Category Archives: Presentation

Hospital Congestion using System Dynamics – Eric Wolstenholme

Category : News , Presentation

Recently, Eric Wolstenholme gave a talk to the Health Special Interest Group of the System Dynamics Society exploring hospital congestion using system dynamics. In this talk, Eric outlines his current thinking on systems archetypes in the context of hospital congestion.

The talk is described as an exploration of cascaded and interlocking archetypes using a mixture of qualitative and quantitative system dynamics and a mix of theory and practice.

This talk will be of broad interest to system dynamicists and other modellers. It is available on the System Dynamics YouTube channel:

In addition, Eric has provided a synopsis of the Stella Architect story used in the presentation. Available at isee exchange: Further details are below.

Eric Wolstenholme was one of the pioneers of System Dynamics in the UK. He is a past President of the International System Dynamics Society and the UK Chapter; and received the Jay Wright Forrester Award in 2004 for his seminal work on generic system archetypes. He received the Outstanding Contribution Award from the UK SD chapter in 2019.

Ways of telling stories about Hospital Congestion

An exploration of cascaded and interlocking archetypes

In Eric’s own words:

On the back of numerous modelling studies around delayed hospital discharges in the UK, I have been exploring different ways of communicating the messy issue of hospital congestion. The communication problem arises from the complexity of both the number of coping strategies used by hospitals and the number of unintended consequences of each strategy. So, single causal maps become a bit impenetrable.

My first attempt involved showing both hospital coping strategies and their unintended consequences on stock flow maps (*). I then tried using individual system archetypes to describe the unintended consequences of each coping strategy (**). My latest attempt involves using generic archetypes (***) in tandem. I have named these ‘cascaded archetypes’, where the unintended consequence of one archetype becomes the driver for the next. The approach introduces each archetype in turn within an overall story. The pattern of each archetype (opportunity/threat-action-unintended consequence) provides structure and simplicity. Cascaded archetypes must always feedback on one another if they are part of the same system, so some interesting choices must be made between keeping each free-standing whilst showing important interlocking between archetypes. 

The presentation overviews my alternative approaches for describing hospital congestion and postulates a generic template for cascaded/interlocking archetypes. Please be prepared to try out the method on your own issues, particularly where unintended consequences are tackled by different stakeholders in different systems and where there might be all four of my generic archetypes (***) involved. The presentation is in Stella Architect and I have placed this on the isee systems exchange (see link below) so group members can access this now or later. (The story can be followed by pressing the space bar or pressing the buttons – at the end of each section or along the top of the screen.)


 *Wolstenholme, E. F., Arnold, S., Monk, D., Todd, D., & McKelvie, D. (2005). Coping but not coping in health and social care—masking the reality of running organisations well beyond safe design capacity. Systems Dynamics Review, 23(4), 371–389.

** Wolstenholme and McKelvie, The Dynamics of Care, Chapter 10. Springer 2019

*** Wolstenholme, E. F., Towards the definition and use of a core set of archetypal structures in system dynamics, System Dynamics Review, Vol. 19, No. 1 Spring, 2003.

2020 Conference Presentations

Category : Conference , Presentation

On April 2nd this year, the chapter held a very successful online conference, replacing the two-day one that had been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The slides and videos for this online conference are now available:

2020 conference

If you want to revisit the talks you heard, or, if you missed our meeting, watch for the first time, please use the above link to access the YouTube videos.

Although we were disappointed not to hold the Glasgow meeting this year, the good news is that next years’ conference will be at the same venue: Strathclyde University on 25-26th March 2021. We look forward to seeing you next year in Glasgow.

The Day System Dynamics Came to Edinburgh

Category : Events , Presentation

Douglas McKelvie

The Venn diagram intersection of Edinburgh, System Dynamics and Social Work remarkably has at least two members. And the field of System Dynamics in Scotland has experienced double-digit growth in the past two years; admittedly, causal analysis suggests that this results from John Hayward’s recent move from Wales to Aberfeldy. You can imagine our excitement when the excellent Dartington Service Design Lab invited Professor Peter Hovmand, of the Social Systems Design Lab in St. Louis, to present a lecture in Edinburgh (my home town) in September. This event attracted unprecedented interest for any System Dynamics gathering in Scotland, with around 150 people registered. Then Storm Ali struck, not realising that we don’t do extremes in Edinburgh. Umbrellas were respectfully furled, all trains stopped, flights were cancelled, and Edinburgh-bound colleagues such as Brian Dangerfield were diverted to Glasgow(!) where they joined the longest bus queue in the world, as shown on the BBC News. See if you can spot Brian here:

Nevertheless, Peter’s lecture went ahead, and his explanation about how to use System Dynamics in the context of participative group model building to make sense of a wide range of stakeholder perspectives on children’s social services was well received. Haste Ye Back, Peter. And huge thanks to Tim Hobbs and Dartington for their pioneering work. This is just the beginning.

