Elicitation of Needs/Resources

The purpose of this script is to elicit a set of resources or needs that will serve as the key stocks in a stock and flow diagram.  This script focuses on a situation where the purpose of modeling is not to solve a problem, per se, but rather to understand a system’s resource architecture.


Promising practice

Primary nature of group taskEdit



Preparation time: 0 minutes

Time required during session: 20 minutes

Follow-up time: 0 minutes


  1. Markers
  2. Stacks of plain paper
  3. Chalk/whiteboard markers




  • List of variables that can be stocks


  • Facilitator with moderate expertise in SD and small group facilitation
  • Modeler with moderate expertise in SD
  • Recorder to document stories


  1. The facilitator gives each participant sheets of blank paper and markers.
  2. The facilitator writes a task-focusing question such as, “What are the key variables affecting the process and outcomes of the [project name] project?” on the whiteboard or flipchart.
  3. The facilitator asks participants to write as many problem-related variables as they can on the sheets of paper. Participants are given a few minutes to work individually on their lists.
  4. Once they have finished the individual exercise, the facilitator uses the same process used in the "Hopes and Fears" script to put all individual variables on the board. When a variable name is open to several interpretations, the facilitator asks for a brief description or definition of the variable, including the units in which the variable can be measured.
  5. The facilitator writes the variable name on the board, including any additional information in parenthesis.
  6. The facilitator asks the participants to prioritize the variables by simple voting mechanisms. Individuals can vote for as many variables as they want. The number of votes for each variable is also written down on the board.
  7. The facilitator makes a summary of the variables on the board, while the recorder captures the products of the process either photographically or in a word processor.
  8. The facilitator suggests which variables can be considered stocks as they are mentioned. If the participants agree, the facilitator can add the words “level of” to these variables.

Evaluation CriteriaEdit

  • Participants are able to brainstorm a list of variables with levels.


Ellis Ballard, Kelsey Werner, and Rahul Chathurvedi


This script was first developed piloted with the Foundation for Ecological Security in Horsely Hills, Andhra Pradesh, India. It is an adaptation of the Variable Elicitation script of Andersen and Richardson that is oriented toward the Resource Based View that has been elaborated in System Dynamics by John Morecroft, Kim Warren, and others.




 Morecroft, J. D. (1997, August). The rise and fall of people express: a dynamic resource-based view. In Proceedings of the 1997 System Dynamics Society Conference. System Dynamics Society, Albany, NY (pp. 579-586).