Abstract for: Crafting System Dynamics Models and Making them Accessible: Lessons from 40 Years of Practice

This paper shares lessons derived from experiences crafting and commenting on policy-relevant modeling, System Dynamics and otherwise, for more than 40 years. Projects included a control theoretic interface for Forrester’s Urban Dynamics model, model-based recommendations to alleviate eutrophication in Lake Erie, a food and agriculture sector for Mesarovic and Pestel’s regionalized global model and a model-based theory of political-conflict and development linkages. A collaborative book, Groping in the Dark, recounted and sought lessons from “The First Decade of Global Modeling.” Among fifteen lessons presented, among the most important are these: (1) Policy-relevant research that links System Dynamics models with those from other paradigms can be an effective communication device and may offer opportunities to broaden System Dynamics modeling’s reach. (2) When considering how to make work you believe is important accessible and impactful, it is worth taking risks and affronting conventional wisdom. (3) Often, a good System Dynamics model may cast significant light on a problem’s causes and even point to possible solutions. But, even when senior government officials view the model - and modeler - as credible, effecting meaningful change based on inferences from model results can be difficult or impossible.