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2nd Annual Workshop on System Dynamics in Transportation Modelling

The System Dynamics Society Special Interest Group in Transportation (SDS T-SIG) are pleased to announce that the 2nd Annual Workshop on System Dynamics in Transportation Modelling will take place at the University of Leeds, Institute for Transport Studies, UK on April 11th – 12th 2019.

Following from last year’s successful event in Vienna, Austria, this free workshop will consist of a mix of presentations, practical sessions and network / sharing / collaboration building opportunities as well as the SDS T-SIG Annual Meeting. The intention of the workshop is to showcase the range of research and practise being carried out in transport studies and planning using system dynamics (SD) as a modelling method, and it is designed to:

·          Promote the role of SD in transportation;

·          Facilitate communication and collaboration in transportation and SD;

·          Share teaching materials, works in progress, best practise case studies and state-of-the-art use of SD in transportation research and planning.

Abstracts are now invited for oral and poster presentations which demonstrate both the potential and success of system dynamics in transport related research, to provoke discussion of conceptual issues through to fully tried-and-tested models. Topics can cover any aspect of transportation, such as freight and logistics, development of new technologies or business models (eg Mobility as a Service (MaaS)), performance management systems and sustainable and equitable policy analysis. Innovative approaches and cross-fertilisation with alternative forms of modelling (eg agent-based) or new and emerging forms of data are also encouraged. We particularly welcome proposals from MSc and PhD students which will be presented in a dedicated session.

An informal optional dinner will be hosted on the Thursday evening, and advice can be provided on booking suitable travel and accommodation (both at participants own expense). Leeds is easily accessible from either Leeds-Bradford Airport or Manchester Airport, and a well-connected mainline rail station. The full workshop programme and timings will be confirmed following the abstract submission process.


Abstract submission (250-300 words): 31st January 2019

Confirmation of acceptance: February 15th 2019

Speaker registration deadline: March 1st 2019

General registration deadline: March 31st 2019

For further information, or to submit abstracts please contact:


The System Dynamics Society Transportation Special Interest Group has three long-term goals:

1.       The promotion of system dynamics as a tool to analyse transportation systems and policy.

2.       The development of a repository of case studies, models and other resources for practice and teaching.

3.       To spread the use of system dynamics through the transport community both in practice and in academia.

 For more information visit: or


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2019 UK Chapter Conference Early-bird Booking

Booking for the UK Chapter Conference is now open.

THEME : System Dynamics: Uncovering connections – delivering insight
VENUE: Royal College of Nursing, 20 Cavendish Square, London W1G 0RN
DATE: 4th / 5th April 2019

Provisional Schedule






Past Events: 2017 Conference Presentations

Annual Conference 2017

THEME : 60 Years On, Still Looking Forward Seriously Modelling what Matters and Building Up the Field
VENUE: London South Bank University
DATE: Wednesday 5th April and Thursday 6th April

This was the 60th anniversary of the founding of System Dynamics by Jay Forrester, who died in November 2016, leaving behind a unique and precious legacy. Our tribute, this conference, covered contemporary examples of the classic themes he first developed:

  • World Dynamics
  • Urban Dynamics
  • Industrial Dynamics

We also covered Health Policy, which has become one of the most significant domains modelled using SD. The conference was open to all, whether or they worked in System Dynamics.

Wednesday 5 April (am): Optional Session Getting Started Building Models

Led by Kim Warren, this session gave attendees a chance to get started in modelling.

Wednesday 5 April (pm): System Dynamics and the Real World

The opening session consisted of plenary addresses covering important subjects of interest to a wide audience. Speakers included:

 Thursday 6 April (all day): Taking Stock and Developing the Field

This day was interactive, and considered System Dynamics practice and education in more depth:

Student Presentations


2017 UK Chapter Conference Early Bird Reminder

Please note that special early bird rates for this year’s conference end on February 28th!

