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Future Meetings

An Introduction to Systems Thinking for Tackling Wicked Problems

Venue: Council Room, Main building, Aston University, Birmingham
Speaker: Professor Gerald Midgley
Date: Friday, 08 December 2017 at 18:00 - 19:00

Non-members welcome, no charge is made. After the talk, you are welcome to join us and the speaker for a meal. For further information please contact Please confirm your attendance by sending an e-mail to

Refreshments will be available from 17:30.

Directions: Aston is a short, flat 15 minutes walk away from New Street Station, through the main shopping areas of the city along Corporation Street. Directions to Aston can be found at go to entrance marked E in the campus map ( and follow the signs. The talk will be held in the ground floor of the main building of the University. Signs will be prepared to help direct the visitors to the room from the reception of the building. For any complications, please ask in reception for Room G8.


We are increasingly facing ‘wicked problems’. They are stubborn and challenging, with:

  • Many interlinked issues, cutting across the usual silos (e.g., economy, health and environment), making for a high degree of complexity;
  • The involvement of multiple agencies (often from across the public, private and voluntary sectors) trying to account for multiple scales (local, regional, national and global);
  • Many individuals, groups and organisations with different views on the problem and potential solutions;
  • Conflict over desired outcomes or the means to achieve them, and power relations making change difficult; plus
  • Uncertainty about the possible effects of proposals for action.

While traditional scientific and management approaches can make a useful contribution, we need something more than these if we want to gain a bigger picture understanding of how to take action in the face of wicked problems. Systems thinking can help.

In this talk, Gerald Midgley will introduce the audience to a framework of systems thinking skills, plus a variety of systems ideas and methods that can help people put these skills into practice. He will illustrate the use of the methods with a number of examples from his own projects in the UK and New Zealand to show how we can begin to get a better handle on wicked problems.


Gerald Midgley is Professor of Systems Thinking in the Centre for Systems Studies, Business School, University of Hull, UK. He also holds Adjunct Professorships at the University of Queensland, Australia; Mälardalen University, Sweden; the University of Canterbury, New Zealand; and Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. He was Director of the Centre for Systems Studies at Hull from 1997 to 2003 and from 2010 to 2014. From 2003 to 2010, he was a Senior Science Leader in the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR), New Zealand. Gerald has had over 300 papers on systems thinking, problem structuring methods, community operational research and conflict management published in international journals, edited books and practitioner magazines, and has been involved in a wide variety of public sector, community development, technology foresight, sustainability and resource management projects. He was the 2013/14 President of the International Society for the Systems Sciences, and has written or edited 11 books including, Systemic Intervention: Philosophy, Methodology, and Practice (Kluwer, 2000); Operational Research and Environmental Management: A New Agenda (Operational Research Society, 2001); Systems Thinking, Volumes I-IV (Sage, 2003); Community Operational Research: OR and Systems Thinking for Community Development (Kluwer, 2004); and Forensic DNA Evidence on Trial: Science and Uncertainty in the Courtroom (Emergent, 2011).