Review of Literature on Systems Thinking and System Dynamics for Policy Making

Rachel A J Freeman, Mike Yearworth, Jean-Yves Cherruault

Research output: Book/ReportConfidential report for external body


This literature review sets the stage for the Defra project titled:
Systems thinking and system dynamics modelling to support policy development using waste prevention and recycling as case studies
The objective of this literature review is to provide evidence of existing knowledge and experience related to the project, with examples of where systems thinking (ST) and System Dynamics (SD) have been used to support policy making, explain complexity in systems that policy makers are working within, and especially where these methods have been used in the waste system.
“Systems thinking” is a general term that describes an approach to dealing with complexity; it provides better tools than were available in the past through more linear ways of thinking. Although the functioning of real-world complex systems cannot be fully explained most of the time, systems thinking can help policy and decision makers deal with their complexity better. The field of systems thinking covers a range of different formal methodologies; System Dynamics is a specific system modelling and system practitioner methodology.
The intended audience for this literature review is experts, policy makers and analysts at Defra. For those not already familiar with systems thinking, the introduction section in Section 2 provides a general overview of the field and its methods.
There are three sections within this literature review, each with a different focus:
[1] Systems thinking to support policy making
[2] An introduction to System Dynamics
[3] The use of System Dynamics in policy making for the waste system
Original languageEnglish
PublisherDepartment for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Commissioning bodyDepartment for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Number of pages31
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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