Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Search in posts
Search in pages

ISDC 2021 Highlights: Food “Wickedness”

The International System Dynamics Conference (ISDC) convenes practitioners who demonstrate what’s new and developing in their fields with System Dynamics. This section of the WiSDom Blog, “Conference Highlights,” asks system dynamicists to spotlight key presentations and innovations presented at the conference.

Note: Some links within the text take you to the conference website. You must login to the site to see these linked materials. Access to the website will be restricted in September, so make sure you check out the resources before it’s too late.

Conference Highlights Editorial Team: Saras Chung, Will Glass-Husain, Jack Homer, Sara Metcalf, and Remco Peters with coordination by Christine Tang

This highlight by Remco Peters spotlights the work of addressing Public Health Nutrition topics with system dynamics. Special thanks to Will Glass-Husain for editorial support. 

Food “Wickedness”

There is a growing consensus in public health nutrition that interventions acknowledging the complex and dynamic nature of issues such as undernutrition, increasing obesity rates, and unhealthy dietary behaviours are needed. There is also a realization that potentially effective interventions have unintended consequences, widening inequities and exacerbating forms of malnutrition. System Dynamics is gaining prominence in public health nutrition for taking these factors into account. 

As a newcomer to this approach, the 2021 International System Dynamics Conference (ISDC) was a great opportunity for me to learn more about System Dynamics and examine current developments in the public health nutrition field. A variety of ISDC Presentations on public nutrition captured complexity, explored co-creation to identify leverage points, and considered unintended consequences for the field.

Capturing complexity

I started my conference on a promising note with Abigail Roche’s poster presentation: Modeling Cyclic and Temporal Relationships of Food Insecurity and Diet Quality for Nutrition Equity Policy Design.” Roche’s preliminary model aimed to highlight the effect of stress on eating patterns that could lead to the accumulation of chronic disease over time within historically redlined neighbourhoods. Her approach was a great example of the utility of System Dynamics in transitioning from a mental map to a tangible model for relevant stakeholders.

Raquel Froese Buzogany (Mapping Interactions Between Food Security and Poverty) Fernando Redivo (Modeling Household Level Food Security with System Dynamics) then showcased how causal loop diagrams and stock flow diagrams can be applied to capture the dynamic and complex nature of phenomena of food security. Their models presented a narrative in an accessible manner, which could be helpful for stakeholder engagement. This is an improvement on many other food and obesity models that acknowledge complexity but lack a clear set of actions that can be taken by policy-makers. 

Co-creation of Models to Identify Leverage

I was initially drawn to system dynamics by the participatory element of community-based modelling. Bringing together a diverse group of stakeholders to co-create and own models can be powerful. A key part of this is the process of building a common language to identify determinants and solutions which are best suited to their own context. The panel session on Food and Health and the presentation by Guus Luijben in the WIP session on Human Behavior exemplified this aspect of System Dynamics. 

Guus Luijben’s research, “Community-Based System Dynamics for Shifting Diets for a Sustainable Food Future,” involved group model building (GMB) sessions with experts and younger adults. Their goal was to develop policy measures to reduce meat consumption as a response to the worrying gap between the desired and actual meat consumption among young Dutch adults. Using co-created causal loop diagrams, they identified that social eating norms and the relatively cheap price of meat were important factors driving this gap. They proposed an intervention to increase community awareness of the negative effects of meat on the environment–a shift from psychosocial factors to contextual factors (upstream determinants) in promoting healthy eating behaviour. This was a great example of engaging a target group to identify effective intervention and policy levers.

In the Food and Health parallel session, Jacqueline Davison, Mark Heffernan and others shared a model developed in response to the New South Wales (Australia) Government’s priority to make a five percent reduction in childhood overweight and obesity prevalence by 2025. This session enforced the utility of participatory system dynamics to inspire collaboration with different state actors to address obesity. It was encouraging to hear that the state actors were eager to continue with the developed model.

Unintended Consequences

The next parallel session by Charles Nicholson discussed effective interventions to increase fruit and vegetable consumption in urban Kenya. Nicholson’s team assessed the causes for declining fruit and vegetable consumption through group model building with key decision makers in the value chain and the development of a quantitative model. 

This presentation included a couple of highlights for me: First, they identified that the participating organisations had a consumer-centric focus, suggesting that the participant pool should ideally be widened. Second, this session showcased the utility of system dynamics to identify unintended consequences. The researchers identified that increases in farm yields potentially has the largest dynamic effect on fruit and vegetable consumption. However, during this process they also identified that potential interventions would negatively affect the livelihood of farmers in the process of increasing yield. These kinds of insights (based on participatory modeling) are what make feedback loops shine for me.

Conclusion

This year’s conference gave me a sweet taste of the wide range and utility of the system dynamics toolkit available to address wicked public health nutrition issues. Presenters shared insights with attendees from their own work and also received helpful feedback and comments after the sessions. In light of current events, my expectation is that Food and Health will be even better represented in next year’s conference. I encourage those active with System Dynamics in the public health nutrition field to present and share their work with others on this platform next year. I hope I’ll be able to do so in the near future.

Remco Peters

rpj_peters@outlook.com

Remco is a Research Associate at the School for Policy Studies at the University of Bristol. His research interests focus on social determinants of diet, nutrition and well-being and systems thinking approaches to malnutrition.

ISDC 2021 Highlights: Tackling Structural Racism with Modeling

The International System Dynamics Conference (ISDC) convenes practitioners who demonstrate what’s new and developing in their fields with System Dynamics. This section of the WiSDom Blog, “Conference Highlights,” asks system dynamicists to spotlight key presentations and innovations presented at the conference.

Conference Highlights Editorial Team: Saras Chung, Will Glass-Husain, Jack Homer, Sara Metcalf, and Remco Peters with coordination by Christine Tang

This highlight by Braveheart Gillani spotlights the work of addressing structural racism with system dynamics

 

 

Tackling Structural Racism with Modeling

The brutal murders of George Floyd, Philando Castile, Breonna Taylor and other Black Americans in 2020 caught the attention of people worldwide, highlighting the inequities caused by structural racism. According to the Aspen Institute Roundtable on Community Change, structural racism is defined as “a system in which public policies, institutional practices, cultural representations and other norms work in various, often reinforcing ways to perpetuate racial group inequity.” 

These horrifying events happened alongside the COVID-19 pandemic, which also has had a disproportionate impact on communities of color. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that Black people were hospitalized 2.8 times more and died at almost double the rates of whites. Structural racism has been declared a public health crisis by the CDC as well as by some cities, such as Cleveland, and it also threatens access to decent housing, education, and jobs for many people. 

The topic of structural racism was first featured in two roundtable sessions a year ago at the 2020 International System Dynamics Conference. During these sessions, members proposed the development of a Special Interest Group (SIG) to build a community of practice for system dynamicists studying this topic. The goal is to build the capacity of SIG members seeking to resolve issues of structural racism using SD. The SIG has held monthly meetings to discuss work in progress, and share resources and concerns.  Some of their work was featured at the 2021 conference. 

