uMAMA researchers attend International System Dynamics Summer School and Conference in Boston

Prof. Josephine K. Musango and Benjamin Batinge of the urban Modelling and Metabolism Assessment Research Team (uMAMA) based in the School of Public Leadership, Stellenbosch University, attended the 2017 Conference of the international System Dynamics Society, hosted in Boston in July 2017, to share their latest research on electricity access in Africa. A one-week Summer School precedes the conference. Mr Batinge participated in the Summer School, hosted by the System Dynamics group of MIT. Also in attendance was a wide range of participants from across the globe and industry. As part of a welcome reception on the first day, participants played “the beer game” – (a supply chain game involving decision-making in dynamic environment). They also interacted with the epidemic and market growth models. The participants at this year´s Summer School were grouped into two based on their level of exposure to System Dynamics Modelling: beginner and advanced groups. The beginner track was for individuals with little or no experience with System Dynamics Modelling. The advanced track involved more in-depth modelling techniques including soft systems, model calibrations, and optimization.

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Benjamin in a lecture room at the MIT Sloan School of Management

The classes where conducted by three MIT professors, each focusing on a different modelling dimension. All classes were held at the MIT Sloan School of Management. The summer school lectures spanned nine hours, starting at 8:00 am till 5:00 pm. In-between sessions, there were two breaks (morning and late afternoon) and then a lunch break lasting an hour. At the end of each day, there was a presentation pertaining practical application of system Dynamics.
After the Summer School, the sixtieth anniversary of System Dynamics (organized by the System Dynamics Society), and held in Boston, Cambridge, commenced the following week. The annual System Dynamics PhD Colloquium preceded the conference. The conference brought together practitioners, thinkers and researchers working in different fields including engineering, economics, business, health, and psychology, among others. The uMAMA team presented a paper: Batinge B., Musango K. J., and Brent A. C. (2017). Boosting electricity access in Africa through private sector financing. The paper, co-authored by Mr Batinge and his PhD advisors; Prof. Musango and Prof. Brent, investigates the potential and viability of private sector funding as a conduit to attaining universal energy access in Africa by 2030.

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Prof. Josephine Musango and Benjamin Batinge at the poster presentation session

The uMAMA team´s research at the conference was presented both in the poster session and model expo. As one of the few presentations pertaining Africa, it attracted attention of participants and a continuous interaction throughout the session. The team received positive feedback from individuals of similar research focus. During the model expo session, participants had the opportunity to interact with models displayed on computers. They provided insights, suggestions, and ideas on how individual models can be improved.
The system Dynamics Society contains various special interest groups such as energy, economics, business, health, environment, and agriculture. There are also sub-regional and country chapters such as African and South African chapters respectively. These special interest groups and chapters often meet a number of times a year. At the conference where a significant number of their members converge, it is an ideal meeting place and time for these groups.

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Some participants of the South African Chapter Meeting at the International System Dynamics Conference

The South African Chapter of the System Dynamics Society had a meeting during the conference. In attendance were members of the South African chapter present, and other African chapter members. Also in attendance were affiliate members whose research or areas of interest relates to South African or Africa in general. Above is a picture of some attendants at the chapter meeting. Overall, the conference was very successful and next year´s conference is scheduled to take place in Reykjavik, Iceland. The uMAMA team strives to advance its research activities and participate in the upcoming South African System Dynamics Conference scheduled for November at the University of Pretoria, and also with more papers at the International System Dynamics Conference next year.