On behalf of the faculty and students in the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy, I want to welcome you to our new Wicked Problems, Wicked Solutions blog. These blogs will highlight some of the outstanding work of the college on society’s most pressing issues, showcasing the scholarship, teaching, and community engagement flowing out of our nationally ranked programs. We intend to publish pieces weekly and invite readers to share this work via social media if they find much they agree (or disagree!) with.
Some might wonder where the blog’s title – Wicked Problems, Wicked Solutions – comes from. This was inspired by the work of two University of California, Berkeley social scientists in the 1970s, Horst Rittel and Mel Webber, who offered up a distinction between the “tame problems” of some of the hard sciences against the “wicked problems” that plague many the social sciences. Their 1973 article in Policy Sciences put voice to something that social scientists have known for years – the social and policy issues that preoccupy our disciplines cannot be solved through engineering, science, and funding alone.
Wicked Problems are issues that are very difficult, if not impossible, to solve because they are highly complex, with no readily apparent solution; intricately interconnected with other problems; entrenched in political arena, culture and environment; and consequential, effecting in real time the lives of millions of everyday people. While I usually decline to point to Wikipedia as a source of definitive knowledge on a topic, the entry for Wicked Problems offers up a very good history and overview of the concept. For a graphical representation of the Wicked Problems concept I recommend this chart:
Among the many Wicked Problems facing society today are climate change, poverty, tax policy, affordable health care, the opioid epidemic, social injustice, a culture of sexual harassment, urban sprawl, rising obesity rates, and nuclear weapons regulation. These, and many other Wicked Problems, represent the issue spaces for the faculty and students of the college.
In the weeks and months to come we will be publishing blogs that investigate and dissect a range of Wicked Problems from the realms of social science and public policy. Beyond documenting and understanding these issues, we hope to provide guidance to fellow scholars, citizens, policy makers, and leaders in public, private, and no-profit settings. While I cannot promise true Wicked Solutions, what I can promise is that these blogs will engage the problem, educate the reader, and advance knowledge in the hopes of making the world’s problem a little less wicked and a little more tame.
Dean Tim Chapin
Dr. Tim Chapin is Dean in the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy and a professor of Urban and Regional Planning at Florida State University.