One example of work on structural racism that was presented at ISDC 2021 included Dr. Peter Hovmand’s plenary presentation, Opportunities, Cautions, and Lessons in Humility: Possibilities for Advancing Racial Equity. Hovmand pointed to John Galtung’s work on Structural Violence, which views structural violence operationally as the gap between the oppressive status quo and an individual’s fully potentiated condition. System Dynamics could be used to identify such gaps, accelerate prevention strategies, and increase progress toward more equitable systems. Case Western Reserve University’s Community Based System Dynamics Lab has been addressing structural violence in the contexts of opioid addiction, sexual and gender minority continuity of care, and food and nutrition equity. 

In a separate talk on the Impact of Racial Discrimination Across the Life Span, Dr. Hovmand explored how seniors’ theories about their quality of life can vary depending on whether the individuals are Black or White. By using mixed methods and participatory systems mapping with two groups, the study found that Black participants reported greater socio-economic deprivation and lower health-related quality of life than their White counterparts. The two groups generated similar causal loop diagrams, but they described different distributions of resources affecting people’s quality of life.

Finally, in a presentation on Structural Racism and System Dynamics: A Scoping Review, Dr. Irene Headen, Mikayla Branz, and Ellis Ballard identified nine studies that addressed structural racism in a theoretical or an applied way. The six theoretical articles sought problem-based and paradigmatic insights, while the three applied articles sought participatory and dynamic insights.  

Dr. Headen also described four essential needs for future System Dynamics work focusing on structural racism: 

  1. Explicitly define time horizons and reference modes to improve problem definition,
  2. Clearly define and design modeling projects,
  3. Identify the best sources of structural knowledge and make the best use of system knowledge holders, and
  4. Think carefully about the origins and reliability of structural knowledge.  

ISDC 2021 showcased System Dynamics projects that are addressing structural racism across a range of disciplines. Leaders in this field are demonstrating how we can use the method to untangle the dynamics of structural racism and find ways to root it and its associated inequities out of society. It is exciting to see the insights that can come from applying SD to this complex and critical problem. 

Braveheart Gillani

Braveheart.gillani@case.edu
Twitter: @BraveheartGill1

Braveheart Gillani earned his Master’s in Social Work with a specialization in System Dynamics from the Brown School of Social work and is currently working on his Ph.D at the Mandell School of Applied Social Science at Case Western Reserve University. Braveheart’s research and advocacy are focused on sexual and gender minorities, healthy masculinity development, along with issues of racial equity. 

Housing Dynamics

Housing Dynamics

We had an insightful conversation with David Stroh, Martijn Eskinasi, and Kaveh Dianati at our latest seminar. We learned about how using causal loop diagrams based on simple archetypes, illuminate interdependencies across housing availability, wealth inequality, homelessness, and economic development. We explored the dynamics of the housing crisis in London and how System Dynamics is helping the Dutch Ministry of Interior make better housing polices

Learn more about the Seminar Series.

Responses to Housing Dynamics Panel Questions

DAVID STROH:

David’s cautionary tale suggests avoiding early complexity in engagement with the problem owner. Does he have a method for keeping it simple?

I use a four-stage process to engage stakeholders in applying systems thinking to catalyze real change. Systems analysis, the second stage, is just one part of this overall change strategy. The analysis itself primarily draws on systems archetypes to simplify complexity. At the same time, building on individual archetypes and identifying multiple ones provide complexity while retaining the power of illuminating recognizable storylines. For more information, see my book Systems Thinking for Social Change (Chelsea Green, 2015).

How do you collect data for these projects and how you do model assumptions about specific issues you can’t collect data for?

Primary data comes from interviews with a diverse set of stakeholders – both decision makers and people closer to the front lines. Secondary data comes from written documentation provided by the stakeholders. We (often Mike Goodman and I) enlist a modeling team drawn from these stakeholders to test and refine the initial models we build – often by having people first build their own simple models based on what we see to be the relevant archetype(s). We also collect and add mental models to the qualitative causal loop diagrams to help them see how their mental models impact the system dynamics.

Can you name examples of elites fanning ethnic conflicts? Is there really an elite behind this or is this potentially too, a structural issue?

One need look no further than the Republican Party in the U.S., and the elite donors who fund them, for an example of fanning ethnic tensions – between whites and not only blacks but also immigrants. I first came across this dynamic nearly 20 years ago in advising a group of NGOs in Burundi who was looking to rebuild civil society thereafter the war between Hutus and Tutsis had almost destroyed their country. To me, the existence of an elite IS a structural issue. See for example my recent article “Overcoming the Systemic Challenges of Wealth Inequality in the U.S.” in The Foundation Review.

How do you deal with the delay of the long-term solution where the workers are needed within a short time to keep the economic development happening?

In any Shifting the Burden dynamic, the key is to reinforce investment in the long-term solution while either discouraging the quick fix or seeking to mitigate (or even reverse) the negative impacts of the quick fix on the fundamental solution.

David – curious why you leave out the link polarities. As a System Dynamicist, this makes it harder to validate your assumptions.

I leave out polarities in my presentations to stakeholders because they are covered by how I translate loops and archetypes into everyday recognizable language and stories. I occasionally use different colored links for + and – since they are a little easier to make sense of.

In Los Angeles, we have a serious homelessness challenge which is quite visible. Can you comment on how your work can address the challenges here?

The change process is as important as the insights it generates. I don’t know enough about the politics of LA, what has been tried so far, who has been involved and who has been excluded, etc. to comment.

to all speakers: advocators of big data research state that with the amount of data available nowadays it is more promising to look at correlations than causation

There is never enough data nor will there ever be. The problem in influencing how people think is often not insufficient data, but insufficient attention to the non-cognitive aspects of systems change – such as the emotional, behavioral, and spiritual issues involved. See for example the last chapter of Systems Thinking for Social Change and the blog post “Systems Thinking: It’s Not (Just) What You Think”.

KAVEH DIANATI

How do you collect data for these projects and how you do model assumptions about specific issues you can’t collect data for?

In the case of the work on London’s housing crisis, most of the data were collated from publicly available government statistical sources. Often, data is incomplete and/or contradictory between different sources and you have to address these issues on a case by case basis. In the case where data for a particular key parameter is not available, a reasonable expert estimate can be used to let the model run, and sensitivity analysis must be carried out to understand the impact of the uncertainty and results and policy recommendations.

Kaveh: to what degree do you expect that your model/findings would also apply to other cities (with different parameterization)?

To a large extent, the dynamics described in this work apply generally to attractive metropolitan areas in liberal advanced economies, where housing is regarded as an attractive investment asset and where housing is financialised, and where unregulated mortgage lending by commercial banks is driving house price inflation.

What would be the policy leverage points to keep the system “in balance” at a reasonable affordability level for housing, avoiding the exponential growth and boom and bust cycles?

As explained during the presentation, key recommended policy levers are macroprudential policies such as imposing restrictions on loan-to-value and loan-to-income ratios, as well as requiring banks to base their property valuations on a moving average of past prices when issuing loans. In parallel, affordable housebuilding programs must take off again to ensure access to housing to the lowest decile households.

What role do zoning rules play in the reduction of housing construction in London?

There is a great recent paper published on that by Gallent et al (2021) titled “Is Zoning the Solution to the UK Housing Crisis?”. Zoning has been suggested by various authors as a policy to accelerate supply, and my modeling shows that easing planning restrictions can have a significant impact on housing supply and therefore slow down the worsening of affordability. So, zoning is very important. However, note that, as I explained during the presentation, this would have no impact on mitigating the boom and bust cycles, because these are not related to the supply side but rather to the demand side. Furthermore, housing supply is necessarily finite while demand that is backed by newly created mortgages and international footloose capital is virtually infinite, and therefore without regulating the demand side, supply-side policies are not enough to address the housing crisis.

Can you comment again on the large dip in the near future projection around 2045 – 2050?

This has to do with the ‘bust’ period of the recurring boom-and-bust cycles, which happens when the burden of housing-related housing debt becomes unsustainable, putting pressure on household consumption, savings, economic investment, productivity growth, and the economy as a whole over the long term, feeding back to restrict new mortgage lending and demand for housing, triggering all the reinforcing mechanisms (Investment Loop and Housing-Finance Loops) in the opposite direction of growth and leading to a precipitous fall in house prices and mortgage lending.

A general question. When starting out on building a model, is it the speaker’s typical first step to hunt for the available data? What was the first thing done when tackling such a wicked problem as housing?

The first step in the System Dynamics method is problem definition via formulating a number of reference modes, i.e., past behavior of key variables over time. So yes, you could say that at the outset, especially in a quantitative modeling study, I would look for historical data on key variables of interest and look at how they have been developing over the past. The next step is then to try and understand these developments from a systemic feedback-centered perspective.

To all speakers: advocators of big data research state that with the amount of data available nowadays it is more promising to look at correlations than causation (‘let the data speak for us’); this would somehow remove the inherent bias of our models; what is your opinion on this criticism?

First, correlation methods are unable to explain the “why”s, i.e., explaining why things behave the way they do. In other words, they are unable to tell interesting ‘stories’ that capture our collective imaginations and can mobilize society’s forces towards our common goals. The feedback-oriented explanations offered by System Dynamics offer such relatable narratives that are powerful communication media. Secondly, since correlation methods base their forecasts solely on past behavior, and do not model the structure of the system, more often than not they involve extrapolation of current trends and are unable to foresee or warn about potential reversals in trends.

How do you validate these housing models? Do you use publicly available data/records?

Yes, for behavioral validation. For structural validation, you need to follow the best practice suite of tests available (e.g., sensitivity tests, extreme condition tests, etc.) as explained clearly by Barlas (1996) “Formal aspects of model validity and validation in system dynamics”.

The London CLD seems to focus on financing the DEMAND side. What about the SUPPLY side? More construction would reduce prices. What is inhibiting construction?

There is extensive discussion about that, in particular around issues such as increasing concentration and consolidation in the housebuilding industry, as well as issues around land banking. These aspects were fully addressed in my thesis but excluded from my model, due to reasons discussed extensively in the thesis, to be available hopefully soon online.

Kaveh, you indicated things can’t grow forever so when in the future does the model crash?

Rather than focusing on “when”, I would like to emphasize that the tendency for boom-and-bust cycles is embedded into the structure of the system, but no one can tell you when exactly. However, if ‘your doctor tells you that you will have a heart attack if you do not stop smoking, this advice is helpful, even if it does not tell you exactly when a heart attack will occur or how bad it will be’ (Meadows, Richardson, & Bruckmann, 1982, p. 279).

MARTIJN ESKINASI

David’s cautionary tale suggests avoiding early complexity in engagement with the problem owner. Does he have a method for keeping it simple?

In general, it is good practice to stick to small comprehensible models. I’ve got bad experiences with large models, which can become unmanageable quickly. If possible, implicit System Dynamics models in your field of interest can be translated to stocks and flows. This also helps comprehensibility in contact with stakeholders

How do you collect data for these projects and how you do model assumptions about specific issues you can’t collect data for?

In the Netherlands, there is also lots of statistical data available. Expert guesses are another useful source. But is it not only about data, it is also about system structures.

What would be the policy leverage points to keep the system “in balance” at a reasonable affordability level for housing, avoiding the exponential growth and boom and bust cycles?

I’d agree with Kaveh here too. Lots of other works point in that direction. In NL, plenty of feasible scenarios were elaborated for reducing procyclical housing finance. System dynamics will add up here, but there are no breakthrough insights to be found there anymore. But it might be interesting to model political processes why is it hard to reduce or even abolish abundant finance schemes

I would be interested to know more about the link between housing affordability and car-oriented transport policies leading to car dependence and urban sprawl.

Some work was done on that. See Chapter 3 in my Ph.D. thesis. 

How would you ensure that your own bias as a researcher does not lead to unintended consequences? Would you conduct this research in parallel to another researcher, for instance?

That is exactly why I am a proponent of close cooperation with other researchers. Repenniing made a strong case already in 2003.

A general question. When starting out on building a model, is it the speaker’s typical first step to hunt for the available data? What was the first thing done when tackling such a wicked problem as housing?

Not necessarily. I was mostly looking for template models and institutional structures. Data comes later, though in NL we are relatively spoilt with data.

Are you always using your “goal” as one of the elements in your system? ie: The ability to pay for quality housing

Not always. What about finding structures capable of generating reference modes of behavior?

To all speakers: advocators of big data research state that with the amount of data available nowadays it is more promising to look at correlations than causation (‘let the data speak for us’); this would somehow remove the inherent bias of our models; what is your opinion on this criticism?

In public policy, there is nearly always a need to improve system performance. There will be a gap between observed and preferred outcomes and a theory of how measures propagate through the system and reduce the gap. Data won’t tell you that. And data can be interpreted in order to fit any frame, especially if there is a lot of.

How do you validate these housing models? Do you use publicly available data/records?

I agree with Kaveh here

 

Watch the recording below

Whoops, this recording is available for members only. If you have a membership, please log in. If not, you can definitely get access! Purchase a membership here. If you're not a member but have purchased a ticket to this webinar, please contact us at office@systemdynamics.org

Recent Posts

ISDC 2021 Highlights: Tackling Structural Racism with Modeling

The International System Dynamics Conference (ISDC) convenes practitioners who demonstrate what’s new and developing in their fields with System Dynamics. This section of the WiSDom Blog, “Conference Highlights,” asks system dynamicists to spotlight key presentations...

Housing Dynamics

Housing Dynamics We had an insightful conversation with David Stroh, Martijn Eskinasi, and Kaveh Dianati at our latest seminar. We learned about how using causal loop diagrams based on simple archetypes, illuminate interdependencies across housing availability, wealth...

Upcoming Events

Introduction to Modeling

Introduction to Modeling

In this seminar, you will be able to build your own System Dynamics model! This will be a small, quantitative model of the classic apartment vacancy/build cycle. Read the problem statement. You will take your first steps with Studio and learn how to apply it for...

Recent Business cases

General Motors OnStar

Name The General Motors OnStar Project Modelers Vince Barabba, Chet Huber, Fred Cooke, Nick Pudar, Jim Smith, Mark Paich Client General Motors Client Type Corporation The Official Website onstar.com is the official website in which you can become a member, get...

Pharmaceutical Product Branding Strategies

Pharmaceutical Product Branding Strategies Name Pharmaceutical Product Branding Strategies — Simulating Patient Flow and Portfolio Dynamics Modelers Mark Paich, Corey Peck, Jason Valant Contact Jason Valant or Corey Peck Client Numerous Pharmaceutical Companies Client...

Polio Eradication

Polio Eradication Name Polio Eradication Modelers Kimberly M. Thompson,and Radboud J. Duintjer Tebbens Client World Health Organization (WHO) Client Type NGO The Issue You Tackled Following successful eradication of smallpox and impressive progress in the elimination...

