Introduction to Systems Thinking: Unit 2 Preview

The online units available through IFSTAL help you to better understand the food system through food systems thinking. In Unit 1 we looked at what the food system is, as well as some of the challenges that arise as a result of the behaviour of different actors in the system.

In Unit 2 we look a bit deeper at the nature of food systems challenges and some of the properties that they entail. We will look at how certain problems have been classified as complex and ‘wicked’, and how this differs from just being difficult or complicated. By becoming aware of the generalities in the nature of food system challenges, we are better able to factor these qualities in when designing appropriate interventions.

In trying to address food systems challenges we need to become aware of our thinking in order to be effective. Unit 2 presents a number of frameworks and approaches to think about systems, including the Distinctions, Systems, Relationships and Perspectives (DSRP) framework. DSRP is an excellent distillation of many systems concepts and will help get you on the way to thinking about food system challenges.

You should allow 60-90 minutes of time to work through the unit, and there are more resources available on the portal to help you continue on your systems thinking journey. For those able to attend the workshops, we will be learning about and practising a systems thinking tool for structuring our thinking around a potential intervention, and what might hinder or help us as we work towards building an intervention strategy.
Upon completion, students should be able to:
• Distinguish the features of wicked and super-wicked problems compared to tame problems.
• Make a case for the role of a systems approach in response to these problems.
• Define the key characteristics of a system and a systems approach.
• Apply the systems thinking framework: Distinctions, Systems, Relationships and Perspectives.

Log in to the Portal to find out more about the online units and the upcoming workshops at your local institution. If you have any questions contact your local Education Coordinator or post in our online forum.

Blog by Harley Pope, IFSTAL Education Coordinator, University of Reading.

Header image credit: Patrick Corrigan.

Link to Unit 2: Introduction to Systems Thinking (log-in required).

See the outline schedule of all IFSTAL events.

Workshop 2 details: Analysing System Interventions

Wednesday 15th November 2017 

Warwick University – Oculus OC1.01 @ 4.15pm – 6pm.

Thursday 16th November 2017

Oxford University – Gottmann A, School of Geography and the Environment @ 5 – 7 pm.

Reading University – 1L08, APD @ 6pm -7:30pm.

London – RVC Camden, F4 @ 5 – 7pm. Register for London Workshop here.

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