Conrad Grebel University College
140 Westmount Road North
Waterloo, ON, Canada N2L 3G6
Google search trends indicate that the words “systemic meaning” reached a record number of searches in May - June 2020. As the world began to grapple with the concept that our lives are interconnected and the systems we rely on are a complex network of causes and effects, systems thinking has continued to be important for advancing peace.
Thus, it will come as no surprise to learn that the Kindred Credit Union Centre for Peace Advancement at Conrad Grebel University College will once again be facilitating the University of Waterloo’s participation in Map the System.
Map the System is a research competition for universities from around the world organized by the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School. The competition challenges students to confront a topic related to social and environmental change, and develop a thorough understanding of the system in which the topic exists. This will be the fourth year that students from the University of Waterloo will have the opportunity to develop their systems thinking skills as they compete for cash prizes.
Centre for Peace Advancement Director Paul Heidebrecht has been impressed with the growing diversity of topics and academic programs represented.
We have seen students from all six of Waterloo’s faculties, and from every stage along their academic journeys—from first year undergraduates to doctoral candidates—accelerate their learning through Map the System.
Indeed, the last three years have seen Waterloo’s campus competition grow steadily, with over 200 students participating in 2021. As in past years, the winning team in 2022 will represent Waterloo in the national competition, run by Mount Royal University’s Institute for Community Prosperity with the support of the McConnell Foundation. Students from twenty colleges and universities across the country will be competing for additional cash prizes and a chance to move onto the global finals at Oxford.
Waterloo teams have succeeded at both the national and international levels of Map the System. The 2020 team was one of two Canadian teams selected to advance to the virtual global finals stage, focusing on transit-induced gentrification in Waterloo region. The competition remained virtual for 2021, and once again a Waterloo team rose to the top of the national ranks with their analysis of foreign labour conditions in Malaysian palm oil plantations. The team competed globally in June 2021.
Leah Feor, a member of the winning Waterloo team in 2021, has joined the Centre for Peace Advancement as the Map the System Campus Lead for the 2022 competition season. Leah brings her expertise as a competitor, scholar, and educator. Leah is currently pursuing her PhD in Sustainability Management at the University of Waterloo, where she is focusing on the intersections of sustainability, climate action, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and systems thinking. Leah is also an educator, who works as a teaching assistant at the University of Waterloo and is a former instructor at Niagara College.
Leah’s role as Campus Lead allows her to guide students through the competition, ensuring Waterloo students feel supported as they embark upon the process of systems mapping.
The 2021 Map the System competition was a highlight of my time as a master's student at the University of Waterloo. I became involved with the 2022 campus competition to encourage students to seize the opportunity to think in systems and to support them on their Map the System journey.
Map the System encourages students who have no prior experience in systems thinking to consider joining the competition. Supports for teams at the University of Waterloo include not only Leah as Campus Lead, but also a broad network of coaches and professors with expertise in specific topic areas who can help students develop their systems maps. Oxford University also provides an annual guide that points to additional resources and tools to help students begin their changemaking journeys.
Responding to a world in crisis means acknowledging the fact that big problems require innovative solutions. Be a part of rebuilding the world in a more equitable and sustainable way by joining Map the System’s 2022 competition.