Preliminary study on system dynamics modelling including an application test to analyse implementation obstacles regarding climate protection and climate adaptation measures


The system dynamics (SD) modelling method can be applied to analyse the behaviour of dynamic, complex systems by focusing on the underlying system structure that triggers the observed behaviour. Examples of such systems include the implementation of climate adaptation and mitigation measures, the dynamics of the Covid-19 pandemic, or the evolution towards a sustainable society. On the one hand, this can be addressed in qualitative system dynamics approaches, e.g. group model building, to analyse the impact relationships as well as prevailing paradigms and structures of the system (1). Another approach is quantitative system dynamics modelling which allows to understand the system interrelations and complexity of dynamic processes by simulations and thus to project their future development and to identify alternative paths and leverage points (2).


The overall aim of this project is to explore the methods of SD modelling as an inter- and transdisciplinary method for the IOER to analyse complex systems and dynamic processes comprehensively and to estimate their development. Such an understanding of complex processes at different spatial scale levels is also vital as a basis for a successful sustainability transformation of socio-ecological and technical systems. In the project SYSDYM, both the possibilities and limitations of SD modelling for the research questions of the IOER are compiled via a screening. The core of the project is to strengthen the inter- and transdisciplinary research at the IOER, particularly on the use of qualitative (mental) models, both between the social, engineering and natural sciences within the institute as well as externally with various actors in society.

Research Questions

To what extent can SD modelling reproduce a holistic system understanding of complex and dynamic processes regarding sustainability developments?

Is the joint generation of mental models with different actors in practice appropriate to develop a common understanding of implementation obstacles, new insights and corresponding approaches to solutions? If so, how much effort is involved?

Can SD modelling strengthen the interdisciplinary cooperation and mutual understanding of different research disciplines regarding sustainability transformation using qualitative and quantitative SD approaches?

Which scale levels of spatial development can be mapped by SD modelling?

First results

  • Extensive literature research on the methodology of system dynamics modelling with focus on socio-ecological-technical systems
  • Participation in the course on quantitative system dynamics modelling (simulation) of the University of Bergen
  • Conducting first workshops to test the applicability and usefulness of qualitative system dynamics, the so-called group model building or participatory system dynamics modelling at the IOER


  • Further workshops of group model building with external scientific partners and practice partners (housing cooperatives, city administration)
  • Analysis of suitable fields of application for system dynamics modelling at the IOER via surveys, workshops and literature research
  • Synthesis of the results to a final workshop that shows how system dynamics modelling can be used at the IOER to address the research questions


(1) Doylea, J.K., Ford, D.N.: Mental models concepts for system dynamics research, System Dynamics Review 14, 3-29, (1998)

(2) Honti, G., Dörgő, G., Abonyi, J.: Review and structural analysis of system dynamics models in sustainability science, Journal of Cleaner Production, Volume 240, (2019)

The Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development is jointly funded by the federal government and the federal states.

FS Sachsen

This institute is co-financed by tax funds on the basis of the budget approved by the Saxon State Parliament.