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Systems Thinking: How to address highly complex problems

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Event date
Event time
2 - 3:30pm GMT+1

Advertiser's description (via Eventbrite)

Anyone who’s tried to unravel and address problems in the agri-food system will know how complex it is: Agri-food researchers, stakeholders, and professionals working towards net zero also have to account for other economic, health, social and environmental issues, which are often multiple, interlinked and overlapping.

If this sounds familiar, so will the below characteristics of highly complex problems (sometimes called ‘wicked problems’ by policy makers):

  • Interlinked issues, where trying to address one in isolation worsens the others.
  • Multiple perspectives and conflict on which issues matter most, and therefore what action should be taken.
  • Power relations making change difficult, and
  • Pervasive uncertainty

While traditional scientific, policy and management approaches can make useful contributions, we need something in addition if we want to address more of the complexity and conflict associated with these kinds of complex problems. Systems thinking can help.

In this talk, Prof Gerald Midgley will introduce a framework of systems thinking skills, plus a variety of systems ideas and methods, that can help people put these skills into practice. He will illustrate the use of the methods with examples from food system, natural resource management, social policy and community development projects undertaken over the last thirty years in the UK, New Zealand and Nigeria. Some of these projects involved working with agri-food companies and their stakeholders, while others focused on intransigent social issues. Through these examples, Gerald will show how we can begin to get a better handle on highly complex problems.

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