Modeling Food Security in Detroit with System Dynamics

11:15 AM - 12:30 PM

2:30 - 3:45 PM

Laura Schmitt Olabisi, Assistant Professor, Community Sustainability
Michigan State University

Renee V. Wallace, CEO
Doers Consulting

At last year’s ICM conference, participants in this session had the opportunity to interact with a system dynamics model of household-level food security in Detroit. This year, we are presenting an updated model that incorporates participant feedback. We will hold an interactive session exploring policy implications of the model, and will also discuss the ways in which food security at the household level is linked to dynamics at larger scales in Detroit.


Laura Schmitt Olabisi is an assistant professor at Michigan State University, jointly appointed in the Environmental Science and Policy Program and the Department of Community Sustainability. She uses system dynamics modeling and scenario visioning to investigate the future of complex socio-ecological systems, often working directly with stakeholders by applying participatory research methods. Dr. Schmitt Olabisi’s past and present research has addressed soil erosion, climate change, water sustainability, energy use, sustainable agriculture, and food security. She has led modeling and scenario exercises with stakeholders in the U.S., the Philippines, Nigeria, Zambia, Malawi, and Burkina Faso, and has published her work in Environmental Science & Technology; Ecology and Society; and Society & Natural Resources, among other outlets. Schmitt Olabisi holds a B.S. in environmental science from Brown University, and a Ph.D. in systems ecology from the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

Renee V. Wallace is a lifelong learner and entrepreneur, serving as executive director of Food Plus Detroit and CEO of Doers Consulting Alliance, both located in Detroit, Michigan. Introduced to participatory modeling in 2015, she served on the ICM conference planning team, helping develop the community track. That experience included engaging over 20 members of Detroit’s urban agriculture and community development organizations to create a systems dynamic model of food security in Detroit. Afterwards she joined an effort to build a Detroit-Flint-MSU modeling team to serve the Detroit and Flint communities. To date Ms. Wallace has partnered with Laura Schmitt Olabisi and Kyle Metta of MSU to develop a systems dynamic model and policy analysis using data from dialogues on urban livestock in Detroit, is a member of the SESYNC Participatory Modeling Synthesis Working Group, and is currently shadowing a team led by Artina Sadler of the Community Foundation, who is using mental modeling to support facilitation of “trusted conversations” with Flint citizens affected by the water crisis. Wallace is working to master participatory practices that complement participatory modeling methods. She envisions using both disciplines to work with visionaries and doers in accelerating implementation of innovative solutions to diverse challenges facing urban communities.

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