Center for Global Agenda: 77th UN General Assembly, Science Summit Statement 5 (Systems)

NEW YORK - July 27, 2022 - PRLog -- This position statement is part of a series of statements from the Center for Global Agenda (CGA) at Unbuilt Labs leading up to the 77th UN General Assembly Science Summit (SSUNGA77) to offer actionable recommendations. CGA Co-Directors Marvin Cheung and Marguerite Van Cook will be presenting at and engaging both fellow presenters as well as the general public at the SSUNGA77 on these recommendations.

Marvin Cheung, Center for Global Agenda at Unbuilt Labs, Co-Director, on systems:

The concept of complex systems has gained traction as the world became increasingly connected. We call something complex instead of complicated when (1) its constituent parts and whole are interconnected, (2) it is intractable once implemented, and (3) it has unknown second and third order consequences. Examples of this includes interventions towards poverty alleviation, climate action, and healthcare. We face several challenges when we think about the theory and practice of long-term systems change.

Addressing present challenges in the theory and practice of systems change requires new financing models. Thorough exploratory research is required to gain a better understanding of the wide range of issues and likely outcomes in a complex situation. Current financing models prioritize narrow or siloed investigations which is not conducive to understanding systems, conducting systems research, or learning about systems change. We emphasis the need to produce actionable insights with research funding. Researchers should be able to refine a topic and make meaningful recommendations after a discovery process. Too often, researchers critique or deconstruct an intervention without suggesting viable alternatives.

Systems research also requires coherent data across different levels: global, regional, national, and sub-national, to build an accurate understanding of present systems and subsequent changes. This data is currently siloed and held by many private and public organizations. We recommend building research consortiums to bring together this data for academic research, and for the monitoring and evaluation of sustainable development interventions to minimize unintended consequences after implemention. Data ethics guidelines for this use case needs to be clarified.

Further, we recommend directing more funds and efforts towards developing action research and practice-based research methods - methods which allow theory to emerge and be validated during practice. We also see a need for research on the current culture and politics of change within the fields of political economics and sociology, addressing questions such as, why specific state or non-state actors may be resistant to change, how contemporary power structures are changing, and how to create lasting change through cultural shifts.

For more information please see the Center for Global Agenda (CGA) at Unbuilt Labs website: or visit our Pressroom for past announcements statements:

Marvin Cheung
Head of Research and Strategy, Unbuilt Labs
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