Join us

ISDC 2021 Highlights: Connecting Perspectives on Gender Dynamics

The International System Dynamics Conference (ISDC) convenes practitioners who demonstrate what’s new and developing in their fields with System Dynamics. This section of the WiSDom Blog, “Conference Highlights,” asks system dynamicists to spotlight key presentations and innovations presented at the conference.

Conference Highlights Editorial Team: Saras Chung, Will Glass-Husain, Jack Homer, Sara Metcalf, and Remco Peters with coordination by Christine Tang

This highlight by Suzanne Manning spotlights work that demonstrated gender dynamics in System Dynamics modeling. Special thanks to Dr. Sara Metcalf for her editorial support on this post.

 

Connecting Perspectives on Gender Dynamics

“All that separates, whether of race, class, creed, or sex, is inhuman, and must be overcome” –  Kate Sheppard, a leader of the women’s suffrage movement in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Kate was a woman ahead of her time, championing diversity and equality in the nineteenth century. She recognized the need to overcome all forms of discrimination.

As systems scientists, we can use our work to spotlight and disrupt discrimination, or leave these difficult issues aside, losing opportunities for insight. Science is not conducted in a vacuum. The research questions we choose to investigate, variables we choose to model, assumptions underpinning our simulations – these are under our control. 

As a first-time attendee at the 2021 International System Dynamics Conference, I was excited to see presenters spotlighting gender discrimination and the emergent system properties of gendered bias.

Two in particular, focused on gender-based violence, one of the biggest issues facing women in the world today. A poster titled It is Not My Fault was presented by Paola García Vázquez, Sandra Vázquez Guerra, Daniela Videa Martínez, and Gloria Pérez Salazar. The authors demonstrated a model of gender-based violence in Mexico, depicting feedback loops that discourage women from reporting by placing them in vulnerable positions without police protection. Their suggested policy intervention was to fund NGOs to provide strong support for women, to which an attendee suggested targeting the “machismo” culture which normalised violence against women instead. 

Eduardo De la Vega addressed that culture in his model of violence among adolescents in rural Colombia, suggesting men’s “conquer and domination” tendencies were a key factor for violence on the streets. Both Paola and Eduardo found that focusing on changing men’s attitudes towards violence in general, and against women in particular, could significantly impact violence. In other words, beyond the basic goal of keeping women safe, the models pointed to initiatives that make men safe to be around.

Trust was spotlighted by Sarah Pritchard, Lucy Puckett and Andrew Brown in their Work in Progress  presentation titled The Terrible Bargain. By modelling intimate relationships, they showed how men’s respectful behaviour towards women could be a balancing feedback loop that disincentivises unwanted behaviour. I agree – that’s a terrible bargain, for all involved. Their model included the impact of “patriarchal cultural norms.” Targeting societal norms of male behaviour…there’s a theme here

Another presentation, Sexual and Gender Minority Youth in the Foster Care Model by Dana Prince, Braveheart Gillani and Meagan Ray-Novak, highlighted a critical perspective using minority stress theory. They provided an alternative to linear models that suggest solutions that “blame the victim”, and instead reveal the complex structural issues that lead to multiple levels of stressors for this population. Policy makers need to see this work.

Policy makers should also see how gender dynamics emerge in Fernando Redivo’s model of household level food security in Zambia. Fernando considered a wide range of variables that might influence food security and found that a key factor for supporting food security was to proactively support women who head households. The presence of gendered structural discrimination in Zambian households meant that without extra help, these women were generally not able to sustainably support their families. 

Hesam Mahmoudi and Navid Gaffarzadegan also found insights that could help improve women’s lives, by investigating what causes disagreement among physicians. Their paper examined how physicians balance risk and outcomes in their decision processes, noting that some obstetricians overuse Caesarean sections for delivering babies. By choosing a gendered medical example, their analysis leaves the door open for questions about how to model women’s agency and influence in decision-making about delivery, suggesting fruitful avenues for further work. 

Parallel to issues of gender, another area for further work was identified by Irene Headen, Mikayla Branz and Ellis Ballard in their review of structural racism research in System Dynamics. They found very few articles in their search. Their recommendation was that models about systemically marginalised people should involve those people in development and analysis. 

This advice was on my mind as I attended a presentation by Takuma Ono of work with Rowland Chen, Ivan Taylor, Saroj Koul, and Mia Vogel, on promoting the success of women of color entrepreneurs in the United States. Takuma presented a thorough and high quality model.  While this project had not yet involved the subjects of the model directly, Takuma indicated that the next phase of their research would involve reaching out to these women to gather their perspectives.

System Dynamics practitioners are making important contributions to gender analysis, and we might expect to see even more at ISDC2022, since next year’s conference theme is ‘Diversity’. One analysis that I want to keep quiet, though, is from a Work in Progress presentation on gender and the Beergame, by Maria Guadalupe Arias, Juan Pablo Torres, Karla Padilla, and Samuel Madariaga. They compared gender differences while playing a look-and-react Beer Game, and the findings were disputing the literature that says men tend to focus their gaze on a single thing and women look around more. Please don’t share this with my kids – I’ve been telling them that as a mother I have an innate ability to see everything they do!

Suzanne Manning

Suzanne.Manning@esr.cri.nz
Twitter: @slmanning1

Suzanne is passionate about gender equality, education and science. She is currently trying to change the world by working as a social scientist at the Institute of Environmental Science and Research in Aotearoa New Zealand.

ISDC 2021 Highlights: Agricultural and food modelers produce a crop of conference contributions

The International System Dynamics Conference (ISDC) convenes practitioners who demonstrate what’s new and developing in their fields with System Dynamics. This section of the WiSDom Blog, “Conference Highlights,” asks system dynamicists to spotlight key presentations and innovations presented at the conference.

Conference Highlights Editorial Team: Saras Chung, Will Glass-Husain, Jack Homer, Sara Metcalf, and Remco Peters with coordination by Christine Tang

This highlight by Dr. Benjamin Turner spotlights Agriculture and Food modeling work that was presented at the conference. Special thanks to Dr. Remco Peters for his editorial support on this post.

 

 

Agricultural and food modelers produce a crop of conference contributions

A society’s ability to produce and distribute food is essential for its survival and unleashing human potential. Given the 21st century challenges of population growth and conserving natural resources, it is crucial to improve the performance of local, national, and global agri-food systems. Many system dynamicists are actively working to address such issues. The 2021 International System Dynamics Conference showcased much of this important work.

For instance, in the global south, food inequity among small-holder farmers is a challenge that was examined by several system dynamicists. Sandra Volken explained that many families in Senegal (West Africa) had to abandon their lands due to declining groundwater tables and the growth of corporate vegetable growers. James Enos presented another example of food inequity in the Upper Nile Basin (Ethiopia and Uganda), where agricultural lands dependent on rainfall put tremendous pressure on small-holder farmers to convert their land for other uses. James illustrated how weather patterns strengthen the oscillatory nature of crop dynamics, leading to a fewer number of crops being grown over larger areas. In the poultry sector, Kelechi Odoemena and his team presented an innovative intervention to address food inequity challenges, which employs a flight-simulator to teach small-scale producers production and financial management principles using key performance indicators (KPIs).

