Welcome to the website for the CMU Design Systems Thinking for Public Policy in Fall 2017. This site hosts the description, syllabus, and assignments for the course, as well as all the readings and other references required for individual classes. For any inquiries, please contact the course instructor, Ahmed Ansari (aansari@andrew.cmu.edu).

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In the current century, as the distinctions between nature, culture, and the artificial become increasingly blurry, we can no longer talk about design outside of its role in determining the shape and form of systems, models of aspects of the world that can guide intentional change. This course intends to introduce socio-technical systems theory to policy makers. It will sensitize you to a range of different approaches and methods to analyzing and describing socio-technical systems, and teach you specific systems thinking techniques and terminologies for analyzing phenomena and making evaluable changes to those phenomena. As a result, you will have a better sense of where and how to design policies more effectively, and be in a better position to take responsibility for the consequences of your designed actions.

The goals of this class are:

  1. To give students an understanding of the value of “thinking in systems” and an experience of the power of good models.
  2. To enable students to apply the core concepts and models of designerly systems thinking to their own field, for the benefit of their understanding, their confidence, and their deliverables.
  3. To exercise students in the tasks of representing user intentions and actions, and modeling system components and interactions, in a coherent, holistic manner.
  4. To introduce students to a language for assessing the quality of a policy in terms of its effectiveness and efficiency in helping constituents achieve their goals.
  5. To help students improve their design processes and focus more effectively on fulfilling human needs.