Postgraduate course

Policy Design and Implementation

  • ECTS credits10
  • Teaching semesterSpring
  • Course codeGEO-SD308
  • Number of semesters1
  • LanguageEnglish
  • Resources

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, students gain hands-on experience by weekly assignments and a project. The reading list includes a primary textbook and supplemental material.

Learning Outcomes

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) identify a system dynamics explanatory model a real-world problem and conduct a six-week empirical and theoretical research project that results in a policy model, a written report, and an oral presentation.

Make judgements

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.

CommunicateStudents 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 skillsStudents 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

The course consists of lectures and computer lab activities, short in-class assignments, weekly written assignments, and a major project requiring a written report, a model, an interactive learning environment, and a presentation. Course meetings include 36 lecture hours and 18 hours of lab assistance over a 6-week period (two lectures and one lab per week) from mid January until early March.

Compulsory Assignments and Attendance

Written assignments, a project report, and a presentation of the report

Forms of Assessment

Assessment consists of evaluating the modeling project. The modeling project consists of a simulation model, a written report containing policy analysis and recommendations, and an oral presentation and response to examiner's questions.

Grading Scale

An ECTS grade is provided to the student at the end of the course according to the A-F scale.

Subject Overlap


Assessment Semester


Course Evaluation

GEO-SD308 will be evaluated at least every third year.


Department of Geography


Contact Information

Department of Geography