In the global north, important industry-wide challenges are being tackled using System Dynamics. Talks by April Roggio and Alberto Atzori focused on realignment issues causing inequities in the dairy industry. Roggio updated a DYNAMO model originally built in 1976 and demonstrated how competition in a limited market slows down farm ownership transitions, restricts new and young farmers from entering the industry, and accelerates land price appreciation through fragmentation. Atzori and collaborators worked together with the largest milk producers in Italy to develop a general herd management model, calibrated to the best available industry data. Their model is already being used by farm managers to plan milk market deliveries and reduce fluctuating milk and cow inventories.

Some agri-food issues are more ecologically-driven, such as weed herbicide resistance. One of my students, Chris Flores-Lopez, presented a model to address this issue and its impact on long-term cropping system feasibility. His model demonstrated that accumulations of resistant weed seeds in the soil seed bank are only manageable in the short-term (3-5 years) with “status quo” practices of chemical switching. Subsequent tests showed a more hopeful picture. Integrated solutions taking advantage of weed-crop interference pressures can reduce crop losses despite weed seedbank accumulation.

“Farm to fork” challenges at a consumer level were also shared at the conference. Simone Peters and Inge Bleijenbergh’s causal loop diagram of Dutch household food dynamics highlighted the gap of consumer awareness necessary to motivate significant conservation efforts. April Roggio’s team identified ways to model and manage foodshed resiliency. Their work is laying a foundation that warrants much more attention from scientists in our field. 

A critical insight emerged from these contributions. Purely technical solutions such as water well installation, switching chemical herbicides, or maximizing milk yield are no longer effective. Instead, future solutions require social or organizational interventions that drive individual decision patterns responsible for reinforcing undesirable or unintended outcomes. This includes revising incentive structures surrounding water resources and livestock markets or implementing more complex cropping systems to build resiliency. 

Global Collaboration through the SDS Agriculture and Food Special Interest Group (SIG)

Many of the presenters highlighted above have been actively engaged in the SDS’s Agriculture and Food Special Interest Group (A&F SIG). The success of the SDS’s investment in SIGs may be best illustrated by a recent collaborative effort. Led by Busra Atamer Balkan, the A&F SIG team built a stock-and-flow model, which illustrated how barriers to input supplies and market access were disproportionately affecting smallholder producers during the COVID pandemic. Their resulting framework facilitates dialogue among stakeholders and provides critical modeling structures that I would recommend to anyone studying the impact of COVID on food supplies. This project began as an idea during a SIG meeting, was developed into a conference presentation, and is now peer-reviewed and forthcoming in the International Journal on Food System Dynamics.

The 2021 System Dynamics conference was a tremendous success for transdisciplinary problem-solving. It was remarkable to see parallel challenges in the field despite diverse socio-economic, cultural, or geographic contexts. Discussions during this conference have kick-started several post-conference collaborations and projects. Transdisciplinary approaches to address agri-food system challenges can be accelerated through engagement with System Dynamics Society members and participation in annual conferences or SIGs. 

We should all be encouraged that system dynamicists around the world are taking on some of the most important agricultural and food-related issues. I know that I am. 

Benjamin Turner

benjamin.turner@tamuk.edu

Dr. Benjamin Turner is an Associate Professor of Natural Resource Management at Texas A&M University-Kingsville and co-organizer of the Agricultural and Food Special Interest Group of the System Dynamics Society. 

Little’s Law and Stock-Flow Performance

Little’s Law and Stock-Flow Performance

Understanding the mechanisms underlying stock-flows is fundamental in managing dynamic systems. Keeping stock-flow systems under control is a challenge faced in every aspect of life. The accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and management of nonrenewable (such as fossil fuels and oil) and renewable (such as water) resources are examples of stock-flows with a critical global impact. However, as previous studies have shown, individuals often have difficulty understanding the mechanisms through which stock-flow systems work. This phenomenon is highly pervasive even among highly educated individuals and has been related to cognitive heuristics and biases. Analytical thinking has proved to positively influence stock-flow performance by encouraging to apply cognitive effort and override the heuristics and biases that lead to erroneous responses in these problems.

In this study, the effect of analytical thinking on stock-flow performance is examined further by testing the mediating effect of a novel concept entitled: “Little’s Law Understanding.” The current paper introduces this concept for the first time and examines its effect on stock-flow performance. Little’s Law is one of the fundamental laws of queueing systems. It links waiting time with the average number of items in a queue via the average arrival rate to the queueing system. Queueing systems are the embodiment of stock-flow mechanisms. Thus, Little’s Law understanding is critical in stock-flow performance, and its effect can mediate the relationship between analytical thinking and performance in stock-flow problems. To test this relationship, two empirical studies are designed and conducted that examine the relationship between analytical thinking as measured by cognitive reflection test (CRT), Little’s Law understanding, and stock-flow performance. The results supported our hypotheses in both studies. Analytical thinking had a positive effect on stock-flow performance. Little’s Law understanding partially mediated this effect.

This study has theoretical and practical implications. First, it contributes to the system dynamics literature because it introduces and measures the new concept of Little’s Law understanding as one of the underlying factors that can contribute to performance in dynamic systems. In addition, it provides a standard measure for assessing Little’s Law understanding based on the literature which can be easily administered for measuring people’s understanding of this basic law which has practical implications on performance in different dynamic contexts. While the law is generally considered to be intuitive, the results of this study indicate that it is not actually as simple and easy to understand as it is often assumed. In fact, the average score in Little’s Law understanding was 1.39 (below the average value of 2 out of 4) with a range of 0 to 4. This result is noteworthy because the participants were students with rigorous quantitative and mathematical backgrounds.

Second, analytical thinking had a significant positive effect on both Little’s Law understanding and stock-flow performance. This result is consistent with the results of previous studies which indicate that analytical thinking has a positive effect on performance in tasks where deliberative and effortful thinking is required. Finally, comparing the direct and indirect effect of analytical thinking on performance shows that both analytical thinking and Little’s Law understanding have significant and separate effects on stock-flow performance. However, the total effect of analytical thinking on performance is stronger than the direct effect of Little’s Law understanding. Based on these results, it is suggested that companies include questions related to both cognitive abilities (e.g., CRT) and Little’s Law understanding in their assessment batteries when they hire individuals for jobs involving dynamic contexts such as strategic management, operations and supply chain management, or inventory management, or when they evaluate performance in such positions. However, higher weights should be given to cognitive abilities test scores due to their stronger effect on performance.

 

 

Hendijani is autor of ” Analytical thinking, Little’s Law understanding, and stock-flow performance: two empirical studies”, available on the System Dynamics Review.

 

 

Recent Posts

ISDC 2021 Highlights: Food “Wickedness”

The International System Dynamics Conference (ISDC) convenes practitioners who demonstrate what’s new and developing in their fields with System Dynamics. This section of the WiSDom Blog, “Conference Highlights,” asks system dynamicists to spotlight key presentations...

ISDC 2021 Highlights: Tackling Structural Racism with Modeling

The International System Dynamics Conference (ISDC) convenes practitioners who demonstrate what’s new and developing in their fields with System Dynamics. This section of the WiSDom Blog, “Conference Highlights,” asks system dynamicists to spotlight key presentations...

Housing Dynamics

Housing Dynamics We had an insightful conversation with David Stroh, Martijn Eskinasi, and Kaveh Dianati at our latest seminar. We learned about how using causal loop diagrams based on simple archetypes, illuminate interdependencies across housing availability, wealth...

