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Developing resilience solutions through systems thinking

November 09, 2023

Incorporating systems thinking into economic development planning could lead to better solutions to potential and pressing problems, says a Quarterly Research Brief from the National Economic Research and Resilience Center (NERRC). The paper emphasizes that systems, or integrated planning, is essential when writing a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS).

The authors mention that the Economic Development Administration CEDS Content Guidelines require that the strategies ensure the economies are resilient, and cite EDA’s definition of resilience, saying, “In the face of challenges that global uncertainties, natural disasters, climate change, socio-economic disparities, and technological disruptions pose, resilience strategies are essential tools to equitably and sustainably build prosperity over time. In the economic development context, resilience aims to better prepare regions to anticipate, withstand, and bounce back from any type of shock, disruption, or stress it may experience."

Economic development practitioners using a systems approach can build resilience through integrated planning, broader collaboration, and leveraging data and technology. The authors advise considering interconnections between “economic, social, physical, and environmental factors” because this systems approach leads to multiple perspectives and more innovative and inclusive approaches.

The authors also emphasize the importance of data-driven decision-making for identifying vulnerabilities, which can allow for more proactive responses to changing circumstances. These strategies could lead to "more robust and adaptive economic systems that navigate challenges and achieve long-term prosperity."

The authors mention various strategies for planners to go beyond a siloed approach to economic development and move toward integrated planning and development. Planners must understand how the multiple factors in their ecosystem influence and interact. For example, they mention combining economic development plans with social welfare initiatives to foster inclusive growth while considering environmental factors to ensure their plans will be sustainable. “This holistic approach to planning enables communities to identify synergies and trade-offs among different goals, leading to more effective and balanced development strategies."

economic development, eda