Bringing about social change requires working with wicked problems located in complex systems. Working to ‘solve’ these messy problems and creating new futures requires us to understand the system in which the issue is located. Systems thinking is a way of understanding and communicating about complex systems through the use of a variety of tools. This approach is different from the commonly applied problem-solving approach that looks at linear cause-effect relationships among variables, and focuses more on analysis of the parts rather than looking at the whole. Systems thinking provides us with the tools to work in complex social systems, and to drive sustainable long-term impact. Systems thinking can be applied in various contexts - design of interventions, diagnosis and design of structures and processes in organisations, working with communities in participatory ways, etc.

In the 3-day workshop, participants will

  • Become familiar with the tools and methods of systems thinking that can be applied to better understand the dynamics of messy real world problems
  • Experience basic shifts in the thinking from linear thinking to non-linear thinking; from thinking in parts to thinking whole
  • Be able to apply foundational systems tools in complex situations


The workshop will run with an emphasis on theory-practice. The participants will be expected to do a lot of exercises and apply tools and frameworks to their own contexts, and learn collaboratively. Participants will also be provided pre-reads to help them prepare for the workshop.

Who should attend

The workshop is ideally suited for mid and senior level leadership and management in the social sector who are keen to take the learning back to their organisation, become system thinkers and resolve complex social challenges.

Fees: Non-residential programme

Rs 17,500/- + GST per participant
Rs 16,000/- + GST per participant for 2 or more participants

Limited need based scholarships available.

Date: 3-5 October 2019    Location: Noida (Venue: ISDM Campus)


Mihir Mathur

Founder Director, DESTA Research LLP

Mihir is an interdisciplinary researcher working on sustainability and climate change issues with an aim to develop systemic solutions. His expertise is in Systems Thinking, System Dynamics Modeling, Group Model Building, Climate Change Adaptation and Natural Resource Management. Mihir began his career in banking and stock markets, and moved into the world of sustainability research in 2009. He worked in the Climate Change Adaptation Programme of Watershed Organisation Trust, Pune before moving to TERI, New Delhi. Mihir did his B.Com from MS University, Vadodara and Post-Graduation in Finance from SCMLD. Currently he is a visiting faculty for systems thinking at Tata Institute for Social Sciences - Hyderabad, Indian School of Development Management - Noida, School for International Training - Jaipur, India Leaders for Social Sector - Ashoka University and India Fellows - Delhi. He has written book chapters, journal papers and presented his work in several conferences worldwide.

Kabir Sharma

Founder-Director, DESTA Research LLP

Kabir Sharma studied physics at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi in his bachelor’s and completed a dual masters in nuclear physics and engineering from the Universities of Paris and Delhi in 2013. He worked briefly at the Atomic Energy Commission in France on mathematical modelling of nuclear systems before realizing the importance of working on sustainable development, energy and environmental concerns, especially in India, and switching careers. After making this decision, he worked with a number of institutions, including Centre for Policy Research, American India Foundation, The Energy and Resources Institute(TERI) and Ashoka Trust for Research on Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) on a diverse set of sustainable development projects. His work has involved extensive field work in rural India as well as policy research through energy and environment-economy modelling. He has been using systems thinking and system dynamics simulation modelling for over five years and has applied them to systems ranging from city systems to coupled human-nature systems to systems surrounding complex social problems. He co-founded DESTA in 2018.

Dr. Aruna Pandey

PhD (SOAS), MSW (TISS - Mumbai)

Senior Research Fellow, ISDM

Aruna comes with deep engagement in domains of Natural Resource Governance, Institution Building and Sustainable Livelihoods. In her 13 years of experiencing and co-creating social change with communities, Aruna has worked with institutions like BRLF, an autonomous society of Ministry of Rural Development - Government of India, TISS (Mumbai), SOAS - University of London, IIM - Ahmedabad, ISAP (New Delhi), on projects supported / in partnership with IDRC, UNDP, UNEP, InfoDev, UNV, etc. Her domain of expertise and interest are environmental governance, social research, education/ innovation and Institution Building. She has received the Young Analyst Award by EU and DPG, the prestigious M. K. Tata Prize and the NTPC gold medal for her dissertation at TISS (Mumbai) and the Felix Scholarship Trust award for her PhD at SOAS, amongst others. Aruna also is a board member of Swechha - We for Change Foundation.

At ISDM, Aruna leads the Knowledge and Research Centre. As faculty for ISDM’s post-graduate programme in Development Leadership, Aruna also co-leads and supports learning modules on Environment and Development, Systems Design for Social Interventions and Radical Transformation Leadership amongst many others. Before ISDM, Aruna was heading the Research and Capacity Building vertical at Bharat Rural Livelihoods Foundation. Aruna is also part of the Honeybee Network, a volunteer network, spread across 75 countries, engaged in the development of a sustainable knowledge ecosystem.

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