The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Grace Thompson '19 attends the International Systems Dynamics Conference

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Conference attendees with Thayer School of Engineering Professor Steve Peterson, whose Engineering 18 (Policy Systems) class inspired their work.

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Mini-Grant recipient, Grace Thompson ’19, shares her experience attending the International Systems Dynamics Conference in Reykjavik, Iceland during the summer term.

The International System Dynamics Conference (ISDC) invites system dynamists of all levels from all corners of the world to share their work and learn from other contributors to the field. Practitioners hail from a breadth of occupations including teaching, consulting, research and policy making. The conference runs over the course of a week and is composed of sessions intended to demonstrate how system dynamics can unveil key insights in all fields.

At the conference, I attended multiple sessions where a speaker would deliberate the application system dynamics to society. Jorgen Randers delivered a particularly insightful presentation on the subsequent lessons learned from system dynamics failures. Each lesson captured the notion that solutions are not always embraced, no matter how clear their benefits may be. This is a big reason why problem-solving strategies, such as system dynamics, can help to find other alternative solutions to problems.

Randers shared that “one cannot scare people into action by telling them ahead of time what sad future will result from continuation of their current behavior.”  Instead, through understanding why people behave in that certain way, one might be able to (1) encourage or even incentivize alternative behaviors, or (2) re-frame the problem altogether to avoid the projected consequences. I was inspired listening to some of the world’s top system dynamists, such as Randers, talk about their own pitfalls and insights.

At the conference, I also received the opportunity to share my personal work during a poster symposium. My final project from System Dynamics in Policy Design and Analysis (ENGS18), “Hosting the Olympics: Opportunity or Catastrophe” was displayed amongst others in a room where attendees could approach me to discuss my findings. Not only was I able to inform those interested in my research about why fewer and fewer cities volunteer to host the Olympic Games, but I was also able to network with various professionals: something that is particularly valuable to me as a rising senior searching for post-graduation employment.

I am beyond grateful that I was able to attend this conference where distinguished system dynamics trailblazers came together to cultivate discussion around urgent matters. It excites me to now share the possibilities of system dynamics with those who are unfamiliar with the subject. The breadth in topics discussed at the conference emphasized the applicability of system dynamics to all fields: from resource use to sustainable business practices to healthcare and beyond. I would like to thank the Rockefeller Center and Steve Peterson, my ENGS 18 Professor, for providing me with this valuable experience. It was an absolute privilege to participate in a conference dedicated to fostering prosperity in all realms of the world.

-Submitted by Grace Thompson ’19​, Rockefeller Center Mini Grant Recipient 

The Rockefeller Center's Mini-Grants program funds registration fees for students attending conferences, as well as the costs of bringing guest speakers to Dartmouth. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the Rockefeller Center or constitute an endorsement by the Center.


The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences