nl en

Systems Thinking in Peace-building, Development and Public Health




Admissions requirements

A 200-level course from the same track or permission of the instructor.


Recently, the systems analysis has become a critical tool for a number of leading international (UNDP, WHO), regional (OSCE), national bodies and agencies (USAID, Ministry of Foreign Affaires of Netherlands), local authorities, and (I)NGOs in understanding questions such as how complex developing settings can be understood and how our policy or intervention can be understood within a highly dynamic setting. The interventions are never neutral, they interact with other parts of the context and contribute to the overall dynamics. Since the context is complex, the usually applied simplified, linear logic of programming may not work and can even do harm on the ground. Unfortunately, the systems analysis step in creating interventions have been too often neglected in the past which has resulted in a far-from-optimal results in peacebuilding and development practice.

The lessons, tools and approaches covered in this course can be practically applied across many contexts: peacebuilding and development projects including global public health, security sector reform, anti-radicalization strategies and many others. The students will work on a number of projects where they will analyse complex conflict and/or developing systems, its key driving factors and evaluate a number of peacebuilding/development (including public health) initiatives.

The course is designed as a training for students who wish to know more about this recent trend in peacebuilding and development theory and practice of designing, planning, monitoring and evaluating various humanitarian and development (including public health) interventions. There is a growing awareness that complex, protracted and recurrent conflicts require a holistic, flexible and adaptive approach to peace-building/development that would integrate a variety of factors (security, political, socio-economic and cultural) and multidisciplinary approaches. The course will not be limited to conflict or developing settings but will also apply the systems approach on examples from developed world (e.g. radicalization and terrorism issues).

Furthermore, beside introducing the systems thinking as a practical approach to design our peacebuilding/development interventions, the course will introduce tools to monitor and evaluate our efforts in the complex adaptive systems such as public health systems. The systems thinking is increasingly becoming the main aproach to both, understand a complexity inherent in public health systems and strengthen overall health systems.

The course will start with general concepts of ‘do no harm’ and (conflict) sensitivity and train students to conduct (conflict) systems analysis as the first necessary step in creating durable interventions with minimal unintended consequences and maximal impact.

The course will introduce a number of recently developed systems tools, such as RPP (reflecting on peace practice) matrix, visual maps for systems analysis, theories of change, systems archetypes and enhancing monitoring through feedback loops. In this course, the students will learn how to test their assumptions and reflect upon and evaluate contribution of their peace/development initiative to a so-called PWL (Peace writ large) or overall economic or health systems. The concepts will be learnt on real-life examples from various regions of the world.

The course will organize a couple of visit lectures of experts in the field who apply the systems approach in their interventions.

Course objectives

Upon successful completion of this course students will be able to:

  • conduct a systemic analysis as the first step in planning a policy or intervention

  • learn how to use a number of conflict/development analysis tools

  • construct complex systems maps in order to identify leverage points for change

  • contextualize the theories of change: identify how change happens (or doesn’t happen) at each programme step

  • clarify and evaluate how the achievement of a peacebuilding or development programme’s goal contributes to the broader peace/development or overall health systems

  • identify gaps in analysis and strategy development critical to effectiveness and impact of a peace/development initiative

  • provide the basis for evaluating development programmes under uncertainty

  • critically assess the strengths and limitations of the systems approach


Once available, timetables will be published in the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

The course is taught through two-hour seminars. Students are expected to participate in both large and small group discussions; present and defend their ideas within an academic setting; and take part in individual and group presentations. The instructor will facilitate and ensure the efficient running of the discussion, but students are responsible for shaping its direction. Each seminar has a ‘required reading’ list that must be read in advance of each seminar.


Seminar Participation (15%)
Students are expected to actively participate in all seminar activities (15% of final grade).

Weekly reflection notes/webposts – 4 notes (500 words) per 7,5% in weeks 1-4 (30% in total)
There will be 4 reflection notes to be written and submitted, by the end of weeks 1, 2, 3 and 4. Each note should be around 500 words long (excluding references and footnotes). Each week’s reflection should be based on the past week’s topic and compulsory readings already discussed.

Presenting a proposal for individual research essay (15%) in week 6
The proposal will form the basis of your individual research essay, and constitute 15% of the final grade. It is an individual presentation that should last no longer than 10 minutes together with the Q&A. You should present on your main idea for the final research paper, have a clearly articulated research problem, structure and methodology. You are expected to engage in discussion based on your classmates and instructor’s questions, and to benefit from their comments. Overall performance during presentation and Q&A session will be graded (15% of final grade).

General framework for the final project (details will depend on the concrete project)

  • What you need: policy/program title, location, the background or underlying analysis, the goal, key activities and expected outcomes

  • The key steps:

  1. Review the existing (if it exists) analysis
  2. Review the policy/program goal
  3. Identify the program activities, intended changes and theories of change
  4. Plot the program goal, activities, and changes onto the RPP matrix
  5. Assess the program’s theories of change
  6. Explore the program logic
  7. Reflect and recommend changes in program design and/or implementation

Individual Research Project 40% in the reading week
The final component of assessment is an individual research essay (4000-word long, +/- 10%, excluding bibliography) based on your presentation, worth 40% of the final grade, assessing a certain programme’s contribution to the “peace writ large”.

The analysis should draw on and critically engage with a good range of sources, and all ideas and information should be properly referenced.


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list



This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Curriculum Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact