Policy Design and Implementation
Level of Study
Master / Ph.D.
Semester of Instruction
Objectives and Content
This course embraces a key purpose of system dynamics modelling: improving the behaviour of social systems by designing feasible, cost-effective, and transparent public policies with minimal adverse unintended consequences. The focus is on public policies, but business policy design is also discussed and demonstrated. Students gain experience using a structured method for policy design and evaluation that reflects an informed view of institutional and cultural constraints on policy feasibility and outcomes, including costs and benefits. Students also develop skills for interacting with those for whom the modelling work is done, including elicitation of information about the dynamic problem, relevant organizational procedures, and potential obstacles to implementing new policies. In addition to learning from the lectures and in-class activities, students gain hands-on experience by preparing and presenting client-oriented, model-based policy analyses. The reading list includes a primary textbook and supplemental material from both the system dynamics and public policy implementation literature.
Express knowledge and understanding
Students should be able to (1) explain in stock/flow/feedback terms how the fundamental structures of dynamic social systems produce behaviours that are problematic from the perspective of public and private policy makers; (2) describe and explain the system dynamics method of designing and testing policy structures to alleviate problematic behaviour in dynamic social systems; (3) describe how political, organizational, and cultural factors influence policy implementation and feasibility; (4) explain the theory and method of cost-benefit analysis as applied to model-based policy design; and (5) describe how model-based policy analysis can be communicated effectively to policy makers and staff.
Apply knowledge and understanding
Students should be able to (1) identify sources of endogenous problematic behaviour in explanatory models of dynamic social systems; (2) use policy parameter analysis to identify and evaluate potential leverage points for improving model behaviour; (3) formulate hypotheses (in words, diagrams, and a set of model equations) as tentative structural improvements to explanatory models of problematic dynamic behaviour; (4) estimate cost and effectiveness of policy options, including feasibility assessments; (5) design interactive learning environments to facilitate communication of policy insights and implementation requirements; and (6) develop and present model-based, client-oriented policy analyses.
Students should be able to (1) adopt a client's perspective to assess the definition of a problem, the boundary of a model, and the model's reliability and usefulness; (2) establish and evaluate criteria for evaluating how well a model structure contributes to the explanation of an observed dynamic behaviour; (3) assess data requirements in light of a model's sensitivity to policy parameter estimates; (4) assess whether simulated policy options are cost-effective and feasible in the real world; (5) evaluate policy implementation obstacles and modify expected benefits accordingly; (6) evaluate the impact of an interactive learning environment as a tool for communicating policy insights and implementation requirements; and (7) take ethical considerations into account when conducting research and developing models, and when interacting with clients, stakeholders, and colleagues.
Students should be able to (1) ask and answer questions and engage in discussion and debate in a classroom setting; (2) elicit policy-relevant information from agencies, policy makers, and staff; (3) organize a written discussion of a model-based policy design project in a way that highlights the proposed structural changes to an explanatory model, the expected dynamics of the proposed changes, and the method of analyzing and testing the policy options; (4) make oral presentations of a model-based policy analysis; and (5) design and present models in a way that facilitates communication and understanding, particularly to non-technical audiences that include policy makers and their staffs.
Develop learning skills
Students should be able to (1) conduct research and engage in other projects with a high degree of independence, responsibility, and reliability; (2) access and interpret relevant scientific and policy literature; and (3) write and speak effectively about their work and relevant issues.
Required Previous Knowledge
Recommended Previous Knowledge
GEO-SD304 or other adequate background in modelling
Access to the Course
The course is open to students enrolled in the Erasmus Mundus master program and to graduate and undergraduate students at the University of Bergen if they have taken GEO-SD304 or other courses that provide an adequate background in System Dynamics.
Teaching and learning methods
This is a distance learning course delivered online by the professor using digital technologies and facilitated by an on-site teaching assistant. It consists of lectures (both live and video), computer modeling assignments, in-class 'thought experiments', and case studies requiring a model-based policy analysis, an interactive learning environment, and a presentation. Course instruction includes 35-40 lecture hours and 20-25 hours of activities directed by a teaching assistant over a 10-week period from mid-January until the end of March.
Compulsory Assignments and Attendance
Completion and presentation of case study assignments.
Forms of Assessment
4-hour written exam (100% of grade)
An ECTS grade is provided to the student at the end of the course according to the A-F scale.
GEO-SD308 will be evaluated at least every third year.
Department of Geography