Each year the chapter organises the Annual Conference, a series of presentations from eminent practitioners and the opportunity to meet and discuss issues.  2017 will be the 19th annual conference.

THEME : 60 Years On, Still Looking Forward Seriously Modelling what Matters and Building Up the Field
VENUE: London South Bank University
DATE: Wednesday 5th April and Thursday 6th April

This is the 60th anniversary of the founding of System Dynamics by Jay Forrester, who died in November 2016, leaving behind a unique and precious legacy. Our tribute, this conference, covers contemporary examples of the classic themes he first developed:

  • World Dynamics
  • Urban Dynamics
  • Industrial Dynamics

We also cover Health Policy, which has become one of the most significant domains modelled using SD. The conference is open to all, whether or not you work in System Dynamics.

Conference page and booking

Networking Event – The Cumberland Initiative – London Wednesday 6 July 2016

THEME : The Cumberland Initiative, modelling and simulation in healthcare, and System Dynamics

VENUE:  Royal College of Nursing, Cavendish Square, LONDON

DATE:     Wednesday 6 July 2016

TIME:      16.15 – 18.00


The Cumberland Initiative is a unique collaboration between academics, modelling and simulation practitioners, and the healthcare sector in the UK, led by Professor Terry Young of Brunel University as:

“a movement to encourage systems thinking, simulation and modelling of healthcare scenarios to improve NHS quality of care delivery and save money.”

This networking event will include some input from Terry Young about the aims of the Cumberland Initiative followed by a discussion of how System Dynamic modelling and simulation can contribute to this agenda.

Admission is free, but you must register (on Eventbrite, see below) so that we know how many people to expect; and please remember to de-register should your plans change.

Tea and coffee will be available from 4.15, and we will start at 4.30, finishing no later than 6.00, when we will adjourn to a nearby bar for refreshments and food (at participants’ own expense!).

This event is for members of the SD society and anyone else interested in system dynamics or healthcare strategy.




Developing Mathematical Models in Healthcare: Special Workshop on System Dynamics

Developing Mathematical Models in Healthcare: Special Workshop on System Dynamics

The UK Chapter is delighted to be supporting a seminar on the application of System Dynamics to challenges in the health and social care sector. The Health Modelling Centre Cymru (HMC2) is hosting the event, which will include the following presentations:

“What is System Dynamics?” – John Hayward, University of South Wales

“Health and social care workforce modelling at a national level” – Siôn Cave, Decision Analysis Services Ltd

“Health & Social Care Integration with the Cumberland Initiative” – Douglas McKelvie, The Symmetric Partnership LLP

The seminar is being held on Wednesday, 27th January 2016 at the Cardiff University School of Mathematics. This is our first event in Wales and is open to all with an interest in System Dynamics. More information available here.

We look forward to seeing you there!

UK Chapter Gathering at the Shard, December 17th

East Lecture Room, The Shard from 15:45 to 17:00 on Thursday 17th December

Douglas McKelvie
The Symmetric Partnership LLP

Using System Dynamics to Model Health and Social Care Integration Policy Based on Risk Stratification Tools

Risk Stratification tools are widely used in healthcare internationally to summarise the needs of a population and target services / interventions, often with a preventive intention, such as to reduce emergency hospital bed-use. In this example, a local authority, working with NHS partners, used modelling to explore why a case-management service based on a commonly-used tool (Patients at Risk of Rehospitalisation – PARR) appeared to have a disappointing impact. Whilst risk stratification can be viewed as an application of Big Data, focusing on Stock measurements, the insights added by System Dynamics showed the importance of understanding Flow, in the form of the underlying churn of people between risk groups. Within the context of policy-modelling, this approach can be considered to be an application of Dynamic Impact Analysis.

Followed by information about the 2016 conference.

And some regulations:

Everybody has to be registered beforehand as the reception in the ground level needs to have a list of attendees at least two days before the event. There is no chance that somebody can enter if he/she just comes without being in the list.

There will be an X-Ray machine in the ground floor reception and all visitors will need to have their coats and bags scanned.

It is important that all guests bring some form of ID.

It is important to register your attendance by clicking here by December 14th.

We will then meet in a pub nearby for a Xmas drink from around 17:00 until around 18:30.

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