We must take care not to oversimplify an exceedingly complex and dynamic reality. This is a common mistake, resulting in a great deal of bad conventional wisdom.
The Hewlett Foundation uses Kumu to explore and understand the complex dynamics currently driving the inability of Congress to function effectively. By better understanding that reality, Hewlett hopes to influence the conditions in which Congress and its members can effectively deliberate, negotiate, and compromise.
The Foundation realized that a traditional model of linear causation didn't fit with a complex and dynamic environment like democracy reform. Systems mapping helped them see how cause-and-effect relationships are entangled and mutually reinforcing, rather than one-way and linear. It also helped explore how pushing on one lever in the system might have ripple effects in other parts, or how a change strategy might need to interrupt a vicious cycle.
It can be all too easy to jump the gun and dive into solutions without a deep understanding of the broader context. The systems map is not a representation of the Hewlett Foundation’s strategy. Rather, it illustrates Hewlett's understanding of the broader system in which its strategies are positioned and serves as a foundation from which strategic grants and partnerships are made.
The map is a constant work-in-progress and serves as an evolving representation of their understanding of the system that is democracy reform. The map helps generate and prioritize early evaluation and learning questions, such as:
By using the map to "pressure test" Hewlett Foundation’s spread-bet strategy, they can examine the extent to which the Foundation’s grants (individually and as a whole) correspond with the conditions and dynamics that drive Congressional dysfunction.