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  • Writer's pictureKayleanna Giesinger

The System of Economic Development and its Complexity

My paper, in collaboration with Jeffrey Wilson, titled above has recently been published in the Economic Development Journal of Canada! To see the complete submission, go here.


A local economy is a highly networked complex system made up of stakeholders, actors and influencers. The very nature of a system is that their behaviour is anchored by its state, which is made up of a series of parameters and characteristics. If the mechanisms of a complex system are adequately understood, they can be manipulated to produce change within a community. The role of the economic developer and city planner comes in the form of targeted interventions to achieve positive autocatalytic changes in communities. In this article, commonly used complexity analysis tools, Systems Maps and Causal Loop Diagrams are redeveloped for the application of economic development. Then, two case studies, Detroit, Michigan, and Kitchener, Ontario, are presented to assess the feasibility of applying complex systems techniques to inform economic development decision making. Also, to extract lessons to advance broader integration of systems analysis techniques into city planning efforts.

Key findings from the analysis include the importance of utilizing feedback loops and identifying direct connections that could prevent or catalyze progress. Overall, there is value in using complexity sciences for the pursuit of positive system change.

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