Visualizing a system to reduce substance abuse

 
 
Substance_abuse.jpg

The Substance-Free Initiative of Northwest Michigan, sponsored by the United Way, saw the need to coordinate a regional collaboration addressing substance abuse in five rural counties. Through a coalition of organizations and service providers that develop solutions from a variety of perspectives, these communities are working together to attack this complex issue from every direction to weaken its strength and negative impact on human lives.

Currently there are local county level substance abuse coalitions in each community, but are at different levels of involvement: some are geared specifically to prevention or youth programming; some are shared with counties outside of a five county region. We were asked to visualize the system by a strategist hired to establish the initiative and describe the way the system will work to everyone involved.

"The intent of this project was not to eliminate or replace these county level groups, or any other groups that are currently working on substance abuse issues; it was to identify ways that these local groups could be regionally connected, strengthened and enhanced."

— Substance-Free Initiative Strategist

PROJECT RESULTS

Working closely with the strategist, we designed a working system map to describe the structure of the initiative, and each stakeholder's role in the context of the five-county regional effort. Based on a document that detailed the initial research and acceptance of the coalition's basic tenets, we designed a graphic map that shows both the structure of the system and the nature of interactions between each region and represented group.

Going forward, the team can use this as they build programming and initiatives to reduce the prevalence of substance abuse, noting the location, individuals and processes involved in making progress toward this critical goal.

"We knew we had a complicated, interconnected system in place, but none of us could describe what it looked like. This visualization serves as the base map for our planning discussions."
— Substance-Free Initiative Strategist
 
 
 Final system visualization

Final system visualization