Enabling a Better Tomorrow: A Systemic Perspective

It is evident from the current state of things around us that we're not nearly as good at dealing with situations as we could or should be. Typically our actions to address situations end up making the situation worse, or result in unintended consequences which present themselves as additional situations that have to be dealt with. Often it seems like we're playing Issue Whack-a-Mole. One might say that when it comes to dealing with situations we're the poster children for Pogo's “We have met the enemy and he is us!”

Enabling a Better Tomorrow is a free eLearning environment intended to demonstrate how the application of systems principles can improve the likelihood of solving problems so they stay solved and not create new ones in the process. Enabling a Better Tomorrow is constructed as an eLearning Map (eLMap) in Kumu as a set of concept learning threads. Each learning thread consists of a series of modules created using YouTube videos and Insight Maker and Kumu relationship models, each with explanatory narrative. An embedded set of discussion threads allow users to share their content perspectives with each other. Associated free webinars are also being conducted. You can view the Enabling a Better Tomorrow Intro Video as a Short Version (3m) or Long Version (38m).

EaBT was developed by Gene Bellinger, a passionate Systems Thinker, co author of Beyond Connecting the Dots: Modeling for Meaningful Results, host of the Systems Thinking World discussion group on LinkedIn and developer of the SystemsWiki.org website. If you would like access to the EaBT eLMap send your Kumu Username to Gene at systemswiki@gmail.com. If you don't have a Kumu username you can obtain one at Kumu signup. If you know others that might find this environment of interest please send them the URL to this page.


Member Andrew Jones to speak at Smithsonian’s Grand Challenges Consortia Symposium

Member Andrew Jones gave a presentation at the one-day symposium titled Living in the Anthropocene: Prospects for Climate, Economics, Health, and Security, organized by the Smithsonian’s Grand Challenges Consortia. It was held at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC, on October 9, 2014. Andrew’s presentation is titled “Solving Climate Change in 20 Minutes: A Guided Simulation.” The symposium considered how humans are transforming the climate and environments of the Earth at an accelerating rate through agriculture, urbanization, transportation, the use of fossil fuels, and many other activities. The views of leaders in the fields of climate, health, economics, and security who will consider the problems we face were featured and possible solutions offered.

Last year Andrew, along with his co-authors, was the recipient of the System Dynamics Applications Award, presented every other year for the best “real world” application of system dynamics. The award was for their work Climate Interactive: The C-ROADS Climate Policy Model. Andrew is the Co-Founder and Co-Director of Climate Interactive.


Otto Scharmer“5 Conditions for Shifting Social Fields” article in The Huffington Post

A recent article in The World Post, a partnership of The Huffington Post and Berggruen Institute on Governance, by Otto Scharmer, Senior Lecturer from MIT is titled “5 Conditions for Shifting Social Fields.” It talks about participants engaging in intense discussions with key thought leaders in global finance (Simon Johnson), Systems Thinking (Peter Senge), data-driven societies (Sandy Pentland), urban transformation (Phil Thompson), mindful systems change (Dayna Cunningham), and System Dynamics (John Sterman). The participants of this multi-day event spent one half-day in a workshop related to global climate change. Please click on the article link to read about what it takes to address the current crises of our time at the level of the source (as opposed to the level of the symptoms) and more.


New Publication: Extensive coverage of System Dynamics modeling in new CSS textbook

This new textbook, by Claudio Cioffi-Revilla, Ph.D., D.Sc.Pol., provides a unified Introduction to Computational Social Sciences in a reader-friendly format. The four methodological approaches; automated social information extraction, social network analysis, social complexity theory and social simulation modeling are explained in detail. In addition to explicit mention of all the main pioneers, the System Dynamics Society, the System Dynamics Review, software, and much more, the book features System Dynamics Society member Professor Nazli Choucri of MIT. Chapter 9 includes coverage of System Dynamics models since System Dynamics is an essential component of the CSS core. This book highlights the main theories of the Computational Social Science paradigm as causal explanatory frameworks that bring light on the nature of human and social dynamics.


NIH grant-funding and System Dynamics

The NPR blog posted a new article titled “After The NIH Funding ‘Euphoria’ Comes The ‘Hangover’.” The post reflects on a paper published at Service Science in 2012 by Richard Larson, Navid Ghaffarzadegan, and Mauricio Gomez Diaz. The original published paper developed a simple difference-equation model of new funding versus past commitments for grant funding agencies, and uncovered a balancing loop which can create periodic oscillations in National Institutes of Health new competing grants and magnify effects of change in budget on new funding.


Member Jim Thompson to present at the Third Global Symposium on Health Systems Research

Member Jim Thompson gave a presentation at the Third Global Symposium on Health Systems Research, co-sponsored by WHO Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research. More than 1,700 health systems researchers from 100+ countries participated in the conference in Cape Town, South Africa, September 30-October 3, 2014. The theme for this Symposium was on people-centered health systems: health systems that recognize that people are their central focus and resource, and that address responsiveness at population and patient levels as a central goal. The event brought together researchers, policy and decision makers, advocates, and implementers from around the world to develop the field of health systems research.

