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Systems Thinking and Practice for Sustainable Futures - UTS Open
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Systems Thinking and Practice for Sustainable Futures



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4 wks


20 hours

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Systems thinking is a powerful technique for addressing complex sustainability challenges. In this novel UTS Open short course, you’ll learn to tap into your systems sensibility, grow your systems literacy and gain the skills to apply systems thinking in practice.


About this course

Many of today’s challenges are uncertain, ambiguous and complex. Whether you’re facing a professional challenge or personal situation, systems thinking can take you beyond conventional problem solving and equip you with new perspectives on complexity.

In this online UTS Open short course, we’ll introduce you to the concepts, tools and philosophies of systems thinking and practice – an exciting approach to untangling the wicked problems of today.

Guided by leading practitioners from the UTS Institute of Sustainable Futures, you’ll learn to:

  • examine challenges and opportunities from a range of levels and perspectives
  • consider how these perspectives might challenge or influence your worldview
  • explore key characteristics of systems thinking
  • experiment with a range of systems thinking tools in your own context.

Whether you’re new to systems thinking or you’re an experienced practitioner, this course will prepare you to tap into your systemic sensibility, build your systems literacy and apply systems thinking in practice.

Key benefits of this course

The course has been designed to build your systems sensibility, literacy and practice capabilities.

Through these levels of learning, we intend the build six specific skills including:

  • Managing your own thought processes - using trans - and metacognitive ability
  • Distinguishing complex situations or problems from complicated, chaotic and simple situations and their characteristics; as well as defining ‘systems of interests’ and their boundaries
  • Recognising and organising systems parts and wholes
  • Perceiving relationships and interdependencies
  • Taking and switching perspectives - shifting worldviews
  • Embodying and applying systems thinking to complex real-world challenges.


Full price: $650 (GST-free)*

*Price subject to change. Please check price at time of purchase.

Enrolment conditions

Course purchase is subject to UTS Open Terms and Conditions. 

COVID-19 response 

UTS complies with latest Government health advice. Delivery of all courses complies with the UTS response to COVID-19.

Additional course information 

Course outline

The course consists of 4 modules, delivered over a 4-week period including in-depth online content and case studies, a moderated discussion forum and four live Zoom sessions with the lead academics. You will get to collaborate with other course participants to experiment with some of the systems thinking tools in your context. There is also plenty of time for interactive discussion and questions. 

The course is structured around the three themes of awakening our systems sensibility, strengthening our systems literacy and cultivating our systems thinking in practice.

Discovering systemic sensibility

We begin by (re-) discovering an innate but often dormant talent that many people have - systems sensibility. It is a tacit appreciation that the nature of the world is relational, meaning we are aware that life's events and phenomena emerge because of many things happening in concert together rather than independently of each other. We start discovering or recovering this talent in module 1 and continue strengthening it throughout the course. 

Developing systems literacy

Throughout the course, we develop systems literacy and the knowledge of systems characteristics and their behaviours. Particularly in module 2 we expand systems sensibility by introducing key systems concepts and thinkers with the intention of developing your systems literacy.  This will equip you with the language and knowledge of important approaches to and interpretations of systems thinking.

Cultivating systems thinking in practice

Finally, modules 3 and 4 are designed to give you tools and ways of thinking and reflecting to engage with complex situations and challenges that can't be solved with a strategic plan or generic problem-solving approach. We will explore what it takes to use systems thinking in practice in the real world and within your context. As many systems thinkers and practitioners can confirm, mastering systems thinking in practice is a life-long learning journey. 

Throughout the four modules you will learn to:

  • Use the Cyefin framework to make sense of obvious, complicated, complex and chaotic situations and decide how to best approach them
  • Appreciate the various lineages of systems thinkers and understand their very distinct perspectives on systems and how to work with them
  • Know key systems concepts and methods for making sense of very complex situations that do not respond to generic problem-solving approaches
  • Apply systems thinking and systems tools, such as rich pictures, context mapping and multi-cause diagramming to real-world situations you are dealing with
  • Understand how your own way of thinking, your own perspective and worldview can be changed in the process of applying systems thinking
  • Reflect on how to integrate the systems thinking tools and skills in specific dialogue processes when engaging with diverse stakeholders in complex situations.

Course learning objectives

By the end of this course you will be able to:

  • Think more holistically about systems, their behaviours and elements
  • Recognise feedback loops and emergence in situations of interest and sense why these characteristics matter
  • Know which systemic approaches are useful in various contexts
  • Be aware of your own cognitive thought processes and worldview in relation to engaging with various types of problem solving
  • Develop empathy and appreciation of other worldviews in practice
  • Start building a collective, systemic approach to inquiring into and influencing complex situations with stakeholders.



To complete this online course, you will need:

  • A personal computer with adequate internet access and sufficient software and bandwidth to support web conferencing
  • An operating system with a web browser compatible with CanvasZoom and Microsoft Teams.


You should be able to commit to participating in the four live Zoom sessions (2 hours per session) and spend at least 3 hours a week engaging with the online content and discussion forum.

Contact us

Who is this course for?

This course is open to anyone with an interest in going beyond quick fixes and learning what it takes to create positive systems change. It offers value to people with and without systems thinking experience and has particular application for:

  • People managers
  • Training, development and education managers
  • Project managers
  • Public servants
  • Business owners and managers
  • Employers
  • Stakeholder engagement practitioners
  • Consultants
  • Researchers
  • Reachers
  • Students.
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Acknowledgement of Country

UTS acknowledges the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, the Boorooberongal people of the Dharug Nation, the Bidiagal people and the Gamaygal people, upon whose ancestral lands our university stands. We would also like to pay respect to the Elders both past and present, acknowledging them as the traditional custodians of knowledge for these lands.