A conceptual model can be defined as a drawing of system parts connected by arrows showing functional or cause and effect relationships between the parts.
Representing under different conceptual or cognitive views the social – ecological system will foster system thinking. The whole is more than the sum of the parts: conceptual mapping ensures that all components of the system are put in perspective and help choose which are the more relevant parts and identify missing ones.
The first conceptual maps can be messy and dense. Start thinking in terms of interactions; focus on dynamics rather than detailed structure of components. Think simple and hierarchical – simplified view of complex systems.
The mapping exercise can be carried out as a group within the project core group or for example during a stakeholder interview.