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Tools of Systems Thinking

January 24, 2019

Systems thinking differs from conventional thinking like linear thinking and systematic thinking, for instance, and becomes especially important in the social sector since social systems are inherently complex and have peculiar characteristics like emergence, adaptability, unpredictability etc. which challenge the conventional approach of development practice. 

This non-linearity of impact pathways and unanticipated outcomes often surprises organisations and project managers. Through systems thinking, it is possible to build capacities to appreciate and harness such emergent outcomes for widespread benefits. Log frames having linear impact pathways are often unable to measure or manage such nonlinear, emergent outcomes. In fact in some cases they end up ignoring them in lieu of what was anticipated as an outcome. Thus, developing a systems theory of change for work in the social sector is of utmost importance.

At ISDM, systems thinking is a foundational thread that enables students to gain a systemic perspective and a shared understanding of how to understand complexity. Students also learn tools to apply systems thinking and to develop enhanced interactive learning skills, which help them better deal with the ‘wicked problems’ of social systems. It also helps in finding leverage to affect widespread, lasting change. 

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