AIM: Systems approaches can help characterise local causal systems, identify useful leverage points, and foster participation needed to localise and catalyse development action. Critically, such efforts must be deeply rooted in place, involving local actors in mapping decision-processes and causation within local physical, social and policy environments. Given that each place has a unique geographical or spatial extent and therein lies its unique characters and problems, we term these activities "placially explicit." We describe and reflect on a process used to develop placially explicit, systems-based (PESB) case studies on issues that intersect with and impact urban health and wellbeing, addressing the perspectives of various actors to produce place-based models and insights that are useful for SDG localisation.
METHODS: Seven case studies were co-produced by one or more Partners with place-based knowledge of the case study issue and a Systems Thinker. In each case, joint delineation of an appropriate framing was followed by iterative dialogue cycles to uncover key contextual factors, with attention to institutional and societal structures and paradigms and the motivations and constraints of other actors. Casual loop diagrams (CLDs) were iteratively developed to capture complex narratives in a simple visual way.
RESULTS: Case study development facilitated transfer of local knowledge and development of systems thinking capacity. Partners reported new insights, including a shifting of problem frames and corresponding solution spaces to higher systems levels. Such changes led partners to re-evaluate their roles and goals, and thence to new actions and strategies. CLD-based narratives also proved useful in ongoing communications.
CONCLUSION: Co-production of PESB case studies are a useful component of transdisciplinary toolsets for local SDG implementation, building the capacity of local actors to explore complex problems, identify new solutions and indicators, and understand the systemic linkages inherent in SDG actions across sectors and scales.