Transforming Modeling, Cerise SG

Transformative Modeling

Transforming Modeling
In the face of multiscale, -stakeholder, -issue, -perspective, -resolution, and -aspect issues of high complexity, such as transitions in large scale socio technical issues (LSTS) models need to be able to encompass a wide variety of knowledge from different disciplines and participatory modeling exercises are increasingly being undertaken.

The need for participatory modeling that studies multiscale, -stakeholder, -issue, -perspective, -resolution, and -aspect issues of high complexity, can be understood as a need for modeling that is not just participatory involving stakeholders in some aspects of the modeling, but transformative.

Transformative processes aim not only at improved decision making for a limited group of stakeholders, but utilize the participatory process to engender active and effective interaction as well as collaborate decision-making amongst a wide range of stakeholders to bring about discontinuous, large scale, systemic change.


While transformative processes that can occur in modeling have not yet been studied, the conceptualization of transformative processes in this thesis shall rely on the learning theory for adults described by sociologist Mezirow named transformative learning and Adam Kahane’s description of transformative scenario planning (Kahane & Van Der Heijden, 2012; Jack Mezirow, 1997).

Transformative scenario process

Transformative modeling has been undertaking for critical reflection on mental models in the qualitative scenario planning studies undertaken by Kahane. He argues that a transformative scenario process is effective for situations with the following characteristics (2013):

  1. Stakeholders have identified their situation as “unacceptable, unstable, or unsustainable” and see a change in the status-quo as the only way out
  2. Transformation can only be achieved by working together with a variety of stakeholders in the system in which they are embedded and cannot be brought merely through collaborations with colleagues and friends
  3. Transformation cannot be achieved directly because there is not a common understanding of the solution or the problem. All they agree on is that there is a problem that must be solved.

The establishment of a new level of organization that enables global resource management, requires transitions that fulfill the three characteristics of a situation in which a transformational approach can be helpful.

As can be seen from these characteristics, transformative processes require a variety of stakeholders to work together.

Engage in critical reflection

Participatory computer-based modeling could enhance this process by further assisting individuals to engage in critical reflection and enhance the process by allowing for systematic reflection on a set of assumptions and expectations which human cognition can only conceive of in faulty ways.

Computer-based models can assist transformative processes of transition that occur in LTSTs, especially through enhancing understanding of the structure of complex systems and how dynamic and emergent occurrences are a result of this underlying structure as well as have specific policy outcomes that guide action (Holtz et al., 2015).


Overall, a picture of transformative modeling emerges that requires co-management and thus the deep involvement of stakeholders through co-management across all components of the modeling process.

Now that various modeling tools have matured and the challenges that it can solve increase, these large scale participatory, transformative efforts should be better understood as a crucial instrument in avoiding global collapse.


Written by Anne van Bruggen MSc. Industrial Ecology, TU Delft

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