Abstract for: Building Systems Thinking Capacity: An essential skill set for policymakers

Policymakers, worldwide, must tackle some of the most challenging and complex issues, yet their political environments make solving these issues nearly impossible. Political environments that are polarized, partisan, and divisive are ineffective and do not permit policymakers to be effective. System dynamics-based thinking skills are an essential skill set for policymakers facing adaptive challenges. The Georgia Health Policy Center created an innovative educational initiative that applies system thinking skills to health policymaking. This approach to legislative education can begin to change the way legislators frame issues, ask questions, build understanding and develop solutions to complex health care issues. In this paper, we describe the adaptive challenges faced by policymakers and how the traditional approach to legislative education providing more and better information -- is necessary but insufficient for creating high leverage policies. We describe how the Legislative Health Policy Certificate Program, an intensive training for policymakers in Georgia (USA), integrated health policy content with conversational systems thinking skills, stock and flow maps, and simple and complex models to move policymakers into evidence-based, more collaborative decision-making. We provide examples of how we used each approach and suggest lessons learned that can be applied to anyone interested in fundamentally shifting political discourse.