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About Me

What does it take to feed a growing and more demanding global population while staying within planetary and social boundaries? And how do we get there – how do we minimize trade-offs and maximize synergies; how do we make sure that all voices are heard and represented?

My name is Birgit Kopainsky. I am a systems thinker and modeler with a passion for learning in and about food and other social-ecological systems. In my research, I explore the role that system dynamics analysis and modeling techniques play in facilitating transformation processes in social-ecological systems, such as the transition towards sustainable agri-food systems on local, national and international levels. My goal is to provide guidelines for learning about complex dynamic systems and for making information about climate change, agriculture and food security both accessible and relevant for action. I work both in Europe and in several sub-Saharan African countries.

I am particularly passionate about engaging with a wide range of stakeholders by creatively adapting proven tools and techniques from systems thinking and system dynamics modeling to advance decision-making in social ecological systems and to achieve breakthrough moments of understanding for those stakeholders to become champions of change towards resilience and sustainability.


  • Professor in system dynamics at the Department of Geography, University of Bergen, Norway
  • Director of System Dynamics Research Group
  • Managing Partner at Flury&Giuliani GmbH, an applied research and consulting company in agricultural and regional economics in Zurich, Switzerland
  • Lecturer at the Department of Environmental Systems Science, ETH Zurich, Switzerland
  • Lecturer at Hamburg School of Business Administration, Germany


  • Ph.D. in agricultural economics from ETH Zurich, Switzerland
  • Diploma degree in geography and environmental studies from the University of Zurich, Switerland
  • Excellence award of the Faculty of Science, University of Zurich for master thesis

Professional Boards & Committees

  • Community Service Award Committee (2023-2026)
  • President-Elect (2019); President (2020); Past-President (2021)
  • Finance Committee, Executive Committee (2019-2021)
  • Society Program Oversight Commitee (2018-2020)
  • Search Committee Executive Director (2017-2018)
  • Transition Committee (2016-2017)
  • Strategy Committee (2019-2021; 2012-2015)
  • Nominating Committee (2019-2021; 2009-2012)
  • Policy Council Member (2009-2011)
  • Founding President, Swiss Chapter (since 2004)
  • President, Student Chapter (2002-2004)
University of Bergen
  • Head of Program Board, Master's in System Dynamics (2019-Present)
  • Co-leader, Sustainability Education Collective (2022-Present)
  • Program board member, Master's in Sustainability (2021-Present)
editorial boards
  • Ambio (Advisory Board)
  • System Dynamics Review (Co-Editor)
  • Nature Scientific Data (until 2021)
  • Journal of Socio-Economics in Agriculture (Editor until 2018)
  • Board of Trustees, Millennium Institute (2022-Present)
  • Advisory Board, Technical University of Denmark for the project, "A systems approach to modelling and forecasting Circular Economy transition rebounds within the electronics and ICT industry" (2022-2024)
  • Working Group, "Prospects for Agricultural and Nutritional Research", German Science Council (2021-2024)
  • Expert Panel for Food Future Switzerland (2021-2022)
  • Scientific Advisory Board, Leibnitz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development for the “Abbau von Umsetzungshemmnissen von Klimaschutz- und Klimaanpassungsmaßnahmen durch Entwicklung und Analyse mentaler Modelle verschiedener Akteure" (2021)
  • External Expert Advisory Board, TRANSMANGO, EU FP7 Grant agreement no: 613532 (2016-2018)
  • Theses Defense Committee, Master of Advanced Science in Humanitarian Management and Logistics, Università della Svizzera Italiana, Switzerland (2014-2021)
  • Scientific Advisory Board, EU Framework Programme 6 for the project “insure – A flexible framework for indicators for sustainability in regions using System Dynamics modelling" (2005-2006)

Awards, Honours & Fellowships

  • Outstanding Service Award, System Dynamics Society (2020)
  • Most cited papers System Dynamics Review: Herrera et al. (2020); Wilkerson et al. (2020)
  • Advanced Researchers Fellowship, Swiss National Science Foundation (2008-2011)
  • Prospective Researchers Fellowship, Swiss National Science Foundation (2006-2007)
  • Excellence award of the Faculty of Science, University of Zurich, Switzerland for master thesis (2000)