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This free course, Systems thinking: Understanding sustainability, introduces ways in which systems thinking can help support processes of decision making among stakeholders with different, often contrasting, perspectives on sustainable development in order to generate purposeful action to improve situations of change and uncertainty. You will be encouraged to engage with the concept of sustainable development, and discover and contextualise your own sustainable development beliefs and values.
After studying this course, you should be able to:
- engage with the domain of sustainable development
- contextualise any experience in the domain of sustainable development
- critically read, interpret and analyse some accounts of environmental, development and sustainable development issues and situations
- identify systems of interest in some sustainable development situations
- identify types of hierarchy that are meaningful in the domain of sustainable development.
- Current section: Introduction
- Learning outcomes
- 1 Exploring your understanding of sustainable development
- 2 Searching for ‘system’ in sustainable development situations
- 3 Contextualising sustainable development in terms of historical events
- 4 Sustainable development and sustainability
- 5 Values, beliefs and circumstances
- 6 Exploring values, beliefs and circumstances in relation to a sustainable development situation
- 7 Issues of stakeholding
- 8 Some different beliefs about sustainable development
- 9 Values and sustainable development
- 10 Congruence between your sustainable development values and your behaviour?
- Keep on learning
Study this free course
Enrol to access the full course, get recognition for the skills you learn, track your progress and on completion gain a statement of participation to demonstrate your learning to others. Make your learning visible!
Systems thinking: Understanding sustainability
In our increasingly complex world of change and uncertainty, particularly in the context of climate change, the notion of sustainability is often raised as the key issue for decision making in the 21st century. But sustainability is itself a contentious term and often used in misguided ways depending on the context of use. This course introduces ways in which systems thinking can help support processes of decision making amongst stakeholders with different, often contrasting, perspectives on sustainable development in order to generate purposeful action to improve situations of change and uncertainty.
The perspectives of the authors of this course
As recognition of multiple perspectives is an important skill to develop in relation to systems thinking you should note that this course has been written by three authors who are referred to in the text – Chris Blackmore, whose background in education and environmental and rural development projects led to her use of systems ideas for exploring interconnections between environment, development and learning; Jake Chapman whose background in energy research, including campaigning for energy conservation and renewables, helped him develop an appreciation of systemic nature of these issues and Ray Ison whose experience of scientific approaches to natural resource management that historically excluded people from considerations led to his interest in more systems-based approaches to managing which enable participation by stakeholders in defining their systems of interest.
This OpenLearn course provides a sample of level 2 study in
This free course includes adapted extracts from an Open University course which is no longer available to new students. If you found this interesting you could explore more free Systems (Computer) courses or view the range of currently available OU Systems (Computer) courses.
Copyright & revisions
Originally published: Tuesday, 29th March 2016
Last updated on: Tuesday, 29th March 2016
- Creative-Commons: The Open University is proud to release this free course under a Creative Commons licence. However, any third-party materials featured within it are used with permission and are not ours to give away. These materials are not subject to the Creative Commons licence. See terms and conditions. Full details can be found in the Acknowledgements and our FAQs section.
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