Upcoming Events

Introduction to Modeling

Introduction to Modeling

In this seminar, you will be able to build your own System Dynamics model! This will be a small, quantitative model of the classic apartment vacancy/build cycle. Read the problem statement. You will take your first steps with Studio and learn how to apply it for...

Recent Business cases

General Motors OnStar

Name The General Motors OnStar Project Modelers Vince Barabba, Chet Huber, Fred Cooke, Nick Pudar, Jim Smith, Mark Paich Client General Motors Client Type Corporation The Official Website onstar.com is the official website in which you can become a member, get...

Pharmaceutical Product Branding Strategies

Pharmaceutical Product Branding Strategies Name Pharmaceutical Product Branding Strategies — Simulating Patient Flow and Portfolio Dynamics Modelers Mark Paich, Corey Peck, Jason Valant Contact Jason Valant or Corey Peck Client Numerous Pharmaceutical Companies Client...

Polio Eradication

Polio Eradication Name Polio Eradication Modelers Kimberly M. Thompson,and Radboud J. Duintjer Tebbens Client World Health Organization (WHO) Client Type NGO The Issue You Tackled Following successful eradication of smallpox and impressive progress in the elimination...

Join us

ISDC 2021 Highlights: Can Trust be Modeled?

ISDC 2021 Highlights: Can Trust be Modeled?

The International System Dynamics Conference (ISDC) convenes practitioners who demonstrate what’s new and developing in their fields with System Dynamics. This section of the WiSDom Blog, “Conference Highlights,” asks system dynamicists to spotlight key presentations and innovations presented at the conference.

Conference Highlights Editorial Team: Saras Chung, Will Glass-Husain, Jack Homer, Sara Metcalf, and Remco Peters with coordination by Christine Tang

This highlight by Dr. Pascal Gambardella discusses the use of “trust” in modeling in presentations shared at ISDC. 

Can Trust be Modeled?

What we trust, whom we trust, and how we build and maintain trust are central questions for all individuals and organizations. Several of the presentations at the 2021 International System Dynamics Conference (ISDC) grappled with modeling trust.  

I had previously given some thought to this topic. At the 2020 ISDC, David Lounsbury and I (the two of us co-leaders of the System Dynamics Society’s Special Interest Group in Psychology) led a workshop on modeling soft constructs such as reputation. We introduced Daniel Diermeier’s “trust radar” factors (transparency, rapport, expertise, and commitment) and used two of them in a model of Diermeier’s “reputational crisis”.

I’m glad to see that other System Dynamics modelers are thinking about this topic as well. The 2021 ISDC presentations I attended addressed trust in the contexts of government, business, and personal relationships. I’ll address each of these.

Trust in Government:

Jorge Valencia and his team modeled the effect of trust in managing COVID-19 in Colombia. Jorge said the government’s blundering actions have caused people to lose trust in its ability to handle the crisis. His team’s approach relied on two models, one qualitative and one quantitative. 

The qualitative model was an adaptation of Nobel Prize-winner Elinor Ostrom’s model of trust, in which trust, reputation, reciprocity, and cooperation form a reinforcing loop. Trust in government increases when it communicates the right information to the public. The problem is deciding which information is the most effective: realistic but offering hope. The COVID epidemic offers a perfect example of this dilemma.

Valencia’s quantitative model uses a Susceptible-Infected-Recovered (SIR) structure with a trust variable. The effectiveness of government mandates is improved when people have some confidence in them and thus cooperate. The resulting reduction in infections and deaths would build even more trust. Valencia said the Colombian government’s poor response to the pandemic led to protests and worsened the crisis. He asked the audience for help in creating a “trust index” to promote best government practices during a pandemic. I wondered if Diermeier’s “trust radar” might help here.

Trust in Business:

In a talk on structural racism, Peter Hovmand said “collaboration moves at the speed of trust.” This reminded me of Florian Kapmeier and Jeroen Struben’s presentation exploring trust dynamics during early business alliance activities.

Alliances allow businesses to share and combine resources, supporting innovation. However, knowledge exchanges can also cause trouble when one partner fails to fulfill certain obligations under the agreement. How can building trust early in the relationship mitigate this risk?  

Kapmeier and Struben’s simulation model includes several major mechanisms and feedback loops. For example, greater management commitment to the alliance can improve partner contributions and interactions, building trust. Also, meeting expectations under the alliance can help to build trust. On the other hand, trust naturally tends to decay over time.

Among the various insights, a counterintuitive one stood out to me. The authors said: “Strategies seeking to build early trust rapidly or to maximize openness may backfire.” This can happen if the partners don’t achieve the high aspirations set during an initial honeymoon period. 

Trust in Relationships: 

At the Student-Organized Colloquium, Josephine Musango said: “Building trust is key to building relationships for resilience.” I recalled these words when I heard Sarah Pritchard and Lucy Puckett later present on “the terrible bargain” in human relationships. This term, perhaps coined by feminist blogger Melissa McEwan, refers to a situation in which a man’s sexism forces a woman to choose between her dignity and a peaceful relationship. As McEwan puts it, “If I can’t trust you to care when I tell you you’ve hurt me, how can I trust you at all?”

What are the mechanisms that lead to this disparity in trust between men and women who initially respect each other? Pritchard, Puckett, and their co-author Andrew Brown created a causal-loop diagram to explore this question. In it, we see how a man may respond defensively to potentially helpful feedback from his female partner about his sexist behavior. This antagonistic response may cause her to lose trust and subsequently share less, thus damaging the relationship. 

After their fascinating presentation, David Lounsbury and I interviewed Pritchard and Puckett about their work and asked whether this model might apply to other types of relationships and situations. 

Sarah Pritchard said, “It’s possible that the model might also apply to other forms of oppression, but we’ve framed it around sexism for now. It’s rooted in situations where there’s an oppressive power imbalance and stereotype threat against giving critical feedback.”

Lucy Puckett added, “It could apply to any sort of relationship in which there is a level of emotional investment, something at stake, that contributes to the power imbalance. Women are in a difficult situation, having to sacrifice their own safety, trust, and authenticity for the sake of maintaining a relationship.”

Pascal Gambardella, PhD, started his career as a mathematical physicist and now does research using System Dynamics and Neuro-Semantics. He co-leads the Psychology and Human Behavior SIG of the System Dynamics Society. 

pascalgambardella@gmail.com

Check out the Society’s SIGs – including the Psychology and Human Behavior SIG

Recent Posts

ISDC 2021 Highlights: Food “Wickedness”

The International System Dynamics Conference (ISDC) convenes practitioners who demonstrate what’s new and developing in their fields with System Dynamics. This section of the WiSDom Blog, “Conference Highlights,” asks system dynamicists to spotlight key presentations...

ISDC 2021 Highlights: Tackling Structural Racism with Modeling

The International System Dynamics Conference (ISDC) convenes practitioners who demonstrate what’s new and developing in their fields with System Dynamics. This section of the WiSDom Blog, “Conference Highlights,” asks system dynamicists to spotlight key presentations...

Housing Dynamics

Housing Dynamics We had an insightful conversation with David Stroh, Martijn Eskinasi, and Kaveh Dianati at our latest seminar. We learned about how using causal loop diagrams based on simple archetypes, illuminate interdependencies across housing availability, wealth...

