Thinking Critically: Map the System Challenge

Since its creation nearly five years ago, the mission of the Kindred Credit Union Centre for Peace Advancement has been to advance peace locally and globally by catalyzing collaboration among partners and participants. This winter, the Centre facilitated a new opportunity for students at UWaterloo to advance peace through a global competition called “Map the System.” On April 8, the Map the System University of Waterloo Campus Final was held at Grebel, and an interdisciplinary team of Grebel students was selected to represent Waterloo at the Canadian Finals at Ryerson University. 

Initiated by the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at Oxford University, Map the System is a global challenge that encourages students to focus on exploring and understanding the underlying problem and solution landscape of a social or environmental issue. Now in its fifth year, more than 1,000 teams from over 30 universities in eight countries applied to the competition, more than ever before.

Map the System was open to students from every faculty at the University of Waterloo, and was integrated into the curriculum of courses in Peace and Conflict Studies and International Development Studies. Campus partners who joined the Centre for Peace Advancement in organizing and promoting this opportunity included the Conrad School for Entrepreneurship and Business, the Faculty of Environment, and St. Paul’s GreenHouse. A total of 46 teams applied—an impressive turn out, given the abundance of entrepreneurship competitions available every semester at Waterloo—and five were chosen to pitch at the campus final.

The winning team, made up of Stefan Hogg (Peace and Conflict Studies, pictured above left) and Nicolas Werschler (Applied Health Sciences, pictured above right), focused on the challenge of food insecurity in Northern Ontario. They both participated in a new course on peacebuilding and social innovation taught by Centre for Peace Advancement Director Paul Heidebrecht, and have been involved in the Grebel residence program.

Stefan and Nicolas now have the opportunity to represent the University of Waterloo at the Canadian Final at Ryerson University in Toronto in early May. In addition to competing against other student teams from a dozen universities for the chance to be one of two teams to represent Canada at the Global Final at Oxford University in June, they are eligible to apply for up to $10,000 in “Apprenticing with a Problem” funding in order to continue with their research.

Beyond the competition and the possibility of sparking social innovations, Paul stressed that Map the System equips participants for high-impact careers. “Students have enhanced their research and communication skills, made connections with experts in the community, and are now prepared to be systems leaders as well as systems thinkers.”

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