The Systems Thinking and Complexity free online course will help you learn how to use complexity and systems thinking to address a variety of social, managerial, and policy problems.

About the course

This free online course addresses the practical problems that arise in social systems in the context of management and public policy at local, regional and global levels. It is problem-oriented, providing you with both the theoretical understanding and practical tools, to find and implement solutions to organisational and social problems.

The course will look at the nature of social, managerial and policy problems, considering a variety of real-world examples: community action; crime and policing; health and social welfare; transportation; smart cities; energy; Europe and Brexit; and mass education for Africa and Latin America.

You will discover how a systems thinking approach can be used to understand and help to seek solutions to these problems, and explore the nature of complexity, why systems are complex and how complexity science can help. 

The course has been developed by the UNESCO UNITWIN Complex Systems Digital Campus, which federates international expertise on systems thinking and complex systems science.

Throughout, you will learn with Professors Joyce Fortune and Jeffrey Johnson – internationally recognised experts in systems thinking and complex systems science, who have taught and acted as consultants addressing practical issues in this area for many decades.

Systems Thinking and Complexity complements the UNESCO UNITWIN Complex Systems Digital Campus course on Global Systems Science and Policy.

What you will learn

The course will provide you with systems thinking methods and tools, to apply to your own problems and share with other learners in the discussions.

By the end of the two weeks, you will be able to:

  • define a system and apply the definition to a variety of social systems;
  • recognise the features of particular systems that make them complex;
  • analyse a system that interests you, to identify problems and formulate it in systems terms;
  • and apply advanced systems thinking to seek solutions to the messy management, business and policy problems you face.


This course is suitable for:

  • managers in the private and public sectors responsible for commercial and policy problem-solving in their organisation;
  • scientists wanting to take their research into practical applications;
  • officers of organisations such as UNESCO, the European Commission, and ministries in national governments;
  • young people wanting to engage in problem solving;
  • citizens wanting to formulate arguments for or against top-down policies;
  • Or members of the general public motivated by curiosity or wanting to understand better the world we live in.

About the instructor

Jeffrey Johnson is a Professor of Complexity Science and Design at the Open University & Deputy President of the UNESCO UniTwin Complex Systems Digital Campus. He is interested in interdisciplinary science for policy.

Starting date: 6 March, 2017

Duration: 2 weeks, 3 hours per week

Language: English

Instructors: Jeffrey Johnson



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