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Wicked Problems

Commonly attributed to Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber, the concept of wicked problems was first used to describe those problems facing social planners (e.g., city planners who must anticipate and plan for a variety of outcomes and contingencies) that are particularly complex in contrast to easier to define and better behaved problems with which scientists dealt. Terming the latter tame problems, Rittel and Webber argued such problems are clearly defined, solvable, and have few or no consequences for social systems. In contrast, urban planners contend with wicked problems, which are inherently ill-defined, largely intractable and for which implementation of provisional solutions has significant consequences for social systems. Although the concept originated in the planning literature in the 1960s, there is a resurgent interest in use ...

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