GSIF Conceptual Framework

In this framework, we wanted to highlight the goals, actions, and intended results of the fellowship. Our target audience for this framework is prospective students who are interested in the program so that they can get an idea of what to expect in the program. We also separated the stages into two sections- students and ventures- because the goals, actions, and results slightly differ for the two.

Conceptual Framework

This week, we created conceptual frameworks for the problem we are addressing and our solution.

The Problem


Our dream is to lower the rates of child stunting by integrating locally-manufactured affordable nutritious foods into the local food system. The primary issue is child stunting. Our product is trying to treat stunting that results from chronic malnutrition because there is a gap in that market. Child stunting results from a lack of proper nutrition in children, and this leads to food insecurity and disease. An already existing conceptual framework attributes availability, accessibility, and affordability, or the three A’s, as the causes of food insecurity. We incorporated the three A’s into our framework but also used answers to show that they could be causes of disease in addition to food insecurity. We also added a  cultural norms, lack of education, and poor infrastructure as a few of the systemic causes of the 3 A’s.


The Solution

In this conceptual framework, we tried to simplify how we are addressing the problems attributed to food insecurity. The core values that we tried to have in our product were local using local ingredients, having proper nutrient content for children, and supplying our products through street vendors. We tried to convey that each of these things leads to the availability, accessibility, and affordability of our product. In terms of affordability, our product is made of local ingredients and the only things that need to be imported are packaging and supplements. The supplements are extremely cheap- averaging about $0.001 per serving, but we did not include packaging in the framework because we haven’t chosen packaging for the pudding yet and the muffin will not have individual packaging. For accessibility, our products are ready to eat and made of local ingredients that are widely available in Sierra Leone. For affordability, our products both cost less than 5 (US) cents to manufacture and would be cheap enough for mothers to purchase for their children.

Class on October 29, 2019

8 Tenets of Systems Thinking

Tenet 1: Interdependence

  • Definition:
    • Interacting with all parts of a system for mutual benefit and achievement of tasks and goals
    • No one can succeed without the rest
  • Example:
    • In Sierra Leone, the malnutrition team assigned roles for positive interdependence. Each team member was responsible for one thing that mu


Tenet 2: Holism

  • Definition
    • A system exists as a sum of its parts. None of the parts could ever accomplish the goal that the system can accomplish as a whole. 
  • Our example:
    • PlasTech: we need manufacturers, designers, and legal workers who all can come together to create the opportunity to make a profit off of recycling plastics. None of them could ever do it on their own. Our “hq” centralizes the opportunity. 
    • Ukweli: we need Hassan, Allieu, World Hope, Wancheng, Lehigh, PHUs, proactive pregnant women to all come together and work towards lowering maternal mortality rates.


Tenet 3: Multifinality

  • Definition:
    • The same system can produce varied outcomes/solutions depending on variety of influencing factors. Each subsystem meets its own goal, while the system as a whole also meets its goal.
  • Examples:
    • PlasTech: Cleaning up plastic from local neighborhoods and/or preventing plastic from getting into the ocean and/or collecting plastic from companies that would have been thrown into a landfill.
    • Ukweli: What Hassan, Cassidy and Khanjan get out of the experience is different, yet they are all part/ working in the same system.


Tenet 4: Equifinality

  • Definition:
    • Opposite of multifinality- similar solutions can be created from different systemic inputs/processes
    • Understanding that a goal can be achieved in multiple ways or paths
  • Examples:
    • Both safe motherhood team and Ukweli want the same end goal–lower maternal mortality rates. However, the teams are trying to achieve it in different ways. 
    • Philippines plastics environment: collecting waste plastic and turning it into art versus recycling it into usable products. Both solutions lock up the plastic waste and prevent it from going into the ocean
    • Our example: Solving the issue of high maternal mortality rates in Sierra Leone
      • Safe motherhood team cannot lower rates just by themselves, they rely on the MOH, other healthcare innovations, education, etc.
        • One group cannot solve the entire issue on its own and some ventures or groups can benefit from others and advance their goals because of someone else
      • World Hope. They depend on multiple projects (ex: CHAMPs), each with their own system, to improve the livelihood of people in Sierra Leone.


