Examples of wicked problems are

  • complex policy issues such as health care reform, poverty, global trade, or climate change;
  • the regulation of new and emerging technologies;
  • the design of products and technologies; and
  • planning processes that involve different stakeholders.

The complexity of wicked problems results from the fact that they can be framed in a number of different ways, depending on varying interests, world-views, values, or differences regarding the scale on which people think the problem should be addressed.

Different stakeholders will look at a wicked problem from different perspectives which makes it difficult

  • to define exactly what the problem is
  • to determine whether the problem is addressed on the right level, and
  • to know whether or when the problem has been solved.

In contrast to “tame” problems as we know them from text books, wicked problems do not have one correct solution. If there is a solution at all, it is never simply right or wrong.

Decisions on wicked problems often lead to

  • consequences that are unpredictable and irreversible, and to
  • unethical results when people who are affected by these decisions are overlooked.

And the process of making a decision often leads to

  • confusion when people do not understand that others look at the same problem from a completely different point of view, and to
  • serious conflicts among stakeholders.

What does Reflective Consensus Building on Wicked Problems exactly mean?

The Reflect! platform is built on three assumptions:

  1. Wicked problems can only be approached in collaboration with others. We need different points of view and we need to learn from others.
  2. Reflection and self-correcting reasoning are crucial. When we deal with wicked problems, we need to correct, time and again, our own reasoning because it is impossible to know in advance all the ways in which the problem can be framed, and all implications of these framing processes. And
  3. Since there is not just one correct “solution” for a wicked problem, the goal can only be to build consensus.

These three assumptions form the core of Reflective Consensus Building on Wicked Problems: You will work in a small team; engage in reflection and self-correction; and deliberate on how to formulate a proposal to solve the problem that can be accepted by all stakeholders involved, that is a consensus.

The Reflect! platform organizes activities and collaboration in your team in a way that realizes a particular strategy to approach wicked problems. This strategy becomes visible in the Reflect! Workplan (enlarge and use the arrows):

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Supported by:

Fostering self-correcting reasoning with reflection systems. Funded by the Cyberlearning and Future Learning Technologies program, Award 1623419