Upcoming Events

Introduction to Modeling

Introduction to Modeling

In this seminar, you will be able to build your own System Dynamics model! This will be a small, quantitative model of the classic apartment vacancy/build cycle. Read the problem statement. You will take your first steps with Studio and learn how to apply it for...

Recent Business cases

General Motors OnStar

Name The General Motors OnStar Project Modelers Vince Barabba, Chet Huber, Fred Cooke, Nick Pudar, Jim Smith, Mark Paich Client General Motors Client Type Corporation The Official Website onstar.com is the official website in which you can become a member, get...

Pharmaceutical Product Branding Strategies

Pharmaceutical Product Branding Strategies Name Pharmaceutical Product Branding Strategies — Simulating Patient Flow and Portfolio Dynamics Modelers Mark Paich, Corey Peck, Jason Valant Contact Jason Valant or Corey Peck Client Numerous Pharmaceutical Companies Client...

Polio Eradication

Polio Eradication Name Polio Eradication Modelers Kimberly M. Thompson,and Radboud J. Duintjer Tebbens Client World Health Organization (WHO) Client Type NGO The Issue You Tackled Following successful eradication of smallpox and impressive progress in the elimination...

Join us

Introduction to Modeling Process

Introduction to Modeling Process

We had 560 people joining us from all over the world at the “Introduction to Modeling Process” with Nici Zimmermann. 

Watch the recording below to:
• Build your very first quantitative System Dynamics model
• Use Vensim software for very basic quantitative modeling
• Familiarise yourself with the System Dynamics modeling process
• Learn how System Dynamics can be used for policy development

Download Vensim PLE – The free System Dynamics modeling software from our sponsor Ventana Systems

Recent Posts

ISDC 2021 Highlights: Food “Wickedness”

The International System Dynamics Conference (ISDC) convenes practitioners who demonstrate what’s new and developing in their fields with System Dynamics. This section of the WiSDom Blog, “Conference Highlights,” asks system dynamicists to spotlight key presentations...

ISDC 2021 Highlights: Tackling Structural Racism with Modeling

The International System Dynamics Conference (ISDC) convenes practitioners who demonstrate what’s new and developing in their fields with System Dynamics. This section of the WiSDom Blog, “Conference Highlights,” asks system dynamicists to spotlight key presentations...

Housing Dynamics

Housing Dynamics We had an insightful conversation with David Stroh, Martijn Eskinasi, and Kaveh Dianati at our latest seminar. We learned about how using causal loop diagrams based on simple archetypes, illuminate interdependencies across housing availability, wealth...

Upcoming Events

Introduction to Modeling

Introduction to Modeling

In this seminar, you will be able to build your own System Dynamics model! This will be a small, quantitative model of the classic apartment vacancy/build cycle. Read the problem statement. You will take your first steps with Studio and learn how to apply it for...

Recent Business cases

General Motors OnStar

Name The General Motors OnStar Project Modelers Vince Barabba, Chet Huber, Fred Cooke, Nick Pudar, Jim Smith, Mark Paich Client General Motors Client Type Corporation The Official Website onstar.com is the official website in which you can become a member, get...

Pharmaceutical Product Branding Strategies

Pharmaceutical Product Branding Strategies Name Pharmaceutical Product Branding Strategies — Simulating Patient Flow and Portfolio Dynamics Modelers Mark Paich, Corey Peck, Jason Valant Contact Jason Valant or Corey Peck Client Numerous Pharmaceutical Companies Client...

Polio Eradication

Polio Eradication Name Polio Eradication Modelers Kimberly M. Thompson,and Radboud J. Duintjer Tebbens Client World Health Organization (WHO) Client Type NGO The Issue You Tackled Following successful eradication of smallpox and impressive progress in the elimination...

Join us

Kotlin System Dynamics Toolkit

Kotlin System Dynamics Toolkit

.We developed Kotlin SD Toolkit, or ksdtoolkit, in late 2019/20 as a tool that is suitable for both modelling large, hierarchical System Dynamics (SD) models (supporting modules) and for automatic generation of interactive simulators for multiple target platforms: desktop, web or mobile using Kotlin programming language.

Kotlin first appeared in 2011 as a statically-typed programming language, with modern, more expressive syntax, null-pointer exception safety, and both object-oriented and functional programming capabilities. It is interoperable with all existing Java libraries and frameworks, and it is Google’s preferred language for Android application development since 2017. Kotlin also excels in developing internal, domain-specific language (internal DSL), which allows adapting general-purpose language (e.g. Kotlin) to solve problems of a specific domain (e.g. system dynamics).

We found that Kotlin programming language is a new, good choice for SD modelling and simulation since it provides many new benefits:

  • Kotlin has an expressive and concise syntax (in comparison to Java), making SD model definition concise

  • Kotlin allows us to develop an internal domain-specific language (DSL) specially tailored for the SD domain

  • Kotlin is a statically-typed programming language (in comparison to dynamically-typed Python) meaning it detects type-errors at compile time instead of failing at runtime

  • prevents null-pointer exceptions at runtime by tracking values, making SD model robust and stable

  • Kotlin combines both the object-oriented and functional programming approaches allowing us to develop large hierarchical SD models, reusing previously developed and tested SD submodels as modules

  • Kotlin is completely interoperable with any existing Java libraries, allowing us to do any data-processing, storing or visualization developed so far in Java.

For the development of Kotlin SD Toolkit we used IntelliJ IDEA (Ultimate Edition, 2019.1 version) integrated development environment for programming in Java/Kotlin languages, from company JetBrains (JetBrains s.r.o, Prague, Czech Republic), the same company that developed Kotlin. We also used: OpenJDK 11 – open Java development kit, OpenJFX – open JavaFX, Gradle – dependency management & build automation tool, Vaadin 8 – Vaadin web framework, and Android SDK – Android software development kit.

The simulation speed was not in our primary focus and could be further improved. A preliminary test on 10 million (1E7) time steps with a very simple SD model (comprised of just one stock and one flow) runs 7.08 seconds on Kotlin SD Toolkit using a laptop computer (Intel i7-8550U CPU at 1.80 GHz with 16 GB of RAM) , while in BPTK-Py runs 153.0 seconds (thus 22x times slower), and in Vensim 6.2 Double Precision runs 30.0 seconds (thus 4x times slower).

Kotlin SD Toolkit in this stage of development has several limitations since we have not implemented: 1) GUI for graphical model design, 2) XMILE transpiler, 3) simulation scenario management, and 4) SD functions or collection of archetypes (e.g. SD molecules). In the near future, we plan to expand the toolkit and overcome these limitations.

Kotlin SD Toolkit is available as a free, open-source GitHub project and we present it as our contribution to the System Dynamics community.

 

 

Sovilj, Etinger, Sirotić, and Pripužić are coauthors of “System dynamics modeling and simulation with Kotlin”, available on the System Dynamics Review.

 

 

Recent Posts

ISDC 2021 Highlights: Food “Wickedness”

The International System Dynamics Conference (ISDC) convenes practitioners who demonstrate what’s new and developing in their fields with System Dynamics. This section of the WiSDom Blog, “Conference Highlights,” asks system dynamicists to spotlight key presentations...

ISDC 2021 Highlights: Tackling Structural Racism with Modeling

The International System Dynamics Conference (ISDC) convenes practitioners who demonstrate what’s new and developing in their fields with System Dynamics. This section of the WiSDom Blog, “Conference Highlights,” asks system dynamicists to spotlight key presentations...

