Changing Perspective Session: Systems Thinking

Changing Perspective Session: Systems Thinking

One of the strengths of the Nudge Global Impact Challenge are the Changing Perspective Sessions. As the name may suggest, these are lectures in which our participants are exposed to new concepts and ideas. These lectures are not static, participants are stimulated to think and make these concepts as theirs to design and implement their Impact Projects.

This blog will delve deeper into one of the most appreciated sessions, the session on Systems Thinking by Dr. Rahmin Bender-Salazar. This session is an evergreen of the Challenge, it is given together with our esteemed partner, the Wageningen University & Research. This session is particularly dear to us because it provides a fresh perspective on how to approach issues, or wicked problems, and consequently figure out possible problems reliefs. 

Systems Thinking is a method that looks at a whole system and all of its interactions, instead of focusing on one aspect of it, such as a specific event which is just a manifestation of a larger problem. This method is then applied to wicked problems, complex societal and environmental issues that can only be addressed and managed rather than solved. This method serves to have a broader vision of a problem to then strategise on its management. 

To proceed with Systems Thinking, one has to first identify the delineation of a problem, then identify the major actors involved, patterns of interaction, and power structures. This procedure will help identify patterns and enable one to grasp the wicked problem from within and outside the system, providing with a new understanding of what the problem is and how it can be tackled. 

Finally, the mapping of the problem can be done through two useful tools: causal loop diagrams and value network maps. While causal loop diagrams outline the structure of the system dynamic, value network maps identify the flow of resources in the system which helps identify crucial points to create change in the system, and manage it.

This particular methodology and approach to systems thinking has been informed by the research conducted by Dr. Domenico Dentoni, Full Professor at Montpellier Business School; Dr. Rob Lubberink, Assistant Professor at HVA Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences; Carlo Cucci, at the Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation; and Dr. Rahmin Bender-Salazar lecturer at Wageningen University & Research and lecturer of creative business at HU Utrecht University of Applied Sciences. This workshop in many iterations and adaptations has been given in a variety of business, educational, and training settings virtually and in-person around Europe and the globe. In addition, the program has been integrated into HBO curriculum in the Netherlands and has been given in a variety of fields from agriculture and engineering to medicine and law. This will be the 7th time this workshop is offered to participants in the Nudge Global Challenge.