Jim’s session presented a study of a novel medicines access program to assist the poor living in rural villages in Kenya. A System Dynamics model simulated the idealized program and concerns about its actual implementation. Presentation participants were invited to interact with the model by trying alternative parameter values and suggesting improvements to the concept model.

The presentation included a section on System Dynamics methodology publications and global learning resources. The slides included a list of System Dynamics courses and degree programs around the world. If you have information on currently offered degree programs and university-level courses in System Dynamics, especially in Africa and East Asia, please send new or updated information to the Society using the course survey form. This information will be used to update the Society Web site.

Jim is a founding member of the Society’s Health Policy Special Interest Group and felt that this occasion was a fantastic opportunity for outreach to highlight System Dynamics as an extremely powerful tool for health policy and systems research.


In Memoriam

Past member Richard Stevenson passed away last week after recently being diagnosed with sarcoma. Richard founded Cognitus Ltd. and did much to promote System Dynamics through teaching and consultancy throughout the 1990’s. Amongst other things, Cognitus Ltd. was a sponsor of the Society, the UK distributor for the ithink System Dynamics software, and the organizer of the annual gathering of the UK Chapter in Harrogate for its first few years. Thanks to Eric Wolstenholme for sharing this information.


Global Sustainability Fellows Program

For the first time, in the summer of 2014, the Sustainability Laboratories of New York realized the Global Sustainability Fellows Program (GFSP), a trans-disciplinary study program at master level for students from all over the world. The purpose of the GFSP is to support a worldwide transformation toward a sustainable society. The program's goal is to prepare future leaders and managers from all sectors, including governmental bodies, companies and civil society, to master this challenge. The pilot program took place at EARTH University in Costa Rica. This small university is focused on sustainability; it even has an organic farm on its campus. Participants came from 15 countries and all five continents. Besides theory, an exploration of the tropical rainforest and visits to organic farms and factories, the program included fieldwork in Martina Bustos, a poor district of the city of Liberia. Markus Schwaninger, professor at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland, and a long-standing member of our Society, was on the faculty of the GSFP. He taught System Dynamics, the qualitative version of which provided excellent tools for the fieldwork: For example, together with citizens of Martina Bustos, students constructed causal loop diagrams in order to explore paths for the development of the district. Final evaluations showed that the program was a big success.


Students and faculty of the Global Sustainability Fellows Forum, Costa Rica, 2014

EARTH University, Pococí Campus, Limón, Costa Rica

Member John Sterman and Climate Interactive featured in film “Disruption

The film Disruption features incredible and informative interviews from scientists, activists and leaders—including Climate Interactive partner John Sterman of MIT. The film was released in advance of the People’s Climate March, the largest climate march in history, in the streets of New York City on September 21, 2014. Climate Interactive uses System Dynamics modeling to explore the interplay between social and planetary systems and focuses on climate change research. In 2009, John Sterman was part of the group that developed the Climate Rapid Overview and Decision-support Simulator (C-ROADS). The C-ROADS simulation calculated the long-term climate impacts of proposals that were under consideration in the negotiations to produce a global climate treaty at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in 2009. Last year, the System Dynamics Applications Award was presented by the Society to John Sterman, Thomas Fiddaman, Travis Franck, Andrew Jones, Stephanie McCauley, Philip Rice, Elizabeth Sawin and Lori Siegel for their work Climate Interactive: The C-ROADS Climate Policy Model. This award is presented for the best “real world” application of System Dynamics.


EncyclopediaYutaka TakahashiSystem Dynamics Included in Encyclopedia of Information Science and Technology for the First Time

The new edition of Encyclopedia of Information Science and Technology was published in July 2014 by IGI Global. This third edition of the encyclopedia includes System Dynamics in its content for the first time. One whole chapter is devoted to System Dynamics, and is written by the Society member Yutaka Takahashi. This chapter provides a brief introduction to the System Dynamics approach and lists fundamental and recent works in this field. For more information about the encyclopedia and the chapter, please click here.


book coverBrian DangerfieldNew Book on Discrete-Event Simulation and System Dynamics Methods

In recent years, there has been a growing debate, particularly in the UK and Europe, over the merits of using discrete-event simulation (DES) and System Dynamics (SD). There are now instances where both methodologies were employed on the same problem. The new book, Discrete-Event Simulation and System Dynamics for Management Decision Making, edited by Sally Brailsford, Leonid Churilov, and Brian Dangerfield (pictured left) details each method and compares each in terms of both theory and their application to various problem situations. It also provides a seamless treatment of various topics–theory, philosophy, and detailed mechanics and practical implementation–providing a systematic treatment of the methodologies of DES and SD, which previously have been treated separately.


