The resilience of systems-thinking approaches when faced with an evolving crisis: The case of Mumbai

Lina Sonne, Maren Duvendack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Motivation: India has seen severe economic and social impacts from COVID-19, with the most vulnerable people having suffered most. Mumbai's response has been multi-faceted drawing on numerous actors such as local and state government but also businesses and citizens. Disaster management is increasingly common and Mumbai's policy response during COVID-19 wave two provide relevant lessons.

Purpose: We explain Mumbai's policy response to wave two of COVID-19, termed the Mumbai Model, applying) systems thinking approach.

Methods and approach: We adopt a systems thinking approach, applying a framework developed in Duvendack and Sonne (2021) to analyse case study based on secondary data and information on the policy response to COVID-19 in Mumbai.

Findings: The Mumbai Model emerged as a pragmatic policy response. Key actors changed between waves one and two, from a broad set of actors to a narrower set focussed on the unfolding healthcare crisis. This resulted in a reconfiguration of networks and partnerships. Decentralised decision-making further changed the structure of the networks to a hub and spoke model. Communication and feedback loops shifted from primarily top-down to two-way information flows to support decision-making and resource-allocation driven by data. This was enabled by clear leadership and political buy-in.

Policy implications: To tackle a crisis of this magnitude diverse actors collaborating effectively through networks that enable knowledge and information flows is crucial. Governments can use the systems approach for crisis management in large cities which require swift action and efficient flow of information to assess a situation and to prioritise response efforts. Further research is required to better understand how governments can build capacity and policy structures to enable systemic approaches to crisis management in varied contexts.
Original languageEnglish
JournalDevelopment Policy Review
Early online date13 Dec 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 Dec 2023

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