Abstract for:Collaborative Systems Thinking to Teach Old (And Young!) Dogs New Tricks: Triggering Better Decisions to Reduce Alcohol Misuse Among College Students

Despite tremendous interest and investment in curbing alcohol misuse among college students, problematic drinking and its negative consequences have remained stable over the past two decades on most US college campuses. A classic sign of policy resistance, we believe investing in changing decision makers’ mental models about what actions to target is needed.

In this work in progress session, we will describe our early steps in an ongoing college drinking prevention project, which have focused on eliciting decision-makers’ mental models and preferences for action – both individually, and after discussing their perspectives as a group within a single community.  For this project, we convened a group of 11 stakeholders working to reduce alcohol misuse on a large college campus in the southern US.  We generated a list of all variables included in individual mental model diagrams and sorted these into themes. Individual diagrams were compared to pre- and post-retreat prioritized actions to illuminate how mental models align with priorities for action and to assess the extent of change in priorities attributable to the session.  Individuals’ pre-retreat priorities were generally connected to their diagrammed mental models and about 40% of priorities changes after the retreat, with the rest becoming more specific.