Certificate of Achievement

Jane Bromley

has completed the following course:

Systems Thinking and Complexity

UNESCO UNITWIN Complex Systems Digital Campus

This online course introduced ideas from systems thinking and practical ways to implement them. Systems thinking is _holistic_. Participants learned how drawing analytic systems diagrams can clarify part-whole structures and interactions. The course progressed from a formal systems model to the emerging science of complex systems which uses new computational methods to investigate future system behaviours.

2 weeks, 2 hours per week

Jeffrey Johnson

Professor of Complexity Science and Vice-President

UNESCO UNITWIN Complex Systems Digital Campus

overall score


Learning outcomes

  • Apply systems thinking to a wide variety of social and technical systems
  • Apply the method of drawing systems diagrams to represent systems and their dynamics
  • Apply the Formal Systems Model to practical situations
  • Apply knowledge of feedback loops and their likely impact on system behaviours
  • Apply the concepts of Complex Systems System to understand why systems are unpredicatble
  • Collaborate with others analysing and improving systems


The key themes in the course are

  • systems are defined to be assemblies of components, connected together in an organised way where the components are affected by being in the system and the behaviour of the systems is changed if they leave it.
  • the organised assembly of components does something, and the assembly has been identified as being of particular interest.
  • systems thinking is holistic, and the behaviour of the whole cannot be inferred by looking at the parts in isolation.
  • piecewise improvement of the parts of a system does not necessarily lead to an improvement of the whole.
  • drawing systems diagrams provides a methodology to create a representation of the system in its environment, including establishing the boundary between them.
  • system diagrams enable the interactions between the parts of systems to be made explicit and understandable as the drivers of the system’s dynamics.
  • systems diagrams show the existence of feedback loops, some of which are essential to control the system.
  • some feedback loops can make systems inherently unpredictable, while others may cause the system to become unstable.
  • the Formal Systems Model provides a robust framework for analysing systems and has been used in many studies for identifying systems failures.
  • some systems are inherently complex and unpredictable and they require new computational methods from the Science of Complex Systems to investigate their behaviour in a policy context.
  • systems thinking and complexity can be integrated into Global Systems Science which coordinates Complex Systems Science, Policy Informatics and Citizen Engagement to address the urgent local and global policy issues of the modern world.

Issued on 18th December 2016

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Free online course:

Systems Thinking and Complexity

UNESCO UNITWIN Complex Systems Digital Campus