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University of Virginia

Sustainability through Soccer: Systems-Thinking in Action

University of Virginia via Coursera


This course takes learners on a journey through a progression of systems-thinking and sustainability concepts. Using the beautiful game of soccer (also known as football in many parts of the world) as an analogy, we'll work together to illuminate real-world interdependencies (such as between climate change and human rights), building the chain of concepts in a fun, accessible way. Soccer/Football nerds and newbies alike will be entertained and, ultimately, rewarded with the epiphanies that come from seeing in systems more clearly.

Those who complete the course will: create examples of systems parts, boundaries, and behaviors related to sustainability (and soccer/football); practice evaluating the sustainability of systems they care about using several complementary methods; generate ideas to improve the sustainability of a system they care about; and explain a mindset shift that would enhance the sustainability of a system they care about.


  • Background and System Parts
    • This section explains who I am, why I'm using soccer as a metaphor, systems and reductionist thinking and sustainability. This section also outlines the main parts of a system (elements, flows, stocks, feedback loops, and purpose).
  • System Boundaries and Behaviors
    • Our approach to sustainability depends on how we define our system boundaries. What must we consider? What can we leave out? And, what can we reasonably infer from the perspective we define? We will also dive into system behaviors in this section. With parts and boundaries defined, we can detect system-level behaviors and discover how they affect sustainability.
  • Evaluating Systems and Creating Sustainable Systems
    • To evaluate sustainability in our systems, and check our progress, there are properties to consider and methods to apply. Once we define and evaluate our systems, then we’re ready to create systems that are more sustainable.
  • The Endless Quest for Sustainability
    • There is no magical fix; pursuing sustainability is an endless quest of constant effort at the limits of our abilities, and that’s where the fun is.

Taught by

Leidy Klotz


4 rating at Coursera based on 41 ratings

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