Presenter/Author Information

Alexey Voinov, UTS-Perswade, Australia

Keywords

Decision making, communication, top-down - bottom-up, hierarchy, scaling, participatory modeling

Start Date

15-9-2020 10:40 AM

End Date

15-9-2020 11:00 AM

Abstract

The concept of 'wicked problems' has emerged more than 50 years ago, and has been later on explored in numerous publications and applications. All the policy and planning problems in pluralistic societies have been identified as wicked, which means that they cannot be properly defined, cannot have any single solution, moreover, they cannot have any correct or false solutions at all. Systems modelling, especially participatory modeling have been proposed as useful tools to use when dealing with wicked problems. Attempts to address the 'wickedness' also gave rise to justifying further increases in complexity of models that are built. While being a stimulating philosophical concept, the idea that certain problems simply cannot have solutions creates some forms of escapism that may justify inaction. The same we see in how uncertainty is being repeatedly used to avoid making decisions. In reality most of wickedness may be a product of wrongly identified system boundaries and lack of understanding of hierarchies involved. We try not to look at the system at other scales, where the solution is more obvious, but may be contrary to the preferences and values of some stakeholders. We make problems wicked when we assume that only win-win solutions are acceptable, or when we try to make only popular decisions. The idea of unsolvable wicked problems is a natural outcome of mature democratic societies. However, majority changes from local to regional and global scales. While certain decisions may be obviously beneficial in the global scale, they will be unpopular in the local ones and vice versa.

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Sep 15th, 10:40 AM Sep 15th, 11:00 AM

How wicked are wicked problems and how do we model them

The concept of 'wicked problems' has emerged more than 50 years ago, and has been later on explored in numerous publications and applications. All the policy and planning problems in pluralistic societies have been identified as wicked, which means that they cannot be properly defined, cannot have any single solution, moreover, they cannot have any correct or false solutions at all. Systems modelling, especially participatory modeling have been proposed as useful tools to use when dealing with wicked problems. Attempts to address the 'wickedness' also gave rise to justifying further increases in complexity of models that are built. While being a stimulating philosophical concept, the idea that certain problems simply cannot have solutions creates some forms of escapism that may justify inaction. The same we see in how uncertainty is being repeatedly used to avoid making decisions. In reality most of wickedness may be a product of wrongly identified system boundaries and lack of understanding of hierarchies involved. We try not to look at the system at other scales, where the solution is more obvious, but may be contrary to the preferences and values of some stakeholders. We make problems wicked when we assume that only win-win solutions are acceptable, or when we try to make only popular decisions. The idea of unsolvable wicked problems is a natural outcome of mature democratic societies. However, majority changes from local to regional and global scales. While certain decisions may be obviously beneficial in the global scale, they will be unpopular in the local ones and vice versa.