Abstract for: Sustainability of Learning & Applying System Dynamics and Systems Thinking

With the increased interest of using system dynamics and systems thinking tools to understand complex problems, communities outside of traditional academic institutions are engaging in opportunities to learn and apply system dynamics and systems thinking skills. While practice-based reflections have informed other system dynamicists on effective strategies for teaching these skills, little is known about the prognosis of further developing or applying such skills subsequent to their initial exposure. We interviewed 50 participants to understand their experiences in learning and applying system dynamics and systems thinking, which highlighted key considerations for barriers and strategies to sustained application. Providing opportunities for applying system dynamics and systems thinking tools after a training session is essential to encourage continued growth and practice. However, considerations towards stakeholders’ political environment, resources, and access to support are crucial in ensuring pathways for application. Some strategies to secure the necessary buy-in include tailoring the interests and language of the work to meet the needs of stakeholders, and building trust between modeler and stakeholder by co-designing the planning process from the onset. Without intentional consideration towards sustaining continued growth and learning, we may run the risk of inoculating new stakeholders against system dynamics and systems thinking.