Abstract for: Using Group Model Building to Develop a Shared Mental Model of Community Gardening in Rural Missouri

This project used a Group Model Building approach to facilitate a shared understanding of the diverse visions and priorities for community gardening in a rural Missouri town, as well as how those goals are interrelated. We partnered with the Wellness Council of the Poplar Bluff Community Resource Center to develop a shared vision for the future of community gardening in their town. Wellness Council members were all invested in the community garden concept, but there as a diversity of opinion about garden priorities, policies, expectations, goals, and visions, indicating a need for a shared mental model. We began by implementing a mini-GMB session with the CRC leadership team and conducting key stakeholder interviews to learn more about the history of the garden and identify stakeholders’ various mental models of community gardening. This informed the creation of an Oral History script which we used to make different mental models explicit and normalize different approaches to community gardening. We also made adaptations for COVID including facilitating sessions outside and the use of online GMB interviews for individuals who could not attend. Insights and recommendations are discussed.