Complex social systems

Efforts to promote population and community-level social wellbeing and public health are frequently hindered by failures of interventions to achieve desired aims, unexpected sources of policy resistance, and, unintended or unanticipated consequences of policy actions.  What we often find is that many of the causes of social and public health problems have their roots in well-intentioned policies and programs that ignore the implications of feedback, nonlinear interactions, delays, and accumulations over time, resulting in counter-intuitive outcomes.

System Dynamics

System dynamics ​(SD) is a method for understanding, designing, and managing change.   SD employs qualitative causal maps and formal computer simulation modeling approaches to understand complex dynamic systems from an endogenous, or feedback perspective.  This approach allows us to design new, more effective and inclusive policy and program interventions to achieve more equitable outcomes.

“In  CBSD our role is to figure out the grammar of a discussion, not to write the sentences”

-Peter Hovmand

Community Based System Dynamics

The specific approach taken by the Social System Design Lab is called Community Based System Dynamics (CBSD).  CBSD uses the tools of system dynamics and participatory group modeling building approaches to build models to explore questions of social justice, equity, and health while developing capabilities within communities and organizations to understand those models, their use, and the limitations.  This approach is an investment in long-term use of system dynamics and systems thinking capabilities that persist after the arc of a project is done.