Synthesis map: Shining a light on alcoholism in Canada

In my Master’s degree course in Systems Thinking, we did a group assignment to create a giant poster known as a synthesis map about alcoholism in Canada.

A synthesis map combines graphics, facts, statistics and ideas to tell a story about a complex system.  My group chose to explore alcohol addiction in Canada, including the influences of human behaviour and culture, medical science, the economics of industry and advertising, and the politics & policies regulating alcohol.  Our full synthesis map was 3 by 7 feet, or 16 MB.

We found that Canadians are heavy users of alcohol, and that its embedding in our culture makes it hard to reduce alcohol abuse and its consequences.  Examining the wicked problem of alcohol addiction in this way allowed us to identify social factors such as Influence by family & peers.  Knowing about that leverage point would enable policy-makers to consider new interventions, such as involving family members in addiction treatment programs.

The synthesis map includes my causal diagram of alcohol addiction.   Alastair Woods created graphics for the poster as a whole, while Adam Hogan and Ashley Spiegel researched and wrote our report (which references the data sources).  I created the statistical graphics within the poster, as well as the summary of treatment options:







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