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Systems Thinking Analysis of a UN Sustainable Development Goal

Tasks to be undertaken

Systems Thinking Analysis of a UN Sustainable Development Goal.

The learning outcomes that are assessed by this coursework are:

  1. To apply a systems approach to the analysis of a real world problem
  2. Select and apply the appropriate diagramming tools to analyse a problem situation.
  3. To identify practical changes which might improve the problem situation

In this assignment you demonstrate your understanding of SSM, along with your critical analysis skills, judgement and insight.

In this module we have developed the concept of a system and begun to address a range of situations both natural and organisational as systems in which many elements are interacting to produce overall emergent effects. We have seen that addressing problems in systems requires gaining a holistic understanding and looking at the phenomenon as a whole. We have identified that many systems are messy and we cannot simply focus on hard systems.

To understand systems we have developed methodologies and approaches to examining them, both hard and soft. We have looked at Systems Dynamics and Soft Systems Methodology. We have looked at the importance of hierarchies and boundaries in the maintenance of systems.

We have also tried a range of tools to diagram systems, recognising that we need appropriate illustrative tools and that there is a limit in the use of text to describe system interactions. That led us to the application of causal mapping from systems dynamics and rich pictures, Soft Systems Methodology. We have also adopted the Iceberg model and the Impact Gaps Canvas from Map the System.  We also examined the use of ideas such as CATWOE and root definitions.

This coursework involves the application of the portfolio of concepts, approaches and tools to the investigation of a specific area concerning sustainable development. You select one of  17 UN sustainable development goals  (SDGs) defined by the UN  to explore using systems thinking (see diagram).

Explore and gain an understanding of the SDG using the knowledge platform as a starting point:

Select an area or system to investigate. You could select a specific case study, application or problem area. It does not have to relate to information systems, but you may wish to incorporate an information system focus.

Carefully define your boundary. What is inside the system and what is not?  What are the inputs and outputs?

Gather information about your system.

Start by creating a rich picture to describe the system and the problems associated with it.

Use this as a basis for developing an Iceberg Model and  Impact Gaps Canvas.

As you read around the subject area, try to identify causal relationships which could be incorporated into a causal map. List identified cause / effect pairings.

Next develop the CATWOE and root definition.

As you extend and develop your model, consider possible interventions and conclude your report with recommended interventions. 

Note: This is a creative exercise. It is up to you to scope the system and decide on it limits and the boundary. Remember it is you as the investigator who sets the boundaries.

You may add diagrams and frameworks of you own choice.

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