Case Studies: Causal Loop Diagrams in Action

Summary: Mexican cartels have corrupted the social, political, and public life in Mexico for some time. However, over the last decade, these cartels have evolved into complex criminal networks engaged in various illicit activities, such as human trafficking and smuggling of cash and weapons. ANSER analysts were asked to identify key dynamics associated with Mexican cartels and their operation, and assess the existing response strategies’ potential to bring about systemic change. Using CLDs, the study team characterized the dynamic relationships and complex feedbacks between key variables involved in different domains of cartel operations, identifying in the process the inherently systemic causal factors.

Summary: The US public education system is characterized by some undesirable performance problems such as low test scores, graduation rates, and readiness for college as well as achievement gaps and low scores in international standardized tests. ANSER analysts used systems thinking to understand the root causes of these problem.

Summary: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is congressionally mandated to conduct a review of its long-term strategy and priorities every four years, resulting in the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review (QHSR). ANSER analysts were asked to provide systems assessment support to DHS to conduct the 2014 QHSR. The study included characterization of various risk areas (e.g., terrorism, organized crime, and cybersecurity) to understand key dynamics, current trends, and priorities for action.