Several IIASA researchers provided valuable input and presented workshops at the North Africa Applied Systems Analysis Center's Diploma Program earlier this year. IIASA researcher Ali Kharrazi shares his insights from this impactful engagement.

IIASA's core mission is to address global challenges through a combination of interdisciplinary research and robust international collaboration. To fulfill this mission effectively, proactive engagement with civil servants and policymakers stands as a paramount imperative. Policymakers, whose decisions on intricate global issues hinge on precise and credible research, benefit immensely from IIASA's active outreach efforts. This outreach fosters well-informed decision making, promotes science diplomacy, and encourages international cooperation through clear and accessible communication. Furthermore, IIASA's distinct interdisciplinary, systems-oriented approach, coupled with its commitment to engaging with policymakers, not only reinforces the institute’s dedication to evidence-based policies, but also nurtures public trust. In essence, this initiative aligns with IIASA's commitment to research excellence, global collaboration, and the overarching relevance of its work in shaping effective policies and addressing pressing global challenges.

One highly effective outreach channel has been the Northern African Applied Systems Analysis Centre (NAASAC – مركز شمال أفريقيا لتطبيق تحليلات النظم ) a collaborative initiative between IIASA, the Academy of Scientific Research and Technology – the IIASA National Member Organization for Egypt, and Egypt’s Institute of National Planning. NAASAC's mission is to disseminate knowledge, enhance capacity, and cultivate analytical expertise at both national and regional levels to address complex developmental and institutional challenges. In pursuit of this goal, the center collaborates closely with decision makers to identify pertinent national issues amenable to systems thinking and scenario development. Additionally, NAASAC offers a diploma program on systems analysis tailored for regional researchers, policymakers, and civil society.

For the 2023 NAASAC Systems Analysis Diploma Program, IIASA researchers conducted a series of workshops from 22 August to 11 September 2023. These workshops attracted policymakers, civil servants, and researchers hailing from Egypt, Palestine, and Sudan. The workshops encompassed a diverse range of IIASA research programs, covering various topics and case studies with a primary focus on systems analysis:

IIASA Advancing Systems Analysis Program Director, Elena Rovenskaya, presented a session on Setting up an actual model from scratch, Step-by-Step; Ali Kharrazi led a session on the water, energy, and food nexus; Young Scientists Summer Program Scientific Coordinator and researcher in the Advancing Systems Analysis Program, Brian Fath presented on Systems Analysis Tools: Network models; Mikhail Smilovic from the IIASA Biodiversity and Natural Resources Program presented a session on Simulating the water cycle; and IIASA Capacity Development and Training Dean, Fabian Wagner, shed light on issues relating to air pollution in a session titled, Science support for air quality management and the Air Negotiations Simulation Game on Air Pollution in Europe.

The workshops served as an exceptional outreach effort by IIASA, not only broadening the participants' horizons, but also emphasizing IIASA's commitment to fostering a global community of informed policy decision makers. The hands-on insights shared by IIASA enriched the workshop's content, making it a pivotal learning experience for all attendees.

According to the Director of the Applied Systems Analysis Diploma, Professor Amani El Rayes, the participation of IIASA speakers in the diploma has truly made a big difference showcasing real applications of what participants learned.  She continued that the exposure to the work being done at IIASA on complex global problems has been critical in highlighting what can be done through modeling to guide the policies necessary to address the grand challenges we face collectively.  She concluded that participants’ understanding of what can be done, or better yet, what should be done, has been changed forever.


Note: This article gives the view of the author, and not the position of the Nexus blog, nor of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.