Qualitative systems analysis tools to inform strategic planning for policymaking

The current state of the world affairs calls for a revival of systems thinking to improve decision-making. Recognizing that the tightening of socio-economic links heightens the need for holistic responses, that disciplinary and sectorial solutions are of limited effectiveness and efficiency, and that big data is not generating integrative perspectives by itself, highlights the need for policymakers to become thoroughly familiar with the promises and pitfalls of systems analysis. Challenges are systemic, dynamic, and interconnected, and systems analysis, coupled with an improved anticipation, provides a coherent methodology and necessary tools to develop new approaches so urgently required for more coherent and effective policy planning.

© Designer491 | Dreamstime.com

© Designer491 | Dreamstime.com

Many policy planning processes are characterized by:

Data scarcity, incompleteness and ambiguity

“Deep uncertainty”

Requirements of policy feasibility for and ownership by stakeholders

Urgency in providing solutions

To address these challenges, IIASA tailored a suite of systems analysis methods each tackling a specific planning step (or, sometimes, multiple steps simultaneously).

These methods belong to qualitative (or sometimes called ‘soft’) systems analysis methods which are mainly based on work with stakeholders and experts. These methods provide the following benefits:

Structure the problem and assist in sense-making

Find consensus among stakeholders

Provide social

 These methods were applied in the following projects:

Strategy of sustainable industrial development of Kyrgyzstan

Growing globalization increases the interconnectedness of countries embedded in complex supply and value chains. Countries also become increasingly interdependent through transnational transport corridors, the exchange of information and knowledge investments and migrant flows, etc. The future of the Kyrgyz Republic - a small, landlocked and open developing economy - is heavily influenced by global and regional geopolitical and geoeconomic processes. More

Water Nexus Policy Strategic Planning

Water is a truly cross-sectorial resource that has an impact on population well-being, economic growth, and the environment. Developing resilient (“no-regret”) water strategies given conflicting interests and great uncertainty is of the highest importance for the sustainable development of any country. Feasible policies should reconcile conflicting interests of different sectors and different stakeholders and should take a proper account of immense uncertainty about the future availability of water resources and key factors, which impact it. More

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Last edited: 28 April 2021


Nadejda Komendantova

Research Group Leader and Senior Research Scholar Cooperation and Transformative Governance Research Group - Advancing Systems Analysis Program


Nikita Strelkovskii

Research Scholar Cooperation and Transformative Governance Research Group - Advancing Systems Analysis Program

Research Scholar Exploratory Modeling of Human-natural Systems Research Group - Advancing Systems Analysis Program


Elena Rovenskaya

Program Director and Principal Research Scholar Advancing Systems Analysis Program


Leena Ilmola-Sheppard

Guest Emeritus Research Scholar Cooperation and Transformative Governance Research Group - Advancing Systems Analysis Program


International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Schlossplatz 1, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria
Phone: (+43 2236) 807 0 Fax:(+43 2236) 71 313