At the July 29, 2015, meeting of the Arizona Chapter of the World Future Society, I and 21 other Arizona futurists were pleased to hear Bob Bergman present and discuss “Systems Thinking and Chronic Social Problems.” Bob is head of Arizona Decision Sciences and a long-time technology, strategy, and decision sciences professional. Specifically, at our meeting, Bob shared with us his application of systems thinking to the homeless problem in Arizona, on which he did work for the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) in 2014.
Here is Bob’s full presentation, which includes a great introductory overview of systems thinking:
A big part of the work Bob did for MAG was the development of a systems model for homelessness, as expressed in a simulation. Scenarios and simulations are standard futures methods, of course, and have their uses and limits. In this case, by taking all the variables associated with local homelessness, as defined by representatives of MAG, Bob was able to create a simulator that facilitated assessing various drivers of the problem, as well as various outcomes of possible policy decisions.
Here is Bob’s Arizona homeless problem simulation. You can access it yourself online and play with the variables such as homeless shelter capacity and recidivism, and thereby understand how such systems models work, understand the complexity of the homeless problem, as well as the challenges of defining and analyzing complex systems.
Of course, our group of futurists had many questions and challenges for the model, most of which were related to how the problem is defined, system boundaries and scoping, and more, all of which are part of the point of studying complex systems. And the fun in talking about it.
If you’re in Arizona and interested in the future, I encourage you to join us at one of our WFS Arizona monthly meetings. Join our meetup group here. Our meetings are free and open to everyone.