Bringing System Dynamics into Action Research

University dissertation from Chalmers University of Technology

Abstract: System Dynamics simulation is a computer-aided approach to policy analysis and design, often carried out by external experts in simulation. System Dynamics is particularly useful in complicated and complex situations, such as healthcare. However, research has shown that few models in healthcare are implemented.

Within System Dynamics there are methods for group model building or participatory modelling, where simulation models generate insights for organizational learning. The aim of this thesis is to study how System Dynamics can be a useful tool for healthcare practitioners in action research settings, building more on the needs and issues of a group.

Thirteen cases are described in detail to illustrate the what is similar and different from a process / action research perspective, so that general conclusions can be made.

The thesis concludes that action research approaches are useful when more time is spent on initial stages identifying issues relevant to the participants. Using Causal Loop Diagrams creates shared maps and understanding of how issues are connected. The shared understanding is increased through experimentation and learning from simulation models so that the group can converge on solutions that they agree on and thus lower the threshold for implementation.

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