Staff and students participate in International Conference of System Dynamics Society, Delft, The Netherlands

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Three of MPhil Students – Paul Currie, Jack Radmore and Megan Davies – who graduated from the Introduction to System Dynamics Modelling module in 2013 presented their work at the 32nd International Conference of the System Dynamics Society in Delft, Netherlands, 20th to 24th July 2014.  Only Paul attended the conference. In addition, two former Executive Students, Karin Kritzinger and Jai Clifford-Holmes, who both attended the Systems Dynamics course in 2013, also attended the conference.

Dr Josephine Musango of the School Public Leadership and Prof Alan Brent of the Department of Industrial Engineering, also attended the conference.

The theme of the conference was ‘Good Governance in a Complex World,’ and brought together 440 participants. Participants included academics, consultants, practitioners, students, educators, managers and policy-makers from across the globe and encompassed diverse topics such as business management and operations, healthcare, energy, resources, economy, the environment, and new system dynamics applications.

Paul Currie presented a poster paper entitled:  ‘Sanitation technology options in informal settlements: a system dynamics approach’, which he co-authored with Jack Radmore, Dr Musango and Prof Brent. The paper queried the recent protests surrounding poor sanitation in the Western Cape and developed a system dynamics model to investigate the type of toilet technology option that might be most appropriate for widespread implementation. The different technology options were evaluated based on their costs and how they address social aspects such as dignity, privacy, safety, aesthetics, and environmental and public health.  According to Paul, sanitation was not a prevailing theme in the conference and he had the feeling that such a situation as in Enkanini, our case study, in which there are about 80 toilets for about 8000 residents, was beyond what many delegates could handle.

Megan Davies’ poster paper was entitled: ‘A systems approach to understand the effect of Facebook use on the quality of interpersonal communication’, which she co-authored with Dr Musango and Prof Brent. The paper explored the tension between the use of Facebook and the quality of interpersonal communication surfacing from Megan, who is a regular Facebook user. While Facebook has emerged as a substitute for the connection that people lack in interpersonal relationships, the paper provides useful insights and urges Facebook users to see interactions not as alternatives to, but rather as complimentary of, actual inter-personal connections. The value of Facebook is mainly in developing networks of strategic and useful loose connections. Megan’s work was further submitted for review to the Journal Technology in Society.

Jai-Clifford Holmes presented a paper entitled: ‘Using system dynamics to explore the water supply and demand dilemmas of a small South African Municipality’, which he co-authored with Dr Jill Slinger, Dr Musango, Prof Brent and Dr Carolyn Palmer.  System dynamics modelling was used as a boundary object in engaging the Kirkwood community and the Sundays River Valley municipality in understanding how to reconcile the available water supply with the growing demand for potable water in Kirkwood, whilst minimising the gap that currently exists between the current and desired levels of potable water services.

This research output clearly illustrates that system dynamics provides a language and methodology that can be utilised to understand divergent real-world problems that are facing us in the 21st Century.
As the lecturers of the System Dynamics module, Dr Musango and Prof Brent are proud of the students for producing excellent quality work that was relevant to be presented at the prestige international conference of the System Dynamics Society.

Compiled by Josephine Musango, posted by Mark Swilling