systems thinking

Systems thinking is an approach to problem-solving that helps us make sense of complex challenges.

It helps get a deeper understanding of the dynamics surrounding a problem, so we develop solutions that create change and avoid unintended negative consequences. Through understanding the enabling and inhibiting forces in our system — including people, social norms, trends, institutions, laws, policies, and natural resources — and the interactions between them, we can better identify ways to intervene to produce the most significant impact.

An 8 weeks, free online course delivered by Plus Acumen and the Omydiar Network to get a more in-depth understanding of systems thinking approaches, and practice on a project with a group. You can access the Systems Practice Workbook from the course, which outlines the steps for setting up a systems practice and putting tools into practice.

Initiated and nurtured by Forum for the Future with the support of multiple partners, the school of systems change offers different learning opportunities to develop systems change capabilities; recognising that the world is complex and interconnected, and that change is non-linear and happens at multiple levels over multiple time scales.

An index of a light-weight language to approach the design of complex systems from a holistic perspective.

A comprehensive downloadable toolkit with templates, provided by the Systemic Design Association, who are a network of innovation professionals advancing the systemic design practice.

Access and commemorate resources by Systems thinking precursor and leading environmental thinker Dr. Donella Meadows, such as Dancing with Systems, Thinking in Systems, and others.

Anna Birney from the School of Systems change outlines the five capabilities needed for systems change; systemic diagnosis, leadership and learning, innovation for impact, collaboration and engagement, strategic design.

Other useful ressoures


Dancing with systems by Donella Meadows.

The steps:

  • Get the beat.

  • Listen to the wisdom of the system.

  • Expose your mental models to the open air.

  • Stay humble. Stay a learner.

  • Honor and protect information.

  • Locate responsibility in the system.

  • Make feedback policies for feedback systems.

  • Pay attention to what is important, not just what is quantifiable.

  • Go for the good of the whole.

  • Expand time horizons.

  • Expand thought horizons.

  • Expand the boundary of caring.

  • Celebrate complexity.

  • Hold fast to the goal of goodness.

Read more about it here.