Abstract for: Exploring Tensions within Academic and Community Partnerships when using Community Based System Dynamics

Childhood obesity is a complex problem that needs to be addressed at the community level through PSE change (Mui et al. 2019; Hammond, 2009). Catalyzing Communities Initiative is a multisite study that creates community-academic partnerships and uses community-based system dynamics to help community partners better understand what drives childhood obesity over time and identify important leverage points to create change. In this submission, we explore procedural tensions that arise between academic and community partners when engaging in CBSD, focusing on three tensions that have emerged between our research team and community partners during our process: Consistency versus adaptability; Defining the reference mode and model boundaries; Model ownership. We share our efforts to respond and adapt to these tensions, our reflections from the process, and recommendations to the field of system dynamics. Recommendations include the importance of flexible funding, which allows academic partners to be more responsive to the needs of their community partners; the responsibility the academic team has to effectively communicate the importance of model boundaries to community partners; and the need for academic teams and community partners to co-create communication materials so stakeholders can share the project’s findings and action steps with the wider community.