Systemic Thinking for Policy Making

The Potential of Systems Analysis for Addressing Global Policy Challenges in the 21st Century

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We live in a period of profound systemic change, and as in similar periods in the past, there is bound to be considerable instability and uncertainty before the new society and economy take shape. We have to identify actions that will shape change for the better, and help to build resilience to the inevitable shocks inherent in, and generated by, the complex system of systems constituted by the economy, society and the environment. These challenges require updating the way policies are devised and implemented, and developing more realistic tools and techniques to design those policies on the basis of appropriate data. In Systemic Thinking for Policy Making world experts from the OECD and International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) pool their expertise and experience to propose new approaches to analysing the interconnected trends and issues shaping today’s and tomorrow’s world. The authors argue that to tackle planetary emergencies linked to the environment, the economy and socio-political systems, we have to understand their systemic properties, such as tipping points, interconnectedness and resilience. They give the reader a precise introduction to the tools and techniques needed to do so, and offer hope that we can overcome the challenges the world is facing.


Developing Pathways to Sustainability: Fulfilling Human Needs and Aspirations while Maintaining Human Life Support Systems

Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs) are introduced, and integrated population and human capital scenarios for joint analysis of human development, coping with environmental changes, and securing human life support systems are considered. Incorporating environmental feedbacks on economic growth is discussed. These scenarios are linked with the SDGs as highlighted by IIASA’s ‘The World in 2050’ framework (a broad transformational narrative; targets and indicators for 2030, 2050 and beyond; and sustainable development pathways). Developments to obtain more integrated sustainability pathways could include integrating feedbacks from environmental damages into demographic and education projections; and further integrating demographic, education, and income projections. A gender aspect could be considered. Modelling assessments of sustainability pathways can be enhanced. Quantitative scenarios for SDGs related to human development can be improved and better integrated with indicators for other SDGs. Societal changes, the evolution of human needs, and possible changes in governance could be better integrated into modelling.


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