Tenet 5: Differentiation

  • Definition (similar to holism & interdependence in definitions)
    • Enables interdependence and necessitates holism
    • Each independent part is different (in complexity, specialization, focus), but they are all working to reach the overall system goal – they are reliant on each other in order to form the system.
  • Everyone example: most of us have different roles/responsibilities on our teams that help us contribute to a larger goal
    • Focus on what students did and what they accomplished as sub-system
      • Students were actors in that subsystem
    • Ex: subsystems of the mushroom team- the different subsystems of their mushroom growing process
      • Spawn system
      • Substrate system
      • Mushroom growth system
      • All are independent systems but would never happen without one another
        • They are interdependent
    • Subsystems of the PlasTech system:
      • Sourcing plastic
        • Relationship management systems
      • Identifying customers
        • Relationship management systems
      • Converting plastic waste into value-added products
        • Manufacturing facility design
        • Mold design
        • Setting upRecycling facilities
          • Legal auditing
          • Personnel training
          • Machine manufacturing


Tenet 6: Regulation

  • Definition:
    • Checks and balances that alert failure and success points necessary to understand how to optimize the system
    • Feedback mechanism for accountability
  • Examples:
    • Our presentations that we give during the semester
    • Will it rain enough next year to get the rain water necessary to clean waste plastics?
    • Updates with our PI/advisor, ensuring we are on the right track
    • Ukweli: the forms that Hassan uses to track test strip user data with. It ensures he is doing his job properly and is closer to achieving the end goal of reducing maternal mortality.
    • Weekly meetings to keep us all on-track


Tenet 7: Abstraction

  • Definition
    • Systems-level thinking that moves away from little details and towards the bigger picture and how your system is working to affect it
    • Necessary to not “shift the problem” or create negative long term effects
  • Examples:
    • Malnutrition team: supplements
      • There are tons of different types of iron supplements but some have more side effects (like upset stomach) and some are more expensive. While we first thought, let’s just get the cheapest option to reduce cost, we stepped back and thought that because we are trying to make kids healthier, we need to sacrifice cost for less side effects.

Tenet 8: Leverage Points

  • Definition:
    • An aspect in a system that when deciding upon or working with, can ultimately create/lead to large change 
    • Archimedes: Give me a lever large enough and I’ll lift the whole world
  • Examples:
    • Recipe for malnutrition
      • Changing the definition from one small ingredient can cause good or bad effects
    • Deciding to add protein in the test strip as a parameter, so the test strip now screens for preeclampsia and UTIs
    • Charging a fee for mothers who give birth at home ($5 fine)
      • → encouraging the mothers to go to clinics to give birth
    • Identifying intrinsic motivation for people with depression and anxiety
    • Telemedicine acceptance

Concept of Emergence 

Emergence is when a system has properties that are different from the properties of the interdependent parts. It occurs when a system is observed to have properties or behaviors that its parts do not have on their own.

Multi-final solution to the water hyacinth problem

In the hyacinth problem, the people that are selling the briquettes could partner with local fisherman so that the briquettes are mutually beneficial. Fisherman can advertise briquettes to their customers as a package deal: Fish + briquettes used to cook the fish. The fishermen would be less angry because they would also be benefitting from the briquettes, even more than having cleared paths. The solution exhibits multi-finality because the people who collect the hyacinth and the people that sell the hyacinth (the fishermen) can both benefit and have different outcomes. In terms of holism, if the fishermen were not selling the briquettes well, they would not profit off of them but would still need to pay the gatherers for them, so they would have incentive to do well. This also relates to the tenet, regulation, and would hold the fishermen accountable for selling the briquettes.