Theme 1: Governance of wicked problems

Sustainability, climate change, food security, human rights and social injustice are just a few examples of so-called “wicked problems”: societal problems that are not only characterized by sheer complexity but also by controversy on what is the problem and by disagreement on what is the legitimate authority and best governance arrangement to effectively with the problem. This topic aims to develop, test and apply different concepts, methods and frameworks to better understand wicked problems and finding ways to govern them in practice. Special topics include:

Advancing the conceptual debate on wicked problems

Whereas wicked problems are increasingly recognized by scholars and policymakers alike, the theoretical understanding of such problems is still limited. To advance the conceptual debate on wicked problems, different theoretical and methodological concepts from public administration and political sciences can be used: frames, counter-frames and interactive framing; governance of cross-scale dynamics; legal pluralism, authority crisis, institutional voids; institutional complexity; rules, games and arena’s as part of complex decision-making processes (contact persons: Dr Art Dewulf and Dr Otto Hospes).

Tracking wicked problems

Wicked problems transcend existing policy boundaries, they are difficult to identify and trace over time as their problem structure continuously changes. So how do we know that policies effective? Although some progress on tracing these wicked problems in policy processes has been made, substantive work is needed to advance our conceptual and methodological understanding in tracking these policy processes. Work within this subtopic is supported by the TRAC3 project (contact person: Dr Robbert Biesbroek).

Capabilities for dealing with wicked problems

The PAP group has developed a governance capabilities framework for dealing wisely with wicked problem, consisting of five components (Termeer et al. 2013): reflexivity, resilience, responsiveness, revitalization and scale sensitivity. Students can contribute to several aspects around this framework, including connections between capabilities, efficiency and effectiveness of capabilities for dealing with wicked problems, and a broader exploration of the framework across different countries (contact person: Dr Art Dewulf).

Interconnected local and global facts: a transnational perspective on wicked problems

Wicked problems cut across and they connect local issues with global problems. Internet and social media play a crucial role in this. Although it is well-acknowledged that information travels and influences governance; these travelling ‘facts’, their framing on the internet and in social media seem crucial in governance responses, and received little attention so far, with some exceptions. In this track, students contribute to better understanding of how travelling of framed ‘facts’ and networks of facts influence local, national and transnational decision making. (contact person: Dr Tamara Metze