Wicked Problems and Network Approaches to Resolution

Nancy Roberts

Abstract


Government officials and public managers are encountering a class of problems that defy solution, even with our most sophisticated analytical tools. These problems are called “wicked” because they have the following characteristics: 1). There is no definitive statement of the problem; in fact, there is broad disagreement on what ‘the problem’ is. 2). Without a definitive statement of the problem, the search for solutions is open ended. Stakeholders – those who have a stake in the problem and its solution – champion alternative solutions and compete with one another to frame ‘the problem’ in a way that directly connects their preferred solution and their preferred problem definition. 3). The problem solving process is complex because constraints, such as resources and political ramifications, are constantly changing. 4). Constraints also change because they are generated by numerous interested parties who “come and go, change their minds, fail to communicate, or otherwise change the rules by which the problem must be solved” (Conklin and Weil, no date: 1).


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