climate adjacency at international systems conference

Watch Mihir present DESTA’s work on identifying climate adjacency using participatory systems thinking at the International System Dynamics Conference 2021.  


We have uploaded videos of interesting and counterintuitive phenomena from the real world, explained using the lens of systems thinking. Watch the videos on our Systems Stories Youtube Playlist, by clicking the image alongside, or below.

SYSTEMS thinking 101

We have upload some videos from our systems thinking teaching and capacity building material onto the Systems Thinking 101 video series. We hope these videos will  help people to learn the basics of systems thinking. Check out the Youtube Playlist by clicking below or on the image.

Kabir on 'Our Climate Solutions'

Kabir was included among 40 young leaders working towards  tackling climate change in India by SELCO Foundation and The India Climate Collaborative. Watch him describe how systems thinking and climate change come together at DESTA. 

paper PRESENTed @ ISDC 2020

The paper ‘Building Insights in a Complex Social-Ecological System: A Case from the Banni Grasslands (abstract available here) was selected for a parallel session presentation at the International System Dynamics Conference(ISDC) Virtual 3D, Bergen, 2020. Watch Kabir present the participatory modelling process and key insights from modelling. He also speaks about how it was converted into a tri-lingual Android Mobile App, Banni in a Time of Change (See below on this page) and is being used for consensus building with the community in Banni. 


Mihir and Kabir conducted a webinar on modeling scale scenarios for social missions aimed at improving human well being. The aim was to demonstrate how systems thinking and simulation modeling could help understand the dynamics of scale in complex environments. The focus was to better understand how to plan to scale a mission while factoring in interconnected variables and what are the potential indicators of progress. The webinar is part of the micro learning series anchored by Societal Platform.

systems thinking model of covid and its impacts on india

In this video Arun Maira, Kabir Sharma and Mihir Mathur describe the systemic impacts of COVID 19 on the socio-economic system of India. By using a model, built as a causal loop diagram, they take you through the unintended consequences of good intended actions. How multiple actors are trying to solve the common problem differently and why systems thinking is needed for bringing them together. There are three future scenarios that are described as different roads to reaching a new normal, while no one knows what that new normal should be or could be.

Systems Thinking:
What it is, What it isn't

Every problem in the social sector is connected to every other problem. If you start to tackle hunger, you also have to deal with livelihoods. To deal with that, you need to work on education. And can education be divorced from gender issues? So how does one get started? Systems thinking is a framework that does just that. Tackle a whole range of issues to achieve sustainable systemic change.

TOOls of systems thinking

Systems thinking is a powerful approach for understanding the nature of why situations are the way they are and how to go about improving results.

Watch Mihir explain the tools of system thinking.

Systems Thinking for Real World Problems

Here Mihir helps us explore questions such as how does one manage complex problems with no straight forward solutions? What methods and tools can aid systemic decision making? And many others…

Applications of Systems Thinking: 
The Banni App

Real-world systems are managed through a social process. For any change to happen, people need to come together and take collective action. What actions they take depends on what future they wish to create together and this necessitates a sense of common belief and vision amongst them. How do we understand these “not so evident” deep-seated beliefs of communities and how can we work together to co-create a future? In this Master Class, Mihir discusses real-world applications of systems thinking to understand how social-ecological changes have taken place at grassroots in India – How tools of systems thinking can help us understand these complexities and better engage with communities to facilitate systemic changes.

Applications of System dynamics:  peak oil

In this webinar Mihir shows applications of System Dynamics and Systems Thinking through the dynamics of Peak Oil. The webinar is part of an online course run by Sushil Bajpai and Rajinder Raina. To Know More :

project outcomes

BANNI decision support systeM

“Banni: In a Time of Change”, is an Android App forming the interface of a system dynamics model of the social-ecological system of Banni Grasslands in India. This tool, an outcome of our collaboration with Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE)— with pictures, model story and interactive graphics—provides the users the option to choose scenario parameters and simulate outcomes under ‘What-if’ conditions, such as different management regimes of the invasive Prosopis juliflora, and climate extremes (like recurrent droughts). Through the App it is aimed to engage with stakeholders to envision possible future scenarios and build consensus on sustainable management practices. The App was developed through a participatory process, comprising workshops and iterative interactions with Banni’s Maldharis and researchers. Two workshops using the App, have been conducted with Banni community for envisioning futures and testing decision making assumptions through group exercises and app simulations. Read the project brief by clicking here, or on the image alongside.


This report documents the climate links of non-climate focussed projects. It is based on four participatory workshops done with agencies supported by Rohini Nilekani Philanthropies, working on Orans of Rajasthan, Pastoralists in Kutch, Rainforests in Valparai and Community Conserved Areas. It contains system stories which are depicted through use of causal loop diagrams and show the complex relationships between livelihoods, climate, policy, market and community dynamics. It brings out why it is important to endogenize climate in all forms of work and how it could be done. We hope readers will find it useful and feel motivated to apply a similar approach into their work and enhance their climate actions. Read the report by clicking on the image or here.

Operationalizing Socio-Ecological Approach to Livelihoods (SEAL)

The Socio-Ecological Approach to Livelihood (SEAL) provides a framework to move beyond mainstream silos of conservation and livelihood development. It provides an approach to integrate social-economic and ecological functions and their dynamic interactions as critical to the livelihood outcomes. This learning report, an outcome of our collaboration with FES,  is a culmination of the action based research undertaken to operationalize SEAL, improve its rigour and identify key operational pathways that can help in strengthening resilience of ecosystems and farm based livelihoods in the rainfed regions of India. The initiative has been supported by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and was undertaken by Foundation for Ecological Security (FES) in partnership with leading experts in systems thinking, natural resources and livelihoods from Boston College and Washington University in St Louis (USA), and NRMC and Shiv Nadar University (in India). Read it here.

facilitation manual for group model building

This manual, an outcome of our collaboration with FES, is an attempt to provide practitioners working at intersection of small holder agriculture, livelihoods and conservation, and communities embedded in those ecosystems with a tool to better understand the architecture and interconnections of complex self-adaptive systems. It provides process steps to guide participatory group model building activities with village communities through a community based system dynamics approach to deepen mutual understanding of how social, ecological and economic resources interact in varied contexts and inform the pathways for livelihood improvement from a system’s perspective. The initiative was undertaken by Foundation for Ecological Security (FES) in partnership with leading experts in systems thinking, natural resources and livelihoods from Boston College and Washington University in St Louis (USA). Read it here.

Sustainable alternative futures for india (SAFARI)

Developing countries face the unenviable challenge of balancing their developmental goals and climate targets. This project aims to understand the synergies and trade-offs involved in doing so, in the Indian context. The Sustainable Alternative Futures for India (SAFARI) model, an outcome of our collaboration with CSTEP, is a system-dynamics simulation model that can help policymakers visualise various long-term low-carbon development trajectories for India, based on technology and policy intervention scenarios of their interest. One of the key imperatives has been to capture as many inter-sectoral interlinkages as possible, in a bottom-up manner.In SAFARI, the demands from SDG goals drive growth in the agriculture, residential, commercial, industry, and transport sectors. Sectoral growth is suitably adjusted by constraints in the availability of water, land, and materials. This then drives the energy supply model, which meets energy needs of the country using cost and resource constrained decision making. System dynamics allows us to capture the physical impact of these resource constraints and interdependencies among sectors.

Read it here.

other resources

Mihir’s Blog ‘Mihir’s Musings’ where he writes a series “My Journey of Systems Thinking” plus more stuff on climate change, localisation etc. :