UBC Map the System

About the competition

Map the System is a global research-based competition that asks you to think differently about social or environmental change using a systems thinking lens. Students spend several months applying systems thinking tools to dive deep into a social, economic, health, or environmental topic they are passionate about. They create visual systems maps to articulate their findings in a way that people can meaningfully understand, share, and learn from. Selected teams then go on to present their work at the Canadian finals.

Map the System provides an opportunity to gain research experience while looking into a specific issue with the potential of examining the issue from interdisciplinary perspectives.

Former UBC Map the System participant

How the competition works

Step 1: Register online

Please register online individually or as a team by 11:59 pm on Wed, Jan 31, 2024.

Once registered, you will receive updates about the competition and reminders about upcoming deadlines.

Step 2: Register for the Canvas course

For information sessions, register for an upcoming Canvas course to learn about key dates, and to access resources, web tutorials, and discussion boards with your fellow researchers. The Canvas course link is available to registered participants only. 

Step 3: Pick your team or participate individually

You can register for the competition as an individual or in a team of up to 5 members.

If you form a team, one team member must be a current UBC student or recent alumni who graduated no more than 12 months from the competition registration date. The rest of the team can include anyone who is interested, including community members, faculty, or professionals.

Top tips to find teammates:

  1. Reach out to classmates and friends.
  2. Make a short presentation in class to share your involvement and search for teammates.
  3. Connect with clubs or groups where you are a member or that are relevant to your issue area.
  4. Talk to your professors and teaching assistants. Remember your teammates do not have to be current students.

Step 4: Work on your research submission

You can find support for your visual map, research process and final report through the additional resources on this webpage, one-on-one advising sessions, or the Canvas course.

Check out the Map the System Canada Evaluation Criteria Scorecards, which is what the judges use when reviewing your submission.

Step 5: Submit final research documents

Review the Map the System Canada submission guidelines and submit the documents by Fri, April 12th, 2024.

Step 6: UBC Finals

UBC will host a local campus competition to decide which team will represent UBC at the Canadian and global finals. The campus final will take place on Fri, May 3, 2024 from 1 pm to 4 pm with a hybrid set-up.

Application items to submit

All participants must submit the following:

  • A visual map
    The visual map represents your research in an accessible and succinct manner. This map can take different formats, including Prezis, infographics, and PowerPoint presentations. 
  • An analysis of your research
    This is an opportunity for you to present an analysis of your findings in up to 3,000 words, excluding footnotes. This can be a written report or a presentation. Read previous reports from global finalists.
  • Bibliography
    It is extremely important that you cite your sources. We encourage you to engage with a diverse range of sources including experts in the community. Use Harvard, MLA, or other accepted citation formats you are comfortable with.

You can review detailed submission guidelines for the Map the System Canada competition.

Additional resources

2023 competition winners

1st Place: Sexuality Education in British Columbia School Systems

Competition winners: Raiyana Alibhai, Jenna Ramji, and Gabriela Villamil

Comprehensive sexual health education is a recognized human right by global organizations and international treaties, but many British Columbian youth do not have access to the education that would provide them vital information, such as where to test for STIs and where to find emergency contraception. Additionally, British Columbia youth are highly affected by the shame and stigma present around the topic of sexual health. This stigma prevents British Columbian youth from developing a healthy relationship with their sexuality. This team utilized a systems-thinking approach to examine the current challenge landscape, root causes, and potential leverage points for enacting change within this system, along with conducting anonymous surveys, interviews, and a thorough literature review. They found that the provincial government has the most power to enact change.

This team represented UBC in the Canadian Map the System Finals and after placing in the top 4 Canadian teams, represented UBC on the world stage at the University of Oxford in July 2023. They received the ‘Undergraduate Award’ to commend an outstanding project conducted by a team of undergraduate students in a competition with undergraduates, graduate students, and professionals.

Check out their research submissions:

2nd Place: Addiction in persons without housing: A systemic analysis of the disproportionate substance abuse rates experienced by People without housing in Vancouver, British Columbia

Competition winners: Sheila Lam and Alexander Stolz

This team’s focus was to examine the current state of addiction in unhoused populations using a systems-thinking approach, exploring root causes and impacts. To better understand this issue, they explored historical attempts at addressing the opioid crisis and current international, provincial, and local strategies. Their research was conducted in the Vancouver Downtown Eastside. They collected qualitative data through anonymous questionnaires to better understand the lived experiences of individuals within these communities, since this issue extends beyond simple statistics. They also assessed the roles and services of local addiction clinics through interviews. They observed many barriers to accessing addiction treatment, with the most common being long waitlists. Addiction services also have limited in-house mental health counseling/services, with 43 percent of clinics unequipped to deliver them. This is important to recognize because mental health and addiction are linked in a positive feedback loop, amplifying each other.

Check out their research submissions:

3rd Place: Voices in the Void: The Silent Healthcare Crisis in Disorders of Consciousness

Competition winners: Christy Oi Ting and Aakanksha Sahu

Patients with disorders of consciousness (DoC) receive medical treatments that only treat the underlying condition or physical symptoms. Their fundamental human right to communicate, or the freedom of opinion and expression without distinction of language, is often ignored. Preliminary research in this area indicates that brain imaging techniques can be used for communication.

This team explored the systematic challenges that obstruct the creation of robust, universal consciousness research and treatment protocols amongst these patients. They conducted a literature search and an online, anonymous survey of healthcare professionals and family and friends of patients with DoC. They found that there is significant interest and positive sentiment towards this research, but a lack of forward movement towards implementing findings from brain imaging research into current healthcare protocols. There is a significant gap in the healthcare system for all patients with DoC that ignore their fundamental right of communication.

Check out their research submissions:

If you have questions