2013-14 ASHRAE President Bill Bahnfleth (left) presents Samir Traboulsi with an Exceptional Service Award
Member Samir Traboulsi Receives ASHRAE Exceptional Service Award

Samir Traboulsi, Ph.D., P.Eng., ASHRAE-Certified Building Energy Assessment and High-Performance Building Design Professional from Beirut, has received an Exceptional Service Award from ASHRAE at its 2014 Annual Conference held recently in Seattle. The Exceptional Service Award recognizes Distinguished Service Award recipients who have continued to serve the Society faithfully and with exemplary effort.

Traboulsi is senior lecturer, American University of Beirut; general manager, Thermotrade; managing director, Ranec; Beirut, Lebanon. He served as the Region-at-Large director and regional chair on the Board of Directors. In that role, Traboulsi identified local HVAC&R needs; energized members to become advocates for the spread of standards; and encouraged professionals to become more involved. He founded the Lebanese Chapter and also initiated the founding of several other chapters throughout his region. As a senior lecturer, he uses ASHRAE Handbooks as part of his courses on building services and the environment.

ASHRAE, founded in 1894, is a global society advancing human well-being through sustainable technology for the built environment. The Society and its more than 50,000 members worldwide focus on building systems, energy efficiency, indoor air quality, refrigeration and sustainability. Through research, standards writing, publishing, certification and continuing education, ASHRAE shapes tomorrow’s built environment today. More information can be found at www.ashrae.org/news.

Samir is a long-time member of the System Dynamics Society. Congratulations Samir!


Peer Mentoring Network David Andersen connects with colleagues via a System Dynamics peer mentoring network, aka The Thursday Morning Group. David says peer mentoring is imperative to increasing effectiveness and progression in careers and professions, specifically in fields such as System Dynamics. The Thursday Morning Group meets via live video chat in order to catch up and provide support for fellow system dynamicists who are exploring new challenges and project avenues. Participants come from as far west as California and as far east as Ethiopia. Some members have known each other since 1975, and others as recent as several years ago. Attendance is very regular and members of the group are committed to high quality work in System Dynamics and its effect on society. Participants act as the group mediator to ensure effectiveness of the online peer mentoring session. The international group explores and develops aspects of System Dynamics issues, concerns and future planning by rotating who presents research and issues at the meetings. Each meeting has a particular focus and participants prepare questions they would like to address during meeting times. Friendships are strengthened and professional development increases as projects are launched and research continues to be conducted through the System Dynamics Peer Mentoring Network group meetings on Thursday mornings.

Perhaps there are similar efforts elsewhere that the Society can share on our website? If so please send us your news!


New PhDs

Ryan J. Higgs completed his PhD in the Department of Animal Science at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York in August 2014. The chair of Ryan’s PhD committee was Dr. Mike Van Amburgh. The PhD dissertation was titled “Development of a dynamic rumen and gastrointestinal model in the Cornell net carbohydrate and protein system to predict the nutrient supply and requirements of dairy cattle.”

The high value of milk protein, increasing feed costs, and growing concern for the environment has made nitrogen utilization a central component in ration balancing on dairy farms. The Cornell Net Carbohydrate and Protein System (CNCPS) is a nutritional model that enables the formulation of diets that closely match predicted animal requirements, and includes a library of approximately 800 different ingredients which provide the platform for describing the chemical composition of the diet. The objectives of this research were 1) to review and update the chemical composition of feeds in the feed library, 2) develop new capability within the model to predict nitrogen and amino acid supply and requirements and, 3) investigate the potential to improve nitrogen utilization in high producing dairy cows through using the new model to formulate diets precisely to animal requirements. A new, dynamic version of the rumen and gastro-intestinal (GIT) sub-model was constructed in the System Dynamics modeling software Vensim®. The study demonstrates that high levels of animal performance can be achieved, nitrogen utilization can be improved and the environmental impact of dairy production reduced through more precise predictions of nitrogen and amino acid requirements and supply.

Ryan is now the “innovation and farm systems manager” at Synlait Farms in Canterbury, New Zealand. Congratulations, Ryan!

Society member Martijn Eskinasi successfully defended his PhD thesis “Towards Housing System Dynamics: Projects on embedding system dynamics in housing policy research” on August 28, 2014, at the Radboud University in Nijmegen, Netherlands.

Congratulations, Martijn!



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Milne 300, Rockefeller College, University at Albany, Albany, New York 12222 USA
Phone: +1 518 442 3865; Fax: +1 518 442 3398; Email: office@systemdynamics.org

The System Dynamics Newsletter is published by the System Dynamics Society.
Editors: Robin Langer, LouAnne Lundgren, Weijia Ran, Rochel Rubin, Erin Sheehan, and Roberta L. Spencer