FutureLearn: Systems Thinking and Complexity


This free online course addresses the practical problems that arise in social systems in the context of management and public policy at local, regional and global levels. It is problem-oriented, providing you with both the theoretical understanding and practical tools, to find and implement solutions to organisational and social problems.

Use systems thinking to solve complex, real-world problems

The course will look at the nature of social, managerial and policy problems, considering a variety of real-world examples: community action; crime and policing; health and social welfare; transportation; smart cities; energy; Europe and Brexit; and mass education for Africa and Latin America.

You will discover how a systems thinking approach can be used to understand and help to seek solutions to these problems, and explore the nature of complexity, why systems are complex and how complexity science can help.

Apply systems thinking methods and tools to your own area

The course will provide you with systems thinking methods and tools, to apply to your own problems and share with other learners in the discussions.

By the end of the two weeks, you will be able to:

  • define a system and apply the definition to a variety of social systems;
  • recognise the features of particular systems that make them complex;
  • analyse a system that interests you, to identify problems and formulate it in systems terms;
  • and apply advanced systems thinking to seek solutions to the messy management, business and policy problems you face.

Learn with the UNESCO UNITWIN Complex Systems Digital Campus

The course has been developed by the UNESCO UNITWIN Complex Systems Digital Campus, which federates international expertise on systems thinking and complex systems science.

Throughout, you will learn with Professors Joyce Fortune and Jeffrey Johnson – internationally recognised experts in systems thinking and complex systems science, who have taught and acted as consultants addressing practical issues in this area for many decades.

Systems Thinking and Complexity complements the UNESCO UNITWIN Complex Systems Digital Campus course on Global Systems Science and Policy.

This course is suitable for:

  • managers in the private and public sectors responsible for commercial and policy problem-solving in their organisation;
  • scientists wanting to take their research into practical applications;
  • officers of organisations such as UNESCO, the European Commission, and ministries in national governments;
  • young people wanting to engage in problem solving;
  • citizens wanting to formulate arguments for or against top-down policies;
  • or members of the general public motivated by curiosity or wanting to understand better the world we live in.
1 Student
Cost Free Online Course (Audit)
Pace Finished
Subject Business
Institution UNESCO
Provider FutureLearn
Language English
Certificates Paid Certificate Available
Hours 2 hours a week
Calendar 2 weeks long
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FAQ View All
What are MOOCs?
MOOCs stand for Massive Open Online Courses. These are free online courses from universities around the world (eg. Stanford Harvard MIT) offered to anyone with an internet connection.
How do I register?
To register for a course, click on "Go to Class" button on the course page. This will take you to the providers website where you can register for the course.
How do these MOOCs or free online courses work?
MOOCs are designed for an online audience, teaching primarily through short (5-20 min.) pre recorded video lectures, that you watch on weekly schedule when convenient for you.  They also have student discussion forums, homework/assignments, and online quizzes or exams.

1 review for FutureLearn's Systems Thinking and Complexity

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3 months ago
Pete Olds audited this course, spending 2 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.
The presentation was quite ordinary - but the material was engrossing. This course has left me enthusiastic to follow up on the area, and thinking about how I could apply it during the day. And I guess that is a great outcome form any course.

Recommended, especially if you are interested in management or technology domains.
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