Map of Organizations and Researchers involved with Complexity Science

Author:  Jinelle Piereder, Doctoral Researcher, Cascade Institute

The Cascade Institute uses stakeholder and social network mapping tools to better understand our strategic environment, to identify and engage with key stakeholders, and to better assess our impact. Here, we present a visualization of an ongoing mapping exercise of the global complex systems research network. The map will be ever evolving, as we regularly learn about new efforts and developments in this wide, interdisciplinary field. However, organizations and individual researchers can harness these same tools to better understand their field, industry, or strategic environment and to identify key players and possible collaborators.

This map reflects our growing database of people, organizations, and projects all working in the area of complex systems. The database is built in Airtable and visualized using a systems mapping tool called Kumu.

What is Airtable?
Airtable is a powerful combination of a spreadsheet and a relational database. We use Airtable to gather and organize information about the evolving complex systems research landscape. Learn more

What is Kumu?
Kumu is a systems mapping and visualization platform with highly customizable views and ways to explore the data. By combining these tools, we gain all the rich detail possible in a relational database, as well as the compelling visualizations and network analysis insights from a systems/network mapping tool. For more details about Kumu’s architecture, click here or watch this video.

Our goal in creating this map is not only to provide a useful resource to others working in complex systems, but also to ensure we seek out the best partnerships and collaborations, are not duplicating the efforts of other organizations, and are working to increase the coherence and policy-relevance of complex systems work.

This mapping exercise is ongoing and in no way represents a full picture of complex systems research. If you’d like to submit a new organization, project, or researcher to the map or if you notice an error, please send us an email at

We hope this map will be useful to students interested in the field of complex systems, as they search for potential programs of study, advisors, and career opportunities. Researchers can make use of the map to identify institutions with a complex systems approach or program, find leading and well-connected scholars, and make note of gaps (in geography/location, disciplines, and subject areas). Many of these organizations and people use their complex systems work to inform public policy recommendations—therefore, this map may also be useful for policymakers and community leaders. Finally, the business community can use the map to identify potential partners or complexity experts with knowledge about individual markets, sectors, or industries. Overall, the map will be useful to anyone who currently or wishes to integrate complex systems approaches in their work.

  • Investigate relationships between people/organizations
  • Identify key influencers and important hubs
  • Find pathways of connection from one element to another
  • Search for organizations to link to or partner with
  • Search for possible speakers/experts
  • Identify interviewees
  • Find universities with complex-systems-related programs
  • Search for potential academic advisors
  • The map is made up of elements (the dots, known in network science as nodes) and connections (the lines, known in network science as links). ). In this map, the elements are entities (a person, organization, initiative, etc.) and are shown in the colour-coded legend. The connections represent the relationships between these entities (with link types such as employee/employer, advisor or board member, member, etc.).
  • Zoom in and out by using your mouse’s roller ball or by clicking the plus and minus icons at the top-right of the map. Click the two arrows pointing to each other to fit the whole map in the frame. You can also grab and move the map background with your mouse to reposition your view.
  • Hover over any element to see a popup summary of its profile. Hover over any connection to see its type.
  • Read an element’s whole profile by selecting it in the map. In the side panel that opens, you'll see the element's type (which is color-coded and shown in the map legend), an image, description, tags, website, city/state, and country. Note that not every element has every field filled in yet (this is an ongoing project!). Click anywhere on the map background to unselect the element and close the side panel.
  • You can select multiple elements or connections by holding down the “shift” key.
  • Search: You can search for specific people, organizations, etc. in the search bar at the top-left of the map.
  • Showcase by Country: Highlight elements (and their direct connections) based on Country by selecting one or more Countries in the first dropdown menu at the top of the map. Click the Country name again to de-select it.
  • Showcase by Tags: Highlight elements (and their direct connections) with only certain tags by selecting one or more Tags in the second dropdown menu at the top of the map. Click the Tags again to de-select them.
  • Filter by Element Type: View only certain element types using the third dropdown menu at the top of the map. You can select one or more types, and everything else will be temporarily hidden. Click the Types again to de-select them.
  • Focus: When you have one or more elements selected, the “focus” button will appear at the top-right of the map underneath the zoom buttons. Click it to filter away (hide) all the other map data. Use the up and down arrows to increase or decrease the number of connections away from your focus. The number of elements and connections in your current focus is displayed at the bottom of the map.