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AN INTRODUCTION TO SYSTEM THINKING

AND SYSTEM MAPPING

4 weeks workshop:
July 7th, July 21st, August 4th, August 18th

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Every second week we will have a class. The week in between will allow participants to read and work in teams.

Time:

4-7 p.m

(CST) 

Teaching

by

Omeplexity

Investment: $400 

UCI

Course Description

Through the process of evolution, our brains have adapted to making decisions in situations where cause and effect are related closely in time and space. When faced with even a modest degree of complexity — all too present in our modern world — our mental models fail us. We advocate vigorously for siloed “solutions” that result in unintended consequences and frustrate our best intentions. Often, we don’t even try to address the root cause of our problems, resorting instead to setting piecemeal objectives and managing by heuristic.

Our world, and the challenges it faces, requires us to evolve the way we think and take action, not just to solve problems, but to create the world we truly want.

 

Systems thinking gives us a set of practices, habits, and tools that help us think through complexity. In this course, we will explore the foundations of systems mapping, a powerful tool for visualizing complex systems that was developed at MIT by pioneers like Jay Forrester, Donella Meadows, John Sterman, and Peter Senge. We will learn not only how to think about complexity but also how to use the shared language of systems mapping and facilitative leadership to drive collective action for effective and meaningful change.

Objectives:
 

  • Students will be able to identify complex problems and articulate the importance of applying systems thinking in addressing complex social challenges
     

  • Students will learn to facilitate the development of systems maps, specifically Causal Loop and Stock & Flow Diagrams.
     

  • Students will develop lifelong habits for identifying, learning, and leading in complex situations.
     

  • It’s a project based learning, students will be assigned groups based on their survey results of their personal interests before class.

Agenda: 4 weeks workshop

Date

Student Objective

In-Class

Week 1
( 4 Hours)

Understand the basic language of systems thinking. Learn to translate observation into mapping.

- Introduction to Concepts Lecture

- Juggling Game

- Project Team Confirmation & Leader/mapper Selection

Week 2
( 4 Hours)

Gain a foundational understanding of system change

- Systems Archetypes
-Limits to Growth (‘40)
- Shifting the Burden (‘40)

- Iceberg Model & System change - Example & Next Steps

Week 3
( 4 Hours)

Gain a process for conducting research into systems.

- System mapping steps
- Computer Virus Homework Review - Stock & Flow Lecture + BOT

Week 4
( 4 Hours)

Learn system mapping and debrief

System mapping project presentation and final reflection

*time and content will be adjusted based on class dynamics

Teaching Team

 

This course was developed by Prof. Joe Hsueh and is led by senior members of his consulting firm, Omplexity.

 

The course design is based on the firm’s work facilitating participatory systems change for collective action with multinational initiatives including United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Sustainable Apparel Coalition, as well as place-based initiatives working on fishery restoration, groundwater rights, and performing arts development.

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Ian MacRae is a senior associate with Omplexity. Together with Prof. Hsueh, Ian developed the teaching materials that Omplexity uses to equip students and professionals with the tools of systems thinking, refining the content over the past five years.

 

His insights are drawn from the facilitation of dozens of systems mapping workshops conducted with large groups of systems stakeholders. Based in Canada, Ian returns frequently to Taiwan to lecture at National Taiwan University.

Brian Blankinship, as senior associate for Omplexity, works continually to apply the discipline of systems thinking to the real-life work of running a company and developing an ecosystem of systems thinkers for systems change. His past projects include work for the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the Global Steering Group for Impact Investment (GSG).

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