Jul 20, 2018
Lisa Jervey Lennox, CIPA Assistant Director for External Relations & Communications
In Cornell Institute for Public Affairs

Drs. Derek Cabrera and Laura Cabrera, internationally known for their work in the field of systems thinking, systems leadership, and systems modeling, have been offering CIPA MPA coursework in this subject area since 2015. This month, their coursework became available online through eCornell.

Derek and Laura Cabrera headshots

There are six courses in the Systems Thinking Leadership e-program including: “Framing Complex Problems with Systems Thinking”, “Visualizing and Mapping Complex Problems”, and “Building Analytical and Emotional Intelligence with Systems Thinking.” Students who successfully complete all six courses in this certificate program receive a Systems Thinking Certificate from CIPA. Successful completion represents 48 professional development hours.

This program provides concrete systems thinking tools that people can apply to analyze complex situations and foster a culture of organizational learning. Those who complete the program will be able to integrate systems thinking concepts, principles, and practices to improve existing processes, operations, and thinking patterns, ultimately developing a more three-dimensional mindset in both work and life.

“Systems Thinking has the potential to change the way we do science and the ways we do society. The problems we face are almost always caused by the mismatch between how real-world systems actually work and how we think they work,” says Derek Cabrera. “Systems thinking is a field that attempts to explicitly remedy this problem."

“Systems Thinking is CIPA’s second online certificate program.  The first was “Financial Success for Nonprofits,” authored by CIPA core faculty member Joseph Grasso and launched in November of 2017.

The Cabrera’s course are regularly cited by CIPA students as being among their favorites. 2017 CIPA graduate Cody Peter Fiduccia, now a PhD student in Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), credits Systems Thinking with reframing his approach to problem-solving. “It was a total mind flip of a course in the best possible way,” he says. “Learning how to ‘think using DSRP’ [the four elements of distinctions, systems, relationships and perspectives] led to a fundamental change in how I analyze, observe, and plan to solve problems, both simple and wicked. The Cabrera’s support and constructive challenges forced me to become a better researcher.”

Derek Cabrera and Laura Cabrera have authored numerous books including,  Flock Not Clock: Design, Align, and Lead to Achieve Your Vision and Systems Thinking Made Simple: New Hope for Solving Wicked Problems, which was selected as the winner of the 2017 AECT outstanding book award. Derek and Laura are founders of Plectica where Derek serves as the Chief Science Officer and Laura serves as the Chief Research Officer. Credited with discovering the underlying rules of systems thinking, Derek and Laura are co-editors, with Gerald Midgley, of the forthcoming Routledge Handbook of Systems Thinking. Their work in public schools was documented in the full-length documentary film, RE: Thinking. Both Laura and Derek are co-principal investigators for ThinkWater, a USDA-funded initiative designed to implement systems thinking nationwide in water-based research, extension, and education, and an NSF SBIR grant designed to combine systems mapping and machine learning and artificial intelligence in education and beyond.