Abstract for: From situated action to model abstraction—and back again

Regardless of the number and quality of insights we gain from building and analyzing dynamic models, the only strategies people can act on are those in their heads. The strategies people internalize are directly related to their perceived capacities to act—the verbs they believe accessible to them. If we desire others to implement model-educated policies—a series of actions based on decisions informed by particular information flows—then we must be serious about connecting model abstractions with situated actions. We seldom do this effectively as reporters, assessors, prescribers. Instead, we can invest more time in their communities, recalling that we remain at their invitation. We can listen more carefully and longer, observe in more nuance and compassion. By offering our grammar of representations, relationships, and equations as much in their turn of phrase—and in their hand—as possible, we help connect piecemeal experiential understandings to richer, dynamic explanations they can internalize and so reveal, to us as well as to themselves, situated steps for effecting change.