in addition to their own claims.

%  Clarity

The best submissions will be interesting to review, easy to follow and presented in a compelling way that invites action. If you are selected as a finalist, you will have the opportunity to work with a designer to provide ideas about how you might illustrate your findings. The audience for your presentation should be other practitioners interested in entering this field. Ensure that you explain the problem, define any specialist terms, and limit the use of unnecessary jargon or acronyms.

%  Insight

We reward teams whose submissions go beyond describing the problem and the existing solutions. To stand out, you will explain, for example, how several organisations would benefit from merging; how the sector in question could borrow a service model from another; what key research is missing to fuel change; or how effective government action could eliminate the need for a number of activities altogether. You might also identify a market opportunity and or the possibility to scale an existing effort through partnerships, franchising, or replication through education. Your overall goal is to provide actionable insights for those currently or wanting to work in this sector.


Click here to download the detailed Evaluation Criteria Scorecard that judges will use to mark submissions.



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