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Appendix C: Systems Resources

Systems Principles

Systems principles are key ideas that repeat across time and within multiple contexts.


Summary of Systems Tools

A short summary of key tools to help teach and understand systems.


Barry Richmond’s Systems Thinking Skills

This set of thinking skills provides a framework for looking at any situation, whether current, theoretical, or historical. Practice the skills one at a time or in concert with one another.


Introduction to Behavior Over Time Graphs (BOTGs)

BOTGs are usually a good starting point. Find data where possible and be clear when graphs represent mental models versus research findings.


Connection Circles (CCs)

CCs are used for identifying important elements in a system and how they affect each other. Tracing causal connections can help find feedback loops.


Causal Loop Diagrams (CLDs)

Complex systems usually have “competing loops” – try to find reinforcing loops and balancing loops that may be in conflict.


Stock/Flow Diagrams and System Dynamics Models

Stock/Flow Diagrams show how things actually work. System Dynamics models use math to simulate Stock/Flow diagrams over time.


Naming and Labeling

Tips and techniques to help with naming and labeling in Causal Loop Diagrams and Stock/Flow models.



Simulations help compress time and space, so rather than having to wait a hundred years to see a particular result, a simulator can reveal that result quickly and in a contained space, either real or virtual.


Iceberg Visual

The iceberg provides a frame for looking beyond events to exploring a system more deeply - looking for trends, structures and mental models within. Because complex systems problems resist change, seeing a system through the lens of an iceberg can help reveal what’s generating behaviors seen.


Archetypes and other Generic Models

Archetypes (and other generic models) can help in the transfer of knowledge about a specific subject to other situations. Viewing behavior in a broader interdisciplinary context can reveal repeating patterns and increase understanding of potential outcomes that may be counterproductive to one’s goals.


System Dynamics Modeling Software

System Dynamics Modeling software comes in many shapes and sizes. One size does not fit all. These are a few that may be helpful for beginners who wish to get into more sophisticated modeling.



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