Abstract for: An activity theory-based analysis framework for micro-collaboration in participatory System Dynamics

Group model building is a participatory approach in collaborative decision-making and problem structuring using system dynamics. Effective group model building relies heavily on facilitators' roles and teamwork to support multiple stakeholders understanding. Although recipes for participatory system dynamics activities exist in forms of scripts and there is evidence that these activities influence communication, much less is known about how exactly they influence group model building communication and the micro-dynamics they create. To address this gap, this paper develops an analytical framework based on the activity theory concept to understand collaboration within participatory system dynamics activities. It provides a new lens to analyse the generic situation and to understand the relationships between the participating subjects, tools, division of labour between facilitators, and the object under study (i.e., group model building workshop). Using this framework, this work analyses participatory system dynamics activities focused on the quality of public spaces in Thamesmead, London, UK. Results from this work inform about the social learning process towards system dynamics techniques and languages and demonstrate how facilitators might develop various roles as part of the division of labour. In the end, this novel framework has the potential to substantially increase the understanding of micro-collaboration dynamics within participatory activities.