Short Course: An introduction to systems thinking & modelling using system dynamics

Venue: Rhodes University, Makhanda (Grahamstown)

Date: 6th – 10th November 2023

Facilitators: Dr Jai Clifford-Holmes & Dr Estee Miltz


This short course will provide an introduction to systems thinking and modelling by applying a structured approach to systems thinking, System Dynamics, which aims to demonstrate the disadvantages of non-systemic solutions to complex issues and to formulate, test and demonstrate the advantages of systemic solutions.

System Dynamics (SD) provides a framework for qualitative description, exploration and analyses of
systemic problems in terms of processes, rules, information and boundaries. This enables the
facilitation of quantitative computer simulation modelling and analyses to assist in understanding
the underlying reasons for observed behaviours.

The approach has many applications across the natural, social, and technical sciences and within
the public, private, and non-profit domains, but is particularly suited for complex, nexus-types
problems (e.g. the water-energy-food nexus, sustainable development, climate change adaptation and Green Economy transitions). This training is specifically designed to provide participants with an appropriate way of conceptualising and visualising complex interrelationships between various parts of real-world problems (with a focus on problems that are dynamic – i.e. continually changing over time – and problems that display significant change resistance – i.e. are resistant to corrective action).

The participants will be introduced to qualitative SD modelling, using multiple forms of systems diagramming and frameworks that are useful for problem conceptualisation and model communication. Participants will then have hands-on training in quantitative modelling and simulation exercises, using Vensim© SD software, working on case studies individually and in small groups.

For more details email: and/or