Systems Thinking and Complexity

Free Online course
Systems Thinking and Complexity
4 September 2017

This free online course addresses the practical problems that arise in social systems in the context of management and public policy at local, regional and global levels. It is problem-oriented, providing you with both the theoretical understanding and practical tools, to find and implement solutions to organisational and social problems.

Use systems thinking to solve complex, real-world problems
The course will look at the nature of social, managerial and policy problems, considering a variety of real-world examples: community action; crime and policing; health and social welfare; transportation; smart cities; energy; Europe and Brexit; and mass education for Africa and Latin America.

You will discover how a systems thinking approach can be used to understand and help to seek solutions to these problems, and explore the nature of complexity, why systems are complex and how complexity science can help.

Apply systems thinking methods and tools to your own area

The course will provide you with systems thinking methods and tools, to apply to your own problems and share with other learners in the discussions.

By the end of the two weeks, you will be able to:
  • define a system and apply the definition to a variety of social systems;
  • recognise the features of particular systems that make them complex;
  • analyse a system that interests you, to identify problems and formulate it in systems terms;
  • and apply advanced systems thinking to seek solutions to the messy management, business and policy problems you face.

Learn with the UNESCO UNITWIN Complex Systems Digital Campus
The course has been developed by the UNESCO UNITWIN Complex Systems Digital Campus, which federates international expertise on systems thinking and complex systems science.

Throughout, you will learn with Professors Joyce Fortune and Jeffrey Johnson – internationally recognised experts in systems thinking and complex systems science, who have taught and acted as consultants addressing practical issues in this area for many decades.

What will you achieve?
By the end of the course, you'll be able to...
  • Apply systems thinking to a wide variety of social and technical systems
  • Apply the Formal Systems Model to practical situations
  • Apply the concepts of Complex Systems System to understand why systems are unpredicatble
  • Apply the method of drawing systems diagrams to represent systems and their dynamics
  • Apply knowledge of feedback loops and their likely impact on system behaviours
  • Collaborate with others analysing and improving systems

Who is the course for?
This course is suitable for:
  • managers in the private and public sectors responsible for commercial and policy problem-solving in their organisation;
  • scientists wanting to take their research into practical applications;
  • officers of organisations such as UNESCO, the European Commission, and ministries in national governments;
  • young people wanting to engage in problem solving;
  • citizens wanting to formulate arguments for or against top-down policies;
  • or members of the general public motivated by curiosity or wanting to understand better the world we live in.
Who will you learn with?
Jeffrey Johnson, I am Professor of Complexity Science and Design at the Open University & Deputy President of the UNESCO UniTwin Complex Systems Digital Campus. I am interested in interdisciplinary science for policy.

Who developed the course?
The Complex Systems Digital Campus is an international network of individuals and institutions working together to promote research and education in complex systems science and in integrative sciences



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Systems Thinking and Complexity
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