Select Page


Systemic Maturity Models and Multi-organization collaborations: the ACMHI Mentally Healthy Campus Maturity Model

Format: Papers, RSD6, Topic: Health & Well-being, Topic: Learning & Education

Sharon Matthias and Jess McMullin

policy and policy implementation innovation flourishing communities health and population wellness No single profession, group or organization can successfully address today’s societal No single profession, group or organization can successfully address today’s societal challenges alone. This is increasingly declared, but operationalizing it is a different matter. Conventional management and governance tools are based on implicit design criteria that support individual organizations’ isolated operation. Collaboration that simply combines multiple organizations’ individual actions does not provide the synergy required to achieve the level of collective impact required to match citizens’ increasing expectations and increasing diversity and complexity of users’ needs. Few leaders have robust tools to help them operationalize the need for multiple persons, professionals, organizations and sectors to collaborate effectively and reliably as a matter of routine in all dimensions of operation. For legacy systems such as healthcare, education, justice and environment, the cost of not attending to this is high. Organizations and professions, as well as the governments that fund them, are focusing on monetary costs while silently leaking citizens’ confidence and trust in their ability to solve problems and achieve required results in citizens’ lives. One example of a complex societal challenge is supporting people to improve their mental health and provide appropriate services for mental illness and addictions. This requires a complex strategy that integrates the efforts of an individual with many other people, professions, agencies and governments. These must provide a myriad of services and supports, which also recognize the many interacting factors of the individual’s physical, social and informational environments. This challenge also includes moving from illness oriented strategies to integrated, wellness oriented strategies that combine the worldview and narrative of increasing health, achieving peoples’ potential and quality of life, as well as those of treating, supporting or preventing illness. However, operationalizing a holistic view that combines such a host of factors and their differing fields of knowledge, as well as requiring multiple organizations to work together as a matter of routine can be paralyzing: Which factors? How do we know how we’re doing, who should do it, and what should we do next? And how do we know how our own contribution best helps create synergy so we get as much value as possible? What is a Maturity Model? A maturity model describes the stages of maturity through which a process evolves, to provide increasing levels of reliability and value. It supports self-review and collaborative conversations – for designing strategies, adapting management and governance systems, and assessing progress. Unlike traditional evaluation, a maturity model focuses on the organization’s capability to create change, rather than the change itself. A maturity model doesn’t replace evaluation, but can be an important part of a leader’s suite of tools for assessing progress and choosing priorities. Systemic maturity model for human systems Some maturity models follow only one dimension or process3, but a human systems maturity model will have significant additions: • First, a systemic maturity model combines multiple related dimensions or processes and the maturity level of each, providing a way to assess each in relation to the whole. This allows a strategic approach to evolve from a population perspective to a whole systems perspective. • Second, systemic maturity models honour the reality that, to assure its ongoing resilience, a system must continuously adapt in response to changing demands of its environment. To achieve balanced growth and resilience, each dimension or process within a human system must learn from experience and imbed that learning in successive stages, but in a way that supports rather than impairs or neutralizes other dimensions. • Third, a systemic maturity model acknowledges that participants are not all at the top level in every dimension. Rather than the mirage of perfection with both commitments and goalposts in the distant and unaccountable future, a maturity model shows where specific immediate improvements can be made—the next step or the adjacent possible. • Fourth, a systemic maturity model can provide the needed, constant reminder of the operational requirements for making a shift in worldview and archetypal narrative – for example an evolution from illness-oriented systems to integrated illness and wellness-oriented systems. • Finally, human systems are not islands. The seamless interaction between systems is increasingly a core aspect of a client, patient or student’s experience and successful outcome, and critical to achieving a seamless client/patient journey. So, a systemic maturity model must include competence at inter-system as well as interorganizationand interpersonal collaboration, and must include ways for systems to create common understanding of their shared experience among all members of all systems. Presented as a dashboard or scorecard, a systemic maturity model can provide a powerful communication tool for multiple audiences, and thus a potentially valuable change management and governance tool. Multiple organizations using the same 3 The capability based maturity model is a recognized type of maturity model, though its stages may not include one for adapting and moving to the next developmental stage. 3maturity model can identify their individual contribution in the context of the combined ability to create their common outcome. The authors present their experience with ACMHI – the Alberta Campus Mental Health Innovation initiative to improve post-secondary student mental health. An innovation project funded by the Alberta government from 2013 – 2017, ACMHI enabled a student leader organization to stimulate action of student associations on 14 small to medium size post- secondary institutions. The authors were contracted to develop Legacy Tools,including a systemic, Mentally Healthy Campus Maturity Model, that would enable future student leaders to build on the work and learnings of student associations during this initiative. These Legacy Tools also helped student leaders make their case for incorporating student-led initiatives in a province-wide Post-Secondary Student Mental Health strategy. Student leaders directed that the Legacy Tools embody two key design principles – a wellness orientation and a mentally healthy campus frame. This paper describes the form and elements of the systemic maturity model, operationalizing it for three levels of user capability as well as potential applications to other societal challenges needing systemic design approaches. Keywords • health and population wellness • systemic integrated wellness and illness oriented strategy • mentally healthy campus • leadership tools for inter-organization, inter-system collaboration and adaptation • public sector innovation • systemic design and assessing progress • practice case

Presentation & paper




Citation Data

Author(s): OCTOBER 2017
Title: Systemic Maturity Models and Multi-organization collaborations: the ACMHI Mentally Healthy Campus Maturity Model
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Article No.:
Symposium Dates:
First published: 12 October 2017
Last update:
Publisher Identification: