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Go deeper: Analyze your forces

This exercise is an opportunity to take your maps a step deeper.


The SAT analysis, which comes from the field of peacebuilding >, is a method for investigating the forces at play within a complex system. It helps you see the parts in relation to the whole more clearly.

This theory of change argues that any effective response to a complex issue must exist across all three levelsstructural, attitudinal, transactionalin order to be the most effective and sustainable. 

Structural forces are our natural or built environments, institutions, and infrastructure (things like the transportation system, education, or water quality).


Attitudinal forces are the attitudes, worldviews, assumptions, and beliefs that affect how people think and behave (for example, feelings of fear, pride, or a sense of security).


Transactional forces are the key interactions that take place between stakeholders in the system (like a debate that took place, a community meeting, or someone being incarcerated).



Labeling SAT

Looking at your map, label the forces you’ve generated in line with the S-A-T model. Sometimes, forces will fall into multiple categories, so it’s useful to talk through how you’re thinking about each force and determine where it most strongly belongs.

Label each force with an S, A, or T. If you’re with a group, make sure there’s consensus about how they’re being labeled and make time for discussion and debate.

For examples

EX: "Incarceration" could fall into both Structural and Transactional, so it's important to hone in on what you're talking about and create more forces if needed.

Is it people going to prison? That's transactional. Is it mass incarceration or the prison industrial complex? That would be structural. 

For examples


Debrief + discuss

This exercise can help organize some of the chaos that your team had mapped earlier and can help you dig deeper into your topic. Here are some questions to discuss as a group once you've labeled your forces:

  • What would a story or series look like that addresses information at all three levels?

  • Does your coverage often fall into just one category?

  • How can you use the SAT model to analyze existing responses to the issue?

  • What bright spots in the community or system can you point to that are already leveraging change against all three levels?


In your group, discuss these questions and document your answers.


Back to the exercise 

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