Addressing Wicked Resource Management Problems

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    Sabrina Kirschke

    Resource management problems, such as how to integrate management of water, soil, and waste, have often been described as wicked problems. Wicked problems are typically coined by goal diversity, system complexity, and informational uncertainty. These characteristics of wicked problems are likely to hamper problem solving due to delayed or symbolic decision-making. Against this background, there is an increasing need to develop effective management and governance strategies to address wicked problems in practice.

    This project aims at identifying ways to better handle wicked resource management problems, both from a management and from a governance perspective. As a first step, this involves better understanding the wicked nature of resource management problems through acknowledged concepts of wicked problems in the public policy literature and evidence from empirical case studies. In a second step, indicators for good management of wicked problems will be identified. These indicators will be based on established management concepts within the UN system and a diverse range of case studies. In a third step, this project will analyse the role of governance arrangements for the identification and implementation of specific measures to address wicked problems, focusing here on the problem of diffuse pollution of freshwater resources from agriculture in Europe.

    The results of this research will help scholars, practitioners, and entities better understand and address wicked resource management problems in practice, both from a management and a governance perspective. This will in turn improve the status of resources, ultimately facilitating the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.