- 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
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:|
||Describe why relationships matter for leadership, careers, and impact and express understanding that generosity in relationships is helpful in this work.|
||Visualize their own key relationships and networks and recognize important connections, missing links, and useful patterns.|
||Articulate skills/capacities they would like to develop and identify potential people who could be mentors for developing these skills/capacities.|
||Discuss ways to keep vibrant network connections and use the tool of writing a thank you note.|
||Recognize that they have many things to offer others in their networks and community and practice doing so.|
||Propose an action step or two to improve network relationships.|
|1:30 – 2:00||Introductions & Icebreakers
|2:00 – 2:30||Connecting the Dots of Your Cultural Background
|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.
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:
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,
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:
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.
Wilensky, U., & Resnick, M. (1999). Thinking in levels: A dynamic systems approach to making sense of the world. Journal of Science Education and technology, 8(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 Science, 30(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 research, 59(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 medicine, 35(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 Research, 24(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 Practice, 6(2), 145-159.
Midgley, G., & Richardson, K. A. (2007). Systems Thinking for Community Involvement in Policy Analysis. Emergence: Complexity & Organization, 9.
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 Policy, 39(12), 7896-7906.
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
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.