Housing Dynamics

Housing Dynamics We had an insightful conversation with David Stroh, Martijn Eskinasi, and Kaveh Dianati at our latest seminar. We learned about how using causal loop diagrams based on simple archetypes, illuminate interdependencies across housing availability, wealth...

Upcoming Events

Introduction to Modeling

Introduction to Modeling

In this seminar, you will be able to build your own System Dynamics model! This will be a small, quantitative model of the classic apartment vacancy/build cycle. Read the problem statement. You will take your first steps with Studio and learn how to apply it for...

Recent Business cases

General Motors OnStar

Name The General Motors OnStar Project Modelers Vince Barabba, Chet Huber, Fred Cooke, Nick Pudar, Jim Smith, Mark Paich Client General Motors Client Type Corporation The Official Website onstar.com is the official website in which you can become a member, get...

Pharmaceutical Product Branding Strategies

Pharmaceutical Product Branding Strategies Name Pharmaceutical Product Branding Strategies — Simulating Patient Flow and Portfolio Dynamics Modelers Mark Paich, Corey Peck, Jason Valant Contact Jason Valant or Corey Peck Client Numerous Pharmaceutical Companies Client...

Polio Eradication

Polio Eradication Name Polio Eradication Modelers Kimberly M. Thompson,and Radboud J. Duintjer Tebbens Client World Health Organization (WHO) Client Type NGO The Issue You Tackled Following successful eradication of smallpox and impressive progress in the elimination...

Join us

ISDC 2021 Highlights: Modeling for Action in Environmental Health

ISDC 2021 Highlights: Modeling for Action in Environmental Health

The International System Dynamics Conference (ISDC) convenes practitioners who demonstrate what’s new and developing in their fields with System Dynamics. This section of the WiSDom Blog, “Conference Highlights,” asks system dynamicists to spotlight key presentations and innovations presented at the conference. 

Conference Highlights Editorial Team: Saras Chung, Will Glass-Husain, Jack Homer, Sara Metcalf, and Remco Peters with coordination by Christine Tang

This highlight by Martha McAlister shares a first-time conference attendee’s perspective on modeling for action in environmental health. 

Modeling for Action in Environmental Health

When environmental risks remain unmitigated, they end up hurting our ability to lead healthy and productive lives. These risks are often concentrated where populations are the most marginalized, thereby creating or contributing to unjust health disparities. Environmental health and justice problems can be complex, as they intersect multiple domains (social, economic, political, legal, institutional, etc.) and may involve years or decades of lag time, starting from the accumulation of multiple exposures and ending in life-threatening chronic illnesses. 

System Dynamics offers opportunities for modelers to engage with broad audiences to address environmental health and justice challenges. Modelers can elicit public or expert participation before, during, and after the modeling process to promote confidence in the results and to encourage holistic learning that goes beyond narrowly epidemiological approaches. 

As a first-time attendee of the International System Dynamics Conference, I wanted to learn how System Dynamics is being used in the environmental health context and about the challenges of applying System Dynamics to such complex problems.

The first hint came during the Student-Organized Colloquium, where keynote speaker Dr. Josephine Musango stated that “engagement is crucial.”  As the conference progressed, I heard several presenters talk about their use of participatory modeling to study global environmental and health issues. 

Laurent Smets spoke about using group model building with virology experts to connect early vaccine research and development to the user requirements at the “last mile” in low- and middle-income countries. 

Kelsey Werner described workshops with local community groups in India (organized by the Social Systems Design Lab at Washington University) to model factors affecting their use of less harmful liquefied petroleum gas (e.g., for cooking) in place of solid fuels like firewood or charcoal..

Others reported on using System Dynamics simulation interfaces that engage stakeholders. As Juliette Rooney-Varga put it, this requires translating well-informed scientific models into meaningful, recognizable intervention levers and outputs. 

Allyson Beall King, presenting on her work with Tyler Opp, echoed this concept of scientific translation in describing their model of toxic sediments in Lake Coeur d’Alene.  They wanted to make sure this model would not only satisfy scientists but also be fully accessible and transparent for the public.

I also learned from Daniel Kliem’s talk about how to involve experts in participatory modeling. He said that if a simulation was the ultimate goal, then one should “fail fast” by developing the quantitative model sooner rather than later.  He also advised modelers to remember that we are the translators and integrators of others’ knowledge, and as such we should always give those experts the credit they are due. 

This last point reminded me of something that the other Student-Organized Colloquium keynote speaker, Dr. Irene Headen, said about one of the strengths of System Dynamics: the process allows modelers to collect and integrate multiple perspectives on a single topic. 

The conference is a heady experience for a first-time attendee like myself. Thinking about the presentations I attended, I realize that none precisely addressed environmental health and justice per se.  But that doesn’t really matter, because the presenters made it easy to see how their experiences and insights have broad application, and I look forward to applying these ideas in my own work.     

 

Martha McAlister – mcalisterm@usf.edu

Martha is a PhD student of Environmental Engineering at the University of South Florida. She studies the efficacy and sustainability of environmental health interventions. Martha’s participation in the International System Dynamics Conference was supported by USF NRT Strong Coasts (National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1243510). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation, USF, or NRT Strong Coasts.

Check out the Society’s SIGs – including Environmental SIG and Health Policy SIG

Recent Posts

ISDC 2021 Highlights: Food “Wickedness”

The International System Dynamics Conference (ISDC) convenes practitioners who demonstrate what’s new and developing in their fields with System Dynamics. This section of the WiSDom Blog, “Conference Highlights,” asks system dynamicists to spotlight key presentations...

ISDC 2021 Highlights: Tackling Structural Racism with Modeling

The International System Dynamics Conference (ISDC) convenes practitioners who demonstrate what’s new and developing in their fields with System Dynamics. This section of the WiSDom Blog, “Conference Highlights,” asks system dynamicists to spotlight key presentations...

Housing Dynamics

Housing Dynamics We had an insightful conversation with David Stroh, Martijn Eskinasi, and Kaveh Dianati at our latest seminar. We learned about how using causal loop diagrams based on simple archetypes, illuminate interdependencies across housing availability, wealth...

Upcoming Events

Introduction to Modeling

Introduction to Modeling

In this seminar, you will be able to build your own System Dynamics model! This will be a small, quantitative model of the classic apartment vacancy/build cycle. Read the problem statement. You will take your first steps with Studio and learn how to apply it for...

Recent Business cases

General Motors OnStar

Name The General Motors OnStar Project Modelers Vince Barabba, Chet Huber, Fred Cooke, Nick Pudar, Jim Smith, Mark Paich Client General Motors Client Type Corporation The Official Website onstar.com is the official website in which you can become a member, get...

Pharmaceutical Product Branding Strategies

Pharmaceutical Product Branding Strategies Name Pharmaceutical Product Branding Strategies — Simulating Patient Flow and Portfolio Dynamics Modelers Mark Paich, Corey Peck, Jason Valant Contact Jason Valant or Corey Peck Client Numerous Pharmaceutical Companies Client...

Polio Eradication

Polio Eradication Name Polio Eradication Modelers Kimberly M. Thompson,and Radboud J. Duintjer Tebbens Client World Health Organization (WHO) Client Type NGO The Issue You Tackled Following successful eradication of smallpox and impressive progress in the elimination...

Join us