Systems thinking & approaches for international development

14 Nov 2017 – 15 Nov 2017
Arlington, VA

The Global Knowledge Initiative and Georgia Tech Professional Education 2-day course on Systems Thinking and Approaches for International Development will take place on November 14-15, 2017. The course is worth 1.40 Continuing Education Units, and participants will leave the course with a better grasp of how they can use systems thinking and tools (e.g., systems mapping, futures foresight methods, etc.) in their social impact work. The course will begin with a focus on Systems Thinking. Once participants feel comfortable with the mindset, we will unpack some tools / approaches that can help turn that mindset into action. Participants will practice systems methods in real-time through a case study approach. The course will conclude with a focus on the importance of Systems Thinking and tools for management and leadership.

Additional Information:

How You Will Benefit:

  • Understand how Systems Thinking helps us deal with unstructured, complex scenarios. - Learn how to apply Systems Thinking methods.
  • Learn about specific Systems Thinking tools and practice applying them to your work.
  • Appreciate why international development institutions are mandating systems approaches.
  • Explore the Systems Thinking mindset that brings value across diverse systems approaches.


  • Understanding Macroeconomics

    I agree with you that we need to see our society as a system (in order to better understand it) and I have written about how to model this in SSRN 2865571 "Einstein's Criterion Applied to Logical Macroeconomics Modelling" as well as the book (of mine) which is in the listed references to this short working paper. I will send you for free an e-copy, should you desire it--write to me at But however cleaver we may be at representing the system it is not sufficient as to explain the basic cause of poverty and how to eliminate it.

    Poverty is due to lack of equal opportunity for rights to the natural resources particularly the land. By national purchase of all the land (as it comes up for sale, over a long period of time) and then leasing it out to would-be users, we can stop its being withheld from use and in its growing value being speculated. Improving business efficiency will not reduce poverty and it might even make it worse because with greater efficiency and no reduction in consumer prices due to monopolistic behavior, there will be more people unemployed.

    David Chester (1 week ago)
  • The System by Kennith Boulding

    A system is a big black box
    Of which we can't unlock the locks
    And all we can find out about
    Is what goes in and what comes out.

    Perceiving input-output pairs,
    Related by parameters,
    Permits us, sometimes, to relate
    An input, output, and a state.

    If this relation's good and stable
    Then to predict we may be able,
    But if this fails us heaven forbid!
    We'll be compelled to force the lid!

    David Chester (1 week ago)
  • Not all systems thinking is the same!

    I am bemused by the above poem on systems thinking it highlights that those of us who use the words "systems thinking" are often talking about completely different things.

    Systems thinking work in International Development that Danny Burns and I wrote of in Navigating Complexity in International Development ( is the idea of that systems are complex. Here, complexity is marked by unpredictablilty, non-linearity, emergence, wide fields of relationships where many things are connected, giving rise to attracters and system patterns.

    By contract, complicated systems are essentially predictable - like machines, where there are black boxes that have predictable mechanisms within them that only need to be deciphered in order to work out how to adjust inputs for certain outcomes.

    The difference between complex and complicated is profound and I believe that our tenacious attachment to mechanistic understanding is what causes development to fail. So when we talk about systems, it is important to be clear. I am not sure that a course in, say, computer systems theory will enlighten those of us who engage in complex social processes, simply because the underlying rationality differs between ultimate predictability versus unpredictability.

    But thanks for the poem all the same!!

    Stuart Worsley (4 days, 1 hour ago)
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