CS 752 System Dynamics : Modeling and Simulation for Development (Spring 2023)

Schedule: Slot 6, Venue: CC 101

Moodle: Slides, Assignments, Solution, Newsgroup etc.

Technology is helpful but rarely sufficient in delivering development, because real-life systems are dynamic, nonlinear, multi-loop feedback driven, adaptive, and therefore change-resistant. In fact, many of the growth-oriented/growth-accelerating technical developments and government policies are making the world more unsustainable.

To analyze complex development situations, this course will introduce 'System Dynamics' - use of Computer Modeling and Simulation to specify and analyze complex social systems. The key insight of System Dynamics is that while due to bounded rationality, human intuition about working of social systems and their long term dynamics is often wrong, and analytical solutions to formal mathematical specifications of social systems are often intractable, use of Computer Modeling and Simulation can be a powerful tool in deciphering the complexity of social systems. The formal specification has to be a detailed simulation model explicating all assumptions. Given such a formal model, simulation can unravel long term dynamics in space and time. Policy interventions can be tested using sensitivity analysis and leverage points can be identified. This classic by Forrester will give a detailed idea of what the course is about.

Note that the course is not about developing or using gadgets and how they bring development. It is about using Computer Modeling and Simulation to analyze development situations. Each week, we will try to pick one newspaper article of immediate relevance and try to analyze it. An example of large scale modeling is Effectiveness of Testing, Tracing, Social Distancing and Hygiene in Tackling Covid-19 in India: A System Dynamics Model by Jayendran Venkateswaran, Om Damani.


1. Business Dynamics : Systems Thinking and Modeling for a Complex World, Author John D. Sterman - Tata Mcgraw Hill : 2010.

Pre-requisites: None

Audit Requirements: You have to do all the assignments. There will be at least one assignment per week.


Lecture Topics


1) Introduction to Systems Thinking: What is Systems Dynamics. Event based vs. System Based view of the world. (Examples: Traffic Congestion, Student Disinterest in Academics, Corona Pandemic, Limits to Growth, Climate Change )

2) Feedback Systems Thinking/Causal Loop Diagrams: Causality, Causal Chains, Causal Loop Diagrams, meaning of links and polarities on links, loop polarities. (Examples: Car Pollution, Demand Supply, Corona Pandemic Farmer Indebtedness)

3) Stock and Flow: notion of stock, rate of change, conservation of stock, system boundary - sources and sinks for flows, tangible vs intangible stocks

Software Support

4) Computer Simulation: Vensim, notations, balancing the units; Example: Simple savings account, Population Dynamics, Pandemic Modeling

5) Playing with Vensim: what happens to your stocks as time progresses, introduction to goal-seeking and other modes of dynamic behaviour

Advanced Issues

6) Fundamental modes of dynamic behavior: Exponential growth, Goal seeking, Oscillation, S-shaped growth (Coronavirus infection growth), Equilibrium.

7) Nonlinear relationships, Delays (getting exposed and becoming infective), and, Qualitative variables: Table functions, Multipliers

8) Team model building: Aim of team model building, role of facilitator

9) Model Validation

10) Limitations of SD

Large Case Study

11) Effectiveness of Testing, Tracing, Social Distancing and Hygiene in Tackling Covid-19 in India

12) Tragedy of Commons in Nashik: Government's promotion of Farmpond driven agriculture intensification