08 October 2018 - 21 January 2019
Institute for Social Ecology, Schottenfeldgasse 29, 1070 Vienna

Joint IIASA-BOKU Lecture Series: “Delivering on the Sustainable Development Goals: Systems analytical perspectives on strategies and trade-offs”

The lecture series  introduces systems analytical research addressing individual or multiple SDGs. Researchers across disciplines are rediscovering systems analytical approaches to address complex problems. In their broadest sense, they allow for an interdisciplinary integration of theories, concepts and methods, and serve particularly well to investigate the interactions between SDGs.

© Susanne Hanger-Kopp | RISK

© Susanne Hanger-Kopp | RISK

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by the UN general assembly, constitute a new, coherent way of addressing the diverse societal problems of our time. The SDGs include issues such as poverty and hunger, education and innovation, as well as climate change and biodiversity. The initial value of SDGs lies in their global political support and visibility, and the potential to drive policy-making, and academic research. However, the ultimate objective and biggest challenge is their implementation, which is interlinked, context-dependent, and needs to happen at multiple scales of governance. Nilsson et al. (2016), introduce a seven-point scale, illustrating the positive and negative interactions between SDGs from cancelling, where reaching one goal makes it impossible to reach another one, to indivisible, when the achievement of one goal is inextricably linked to another goal. The authors intend this framework as a starting point for building evidence on SDG interactions and enable policy learning.

While systems analysis for a long time remained a term that was considered empty and meaningless, currently it has regained some prestige in the face of the ever-increasing complexity of societal problems. Systems thinking more broadly, engenders all the particular skills that are required to think about and analyze complexity, such as for example dynamic, closed loop and operational thinking (Richmond 1993). These are not necessarily new skills, but often neglected skills, or skills that have been applied in isolation rather than in combination, an important prerequisite to do actual systems thinking and in turn systems analysis.

For IIASA this lecture series provides an opportunity to come to terms with its legacy, making explicit (more than before), how what we do is systems analysis. For the students of Social Ecology and any similar interdisciplinary courses, this lecture series provides the chance to gain an overview of what systems analysis can be and how it is useful in and beyond academia. The aim is thus not to teach how to apply each method, but to provide enough information for students to navigate the discourse on systems analysis, to recognize systemic patterns in societal issues, and to be able to identify appropriate methods to solve and illustrate such patterns. 

Lecture schedule, Mo. 17:30-19:00

8.10.2018, Susanne Hanger-Kopp: “Introduction I (Systems Analysis)”

15.10.2018, Verena Winiwarter: “Introduction II (SDGs)”

22.10.2018, Veronika Gaube: “From farmer, livestock and biodiversity: integrating decisions on land use and climate change to assess biodiversity changes in Austrian cultural landscapes”

29.10.2018, Sibel Eker: “Systems modelling to investigate sustainable consumption dynamics”

5.11.2018, Gerhard Reese: “Systems in my mind – defining the psychological underpinnings of systems thinking and its consequences”

12.11.2018, Ted Veldkamp: “Water and the SDGs: a systems approach to evaluate chances, threats, and trade-offs”

19.11.2018, Verena Winiwarter: "A spiral of risk. Understanding the environmental, social and economic consequences of tourism in fragile landscapes"

26.11.2018, Katya Perez-Guzman: “Global trade of commodities and the SDGs: a network analysis of the input-output databases related to mining”

3.12.2018, Franziska Gaupp: “Food systems risks and possible solutions for a sustainable future of food”

10.12.2018, Jessica Jewell: “Tensions between global and national priorities: implications for the climate SDG (13)”

17.12.2018, Alison Heslin: “Natural Disasters and Urban Displacement: The Gentrifying Effects of Disaster-Induced Outmigration”

7.1.2019, Adriana Keating: “Disaster resilience: useful systems concept or meaningless buzzword?"

14.1.2019, Piotr Magnuszewski: “Navigating complexity through social simulations”

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Last edited: 14 November 2018


Susanne Hanger-Kopp

Research Scholar

Risk and Resilience

T +43(0) 2236 807 508

Marlene Palka

Research and Administrative Assistant

Risk and Resilience

T +43(0) 2236 807 619


Magnuszewski P (2017). Simulation games as tools for handling cognitive and social complexity in the context of the sustainability transition. In: Resilience Frontiers for Global Sustainability, 20-23 August 2017, Stockholm, Sweden.

Keating A, Venkateswaran K, Szoenyi M, MacClune K, & Mechler R (2016). From event analysis to global lessons: disaster forensics for building resilience. Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences 16: 1603-1616. DOI:10.5194/nhess-2016-52.

Jewell J, Vinichenko V, McCollum D, Bauer N, Riahi K, Aboumahboub T, Fricko O, Harmsen M, et al. (2016). Comparison and interactions between the long-term pursuit of energy independence and climate policies. Nature Energy 1: e16073. DOI:10.1038/nenergy.2016.73.

Additional information

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