Overview

  • Time Frame: 2.5 or 3 hours. Longer time for more participants.
  • Suggested number of participants: 6-18
  • Materials needed: Blank thank you notecards [do I include worksheets here?]
  • Room Setup: tables of 4-6
Download the Curriculum

The complexity of the social, biological and physical worlds often defies human intuition. Few people are prepared to work through the complexity within a discipline, much less through problems that transcend disciplines.

Systems thinking is a set of approaches and modeling tools used to describe and simulate the interactions among components of complex systems. With these tools, systems thinking provides insights into the functioning of systems and solutions to today’s difficult problems. This two-day workshop introduces the vocabulary and skills needed to think about, unravel and build models of real-world problems.

Participants will learn to fend off simplistic and static thinking with tools as diverse as causal loop diagrams, stocks, flows, time lags and simple computer modeling. Connections with leadership challenges will also be part of the mix.

  • What is the value of a community and network for leadership?
  • Who is in your network? How are you connected to them? Why do you value these relationships?
  • What skills/competencies/perspectives are you interested in developing, and who can help you do so?
  • How do you keep connected and be of help to people in your community and network?
Facilitator Outcomes Participants will be able to:
  1. Introduce the perspective that a vibrant network and community is essential for developing as a leader, having impact, and making progress in one’s career. Clarify the idea that being generous in these relationships is important for transformational work.
Describe why relationships matter for leadership, careers, and impact and express understanding that generosity in relationships is helpful in this work.
  1. Describe the process of drawing one’s network and give participants the opportunity to practice.
Visualize their own key relationships and networks and recognize important connections, missing links, and useful patterns.
  1. Provide an overview of thinking through mentoring relationships starting from the perspective of skills/capacity development and have students work through a structure process from this perspective. Facilitate conversation about this process.
Articulate skills/capacities they would like to develop and identify potential people who could be mentors for developing these skills/capacities.
  1. Facilitate conversation about strategies for following up on connections and maintaining relationships. Have students write a thank you note.
Discuss ways to keep vibrant network connections and use the tool of writing a thank you note.
  1. Build a community in the room and demonstrate the idea that everyone has something to give through sharing activity.
Recognize that they have many things to offer others in their networks and community and practice doing so.
  1. Debrief workshop and ask students to commit to an action to work on their community/network/mentoring relationships.
Propose an action step or two to improve network relationships.
 

Workshop Materials

 

    Sample Agenda

    1:30 – 2:00 Introductions & Icebreakers

    2:00 – 2:30 Connecting the Dots of Your Cultural Background

    • Values Exercise
    • Salsa, Soul & Spirit Exercise
    2:30– 2:40 Break
    2:40-3:00 Presentation
    3:00-3:50 Case Study: Why Diversity Can Lead to Better Ideas
    4:10-4:30 Reflection & Integration

    Ask students to share what actions steps they will be taking.

    Pre-Workshop Email
    We recommend sending out the pre-workshop email one-week before and a short follow-up two days before the workshop. This workshop does not require any pre-work before the workshop, but you could include a link to a TED Talk to help prime students for the workshop experience.

    Here’s an example:

    Dear Workshop Participants:

    Thank you for signing up for the Developing Intercultural Competence workshop. The workshop will take place in the [Learning and Environmental Sciences Building on the St. Paul campus] from [time-time] in [room] on [Date].
    [Insert description of workshop].

    There is no pre-work required for this workshop. You will need a pen. If you do have 18 minutes to spare, we recommend watching this TED Talk, “The danger of a single story” before the workshop.

    We look forward to meeting with you soon,

    [Your name]

    Post-workshop handout

    Post-workshop email

    We recommend sending out the post-workshop email within a day or two of the completion of the workshop, to remind participants of any actions they planned to take on going forward, and to get feedback while experience is still fresh. For this workshop, .

    Here’s an example:

    Dear Workshop Participants:

    Thank you for attending up for the Systems Thinking & Tools workshop. We hope you have a new perspective on complex problems and sense of how to begin approaching them. 
    We’re always looking to make these workshops more useful and effective, so please take moment to complete the attached survey and let us know what was helpful about the workshop and what else you would hope to gain from a future workshop.
    Thank you
    [Your name]
    Survey Example
    Click here for Google form.
    Ideally, the post-workshop email will include a link to post survey utilizing Survey Monkey, Google Forms, or a similar easy-to-use application. Here are some examples of questions:
    Did you learn what you hoped to from this workshop?

    If not, what would you would like to see in a future workshop?

    What were the most valuable take-aways?

    Do you have a better understanding of complex systems as result of this workshop?

    Do you feel like you have the tools to implement systems thinking in your own work?

    Please use this space to offer any other feedback you feel would be useful for the facilitators and for future workshops.

    References

    Wilensky, U., & Resnick, M. (1999). Thinking in levels: A dynamic systems approach to making sense of the world. Journal of Science Education and technology8(1), 3-19.

    Nguyen, N. C., & Bosch, O. J. (2013). A systems thinking approach to identify leverage points for sustainability: a case study in the Cat Ba Biosphere Reserve, Vietnam. Systems Research and Behavioral Science30(2), 104-115

    Senge, P. M., & Sterman, J. D. (1992). Systems thinking and organizational learning: Acting locally and thinking globally in the organization of the future. European journal of operational research59(1), 137-150.

    Leischow, S. J., Best, A., Trochim, W. M., Clark, P. I., Gallagher, R. S., Marcus, S. E., & Matthews, E. (2008). Systems thinking to improve the public’s health. American journal of preventive medicine35(2), S196-S203.

    Bosch, O. J. H., King, C. A., Herbohn, J. L., Russell, I. W., & Smith, C. S. (2007). Getting the big picture in natural resource management—systems thinking as ‘method’for scientists, policy makers and other stakeholders. Systems Research and Behavioral Science: The Official Journal of the International Federation for Systems Research24(2), 217-232.

    Best, A., & Holmes, B. (2010). Systems thinking, knowledge and action: towards better models and methods. Evidence & Policy: A Journal of Research, Debate and Practice6(2), 145-159.

    Midgley, G., & Richardson, K. A. (2007). Systems Thinking for Community Involvement in Policy Analysis. Emergence: Complexity & Organization9.

    Bazilian, M., Rogner, H., Howells, M., Hermann, S., Arent, D., Gielen, D., … & Yumkella, K. K. (2011). Considering the energy, water and food nexus: Towards an integrated modelling approach. Energy Policy39(12), 7896-7906.

    Videos

    The Value of Systems Thinking – Center for Disease Control
    The CDC on how seeing the whole system more clearly can help understand consequences and increase leverage as change-makers.

    Understanding Systems Thinking – Peter Senge, MIT
    Peter Senge helps break through jargon and to develop a real understanding of interdependence.

    Systems Thinking: A Little Film About a Big Idea
    An intro to the basic, underlying concepts of systems thinking, good for educational uses

    Websites

    The Systems Thinker
    A broad meta-resource for systems thinking approaches, covering a variety of domains with articles, case studies, and how-to guides.
    Learning for Sustainability
    Another compilation of systems thinking resources, curated from a sustainability perspective.

    Attending Boreas workshops has allowed me to learn and implement several valuable leadership tools in an increasingly connected world and how to present myself in a professional manner on paper, online, and in person.

    Image

    Melaney Dunne

    Master's Student Conservation Biology