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Using participatory modelling to study complex problems

In this project, we analyse the use of long-term social assistance among young adults in Finland within a participatory systems mapping framework. The project has three distinct yet complementary aims and contributions:

(1) to introduce and demonstrate the use of participatory systems mapping in social policy research (contribution to practice)

(2) to complement existing literature by highlighting drivers of social assistance use identified through the elicitation of causal maps during participatory modelling workshops and subsequent network analysis (contribution to knowledge)

(3) to identify potential policy leverage points—what we term here as intervention packages—to reduce social assistance use among young adults (contribution to policy)

Based on the identification of leverage points we put forward a series of policy recommendations in the Finnish context and generalise our findings to establish broader implications for social policy research, practice and implementation in other countries.


The first podcast episode of the year is about participatory modelling. How can modelling be used to study complex problems such as long-term social assistance use? Juan Castilla-Rho, Senior Lecturer at the University of Canberra, and Aapo Hiilamo, Special Researcher at Itla Children's Foundation, discuss the topic. The podcast is hosted by Sanna Ra.


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