System Effects Modelling Helps Identify Challenges, Impacts, Strategies for Improving Food Safety


by Chi Nguyen | July 10, 2019

Food safety researchers from Cambodia and Vietnam recently participated in a training on using ‘System Effects’ modelling to help them identify the challenges, impacts and strategies for influencing policy on issues related to food-borne illnesses and antimicrobial resistance in the two countries.

The System Effects methodology is an approach developed to understand the user experience of complex systems. It emphasizes the varied nature of social phenomena, their causes and consequences, and at the same time provides tools for understanding the complex nature of how these varied factors manifest at community and other levels. The methodology is used to support the design of interventions aimed at changing the structure of complex systems and to drive particular goals.

System Effects modelling training attendees. Photo: C.Nguyen/ILRI

The three-day workshop (21-23 May 2019) was hosted by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the University of New South Wales, Canberra at ILRI office in Hanoi. It brought together 16 researchers from Cambodia’s Ministry of Health and Centre for Livestock and Agriculture Development; and Vietnam’s National University of Veterinary Research and the Hanoi University of Public Health who are working on different food-borne diseases projects.

The training began with an overview of complexity theory and its implications for the social sciences. This included a discussion of how complexity theory can enrich the research being done by ILRI and partners in the two countries.

Luke Craven from the University of New South Wales and Kristina Roesel from ILRI, the lead trainers, also covered a range of practical tools to assist researchers and practitioners in understanding complex systems. Participants were able to see and use a new System Effects software that can assist in data collection and analysis, which will be launching in July.

The System Effects methodology was applied in the ILRI-led Safe Food, Fair Food for Cambodia project to better understand the impact of food-borne diseases and barriers for accessing safer food ( Using the example of the Cambodia work, participants discussed their ongoing work and how they could effectively incorporate the methodology and systems thinking in current and future projects under the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH). By the end of the workshop, the participants were able to:

  • describe different theoretical concepts relating to complexity and systems thinking;
  • recognize how those theories relate to different social science methodologies and how they may be applied;
  • think about how to use System Effects in their own research projects; and
  • understand how systems thinking can support the design, implementation and evaluation of interventions and programs.

The training was funded by A4NH.

This post originally appeared on the ILRI South Asia website. ILRI leads A4NH research on food safety; Vietnam is an A4NH focus country.


In this piece originally published on The Conversation, the authors explore steps to address food safety, particularly in the context of informal markets.


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