CRSD is dedicated to advancing systems based action research methodologies to address the challenges faced by stakeholders across three thematic areas: sustainable investment, good governance, and responsible innovation.

We do not stop at academic research, rather it is our starting point. We are unashamedly dedicated to transdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research, as well as action-research as our methodological framing. We highly value experiential knowledge, viewing it as a valuable asset in the action-research process. We also believe that training practitioners in systems based thinking is an important part of our role as researchers.

CRSD has developed, tested and refined a broad range of impact-driven frameworks and methodologies, research methods and tools that we use, alongside more conventional social science research methods, to deliver research project outcomes and support leaders to make better decisions. Summaries of our research methods are below.


  • Cambridge Country Consultation (CCC)

    The Cambridge Country Consultation (CCC) method applies systems thinking with political economics theories to collect data directly from representatives of governments, citizens and multilateral agencies. It helps to refine the scope of the policy concepts identified in the Cambridge Policy Boot camps by exploring policy scope and examining power relations within the system that could support, or undermine the policy interventions. Participants also identify key actions that can accelerate implementation of the policy concept and reinforce and accelerate positive outcomes. See an example of CCC in action.

  • Cambridge Expert Round Table (CERT)

    Cambridge Expert Round Table (CERT) is a peer review and co-creation process that aids in designing experimental studies on policy systems. It focuses on understanding the influence of entities in power positions on various areas affected by policies, in both public and private sectors. CERT provides a methodology for conducting complex policy system studies, which require insights from practitioners and experts to define boundary conditions, power dynamics, and multiplier effects. This method helps the research team identify three critical areas for investigation: defining the boundaries of analysis, examining shifting power dynamics, and capturing multiplier effects.

  • Cambridge Policy Boot Camp (CPBC)

    The Cambridge Policy Boot Camp (CPBC) is a unique and dynamic research approach that integrates engineering, military and medical training, with systems thinking and theories from various social science disciplines. Its purpose is to generate the development of effective policy concepts to address complex systemic problems. CPBC achieves this by using a workshop environment to accelerate collaboration and co-creation among diverse stakeholders, leveraging their collective knowledge, experience, and insights to address the problem at hand.

    The CPBC delivers outputs in the form of identified leverage points in the system that could be activated, through public policy, to unlock system transformation. To find out more on the Cambridge Policy Boot Camp click here.

  • Cambridge Policy Simulation Lab (CPSL)

    Cambridge Policy Simulation Labs (CPSL) offer policymakers an approach to applying systems thinking tools to rapidly simulate potential policy outcomes in a safe and controlled environment. The CPSL is designed to offer ‘lifelike experiences’ to leaders from public, private, and civil society. Participants learn powerful new strategies for creating high-impact policies to make sustainable investment and to address key challenges. The Lab uses system dynamic and design thinking methodologies such as Cambridge Value Mapping tools and the Institutional Feasibility Study to catalyse engagements between stakeholders and to create solutions that are sustainable, socially relevant, and economically viable.

    In summary, the Lab deploys a wide range of innovative approaches that use problem-based learning, the flipped classroom, the case-study approach, and competency-based teaching. It then transitions into chosen delivery methodologies.

  • Creative Ideas Studio (CIS)

    The Creative Ideas Studio (CIS) provides a safe environment where individual world leaders can reimagine the future. It takes the best and most useful elements from board-level international executive leadership coaching, psychology and strategy consulting and mixes them with creative thinking theory, to support leaders as they tackle their biggest issues. CIS redefines difficult issues; different ideas are discussed and developed, and potential new approaches are identified and tested. Our expert facilitators ensure the process remains focused on the individual leader’s desired outcome and there is access to relevant, multi-disciplinary expertise as needed.

  • Cambridge Sustainable Investment Markers (9SIMS)

    The Nine Sustainable Invest Markets Framework (9SIMS) enable investment decision makers to focus, and prioritise, on the factors that generate most impact.

    The 9SIMs are investment decision tools built by applying a mixed methods approach which draws on integrated dynamic system design methodology to identify, analyse and communicate the drivers of ESG investment journeys.

    They also offer a common language and platform to facilitate governance through the investment chain from investors, through boards and management, to employees, customers and broader society.

    Using the 9SIMs can help quantify, qualify and visualise the implicit or explicit drivers for commercial, economic, societal and governance decisions based on simplified, but verifiable insights. 

    In the post-COVID19 world, investors need to understand ESG drivers and private companies and public projects need to share an evidence based roadmap for their ESG journey.

    This research has been commercialised through the establishment of Cambridge Sustainable Investment Partners, a boutique consulting firm founded and directed by Dr Nazia M. Habib and Senior Research Fellow Mr Richard Jones.  

  • Cambridge System Integrators

  • Cambridge Policy Value Mapping

  • Challenge Notes

    Challenge notes are our topic specific briefing notes that take a deep dive into complex, contested, multidimensional systemic problems. Their purpose is to diagnose key issues and to trigger discussion and debate with stakeholders, academics and policy makers. They are our precursor to the co-production of systems based solutions that we generate through our tools such as the Cambridge Policy Boot Camp.

    We believe that collaboration and transparency is the key to complex systems research. While our challenge notes are a key part of our research agenda, they set out many more ideas that we could possibly follow up. We therefore invite others to use challenge notes as the starting point for their future action-research projects.

  • Leader Hubs

    Leader Hubs are tailored events that bring together experts from various fields to address challenges. They promote collaboration between cross-sector leaders and top scholars, using innovative inquiry methods. Events typically focus on tackling challenges at the country, industry, or sector level. For instance, by exploring options to transition to a low carbon economy or business model. We address key implementation issues during the event, focusing on building the capability of mid-level professionals in project management, public policy, and stakeholder negotiation. Our goal is to deliver short-term impact while upholding future sustainability principles.