It was run by researcher Michael Levy, a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at UC Davis, along with Mark Lubell, an influential social network scientist at UC Davis. Levy asked participants to define sustainable agriculture by drawing "mental models" consisting of the important aspects of sustainable agriculture and how they affect each other.
Participants first constructed their own mental models electronically by creating mind maps or a web of words linked together. Then the group constructed a larger mental model together and discussed the implications. According to Levy, “the data generated will lead to research that informs UC ANR programs and advances the social science of sustainability and agriculture, and it will help us get a richer picture of how sustainable agriculture knowledge is distributed and moves through the community.”
Conceptualizing each individual's understanding of sustainable agriculture as a network of related concepts allows Levy and Lubell to apply cutting-edge network analysis tools to test hypotheses and find new insights.