sumApp and Social System Mapping FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Social System Mapping?

Social System Mapping is an expanded version of Network Mapping that is emerging from the increased functionality of the combination of sumApp and Kumu.
It's a mash-up of system mapping, social network mapping, asset mapping, stakeholder mapping and more.

It is one lens on the new visual language that is developing out of the intersection of data-visualization, network science and systems thinking. We hope it can become a tool as useful to understanding and engaging with the invisible dynamics of human networks and systems, as geographical mapping is to understanding and navigating the physical world.

But mostly it is a 'sensitizing' tool. An interface that increases our sensitivity to the players, resources, and forces in the systems we're trying to transform, with the focus on relationships and interconnections.

It requires a whole lot of us to learn and then teach the new language. We invite you to be part of that effort.

What is the Purpose of Social System Mapping?

The purpose of social system mappingis to catalyze system transformation. To facilitate more, better, faster system-shifting, healing, generative, restorative wisdom among change-makers.

What is sumApp?

sumApp is a specialized survey tool designed to gather data directly from network members about their relationships to others in the network. sumApp exports that data into the format required by (a separate data-visualization platform, not owned or influenced by sumApp or Greater than the Sum) to use in creating an interactive visualization (or 'Map') of the data.

It was designed to be more user-friendly than other SNA tools, to be 'evergreen' (i.e. perpetually updatable) and usable with large populations (up to 1,500).

Data gathered by sumApp can be downloaded to your desktop or linked directly into to automatically update the map as your network members submit their data.

The relatively new, more versatile and dynamic combination of sumApp and Kumu has enabled a new kind of mapping to emerge. We call it Social System Mapping.

What is Kumu?

We Love Kumu!
Kumu is an online, interactive, network graph visualization tool. It can be used to make all kinds of maps, such as:
  • System Maps
  • Social Network Analysis Maps
  • Social System Maps
  • Stakeholder Maps
  • Asset Maps
  • Mind Maps
  • Value Maps
Personal accounts using public projects are free. Private projects have a slight cost. Organizational accounts enable complex permissions and have other cool features.
You can learn more about Kumu here.

Why Did We Develop sumApp?

When we began making network maps, the tools available didn't give us what we needed to do what we had in mind. Kumu was a big step forward, but it left a gap in the data-gathering, data-structuring category. The problems were:
  1. Existing social media tools all had shortcomings:
    1. You can't limit your Facebook connections to be just those relevant to your network (well, not without a lot of code). And who says FaceBook is even where you connect with your change network?
    2. Same for LinkedIn, even more so.
    3. Neither LinkedIn nor Facebook enabled you to distinguish the degree of connectedness (when we DID use LinkedIn, before building sumApp, and got a lot of complaints about how irrelevant many LinkedIn connections are. LinkedIn was simply misleading for a whole lot of reasons.
    4. Lots of communities we work with never touch LinkedIn - so whole communities would look non-existant on a map sourced by LinkedIn data (not good! We didn't even get complaints about that, just lots of disgusted looks)
    5. About 2 years into our practice, LinkedIn closed down their API, so we could no longer pull their data anyway - they recognized the dollar value and sold data access to the highest bidders

  2. Existing SNA tools were expensive & you couldn't even trial them without contacting the owners.
  3. Existing SNA tools also didn't have the most user-friendly interfaces - you could only use them effectively with what we considered small-ish populations (no more than a couple hundred). (we had a client that wanted to map 1,200 - so that was our target when designing an interface)
  4. Normal survey tools output the data in a format that is nearly impossible to wrangle into the right shape to be read by Kumu or any other SNA tool.
We needed a tool that solved all those problems, and there just wasn't anything available that came even close. So at the persistent nudging of our dear friend, Michael Bischoff, who had initiated the Social Innovation Lab in Minnesota, we decided to build what we needed ourselves.

We're still working on it.
And we invite you to be share your ideas about it.

What is Greater than the Sum?

Greater than the Sum was birthed by the marriage of Christine Capra and Tim Hanson. We combined Christine's interests in self-organizing in human systems and data visualization, added Tim's interest in data-wrangling and lightweight coding (with the purpose of keeping Christine happy), and began a practice aimed at the spot where visualizing data provides feedback for system change.

We started out doing a range of evaluation - survey - data viz kinds of projects but soon gravitated toward network mapping.
Greater than the Sum is a company started by Christine Capra & Tim Hanson. We developed and continue to improve the sumApp network-data-gathering tool and we create custom Social System Maps for clients using sumApp, Kumu, and other, externally-soured data-sets. We generally serve clients in partnership with network and systems-change consultants and evaluators.

Tim tends to stick to wearing the Technician Hat. He is a master at Kumu, can create VBA or JavaScript to wrangle any data-set, and as many data-sets as needed - automatically. He's the guy to go to when something breaks.

With client work, Christine mostly wears the Technician Hat as well. But as a leading visionary in an emerging field, she focuses on helping to catalyze the tools and practices of those wearing the Visionary Hat and the SenseMaking Hats. Christine also convenes a community of practice around the emerging field of Social System Mapping.

We both help to support a network around Social System Mapping for system-change agents, evaluators, and movements.

We know how much greater we are together than the sum of what we are separately, and our vision is that the 'greater than' dynamic is repeated, scale-wise, outward, through everything we do, creating a new field of practice that enables all of us together to accomplish much more than we would as separate parts.

Although we're all about data - we see our work as contributing to the emergence of a new visual language. One that we hope will one day be as commonly understood and used as geographical maps. A language that will enhance our understanding of human systems and enable us to adapt and transform faster and less traumatically than we are currently able.

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