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Apply tools for understanding complexity

A distinction has been made between the 'tame' problems of natural science and the 'inherently wicked' problems of public policy, the 'wickedness' arising out of the difficulty encountered in 'efforts to delineate their boundaries and to identify their causes, and thus to expose their problematic nature' (Rittel and Webber (1973)). Darwin et al. (2002) developed this distinction further suggesting that problems exist on a spectrum from 'tame' to 'tricky', to 'wild' and finally 'wicked' and that while traditional linear management approaches work well at the tame end they are increasingly less effective as you move towards the wild and wicked end (Darwin et al. 2002.).

AP interactive decision tree - click any node to select it

Wicked problems require an approach to planning and implementing solutions that acknowledges uncertainty and explicitly encompasses disagreement between different groups engaged in the process. This requires opportunities for dialogue where the actors involved can listen to, and understand, the perspectives of others. In many situations there will be no single, objectively right answer to improve a given adaptation situation and different people are likely to come to very different conclusions about what solutions are appropriate. The way in which information is generated and interpreted, and who is involved in this process, is likely to be highly influential on the types of decisions which are made based on such 'evidence'. Several tools existing for understanding the complexity involved.


Read more in the Toolbox under the following category:

Tools for understanding complexity

This section is based on the UNEP PROVIA guidance document

Criteria checklist

1. You want to implement adaptation actions.
2. The phases of "Getting started" have been adressed.
3. There is agreement about which stakeholders need to be involved.
4. Implementing the plan is within the (perceived) responsibility of the stakeholders identified.
5. Stakeholders have the (perceived) capacity and will to engage.
6. Either (i) implementing measures does not reduce vulnerability in other areas or sectors, or (ii) existing processes and 'windows of opportunity' are not taken into account, or (iii) links to similar initiatives and 'win-win' opportunities have not been explored.