Vermeulen S, Campbell B: How can sustainability science achieve impact for wicked problems such as climate change?
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Vermeulen S, Campbell B: How can sustainability science achieve impact for wicked problems such as climate change?

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Presented at the Independent Science and Partnership Council of the CGIAR’s Science Forum, Beijing, 17-19 October 2011

Presented at the Independent Science and Partnership Council of the CGIAR’s Science Forum, Beijing, 17-19 October 2011

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  • 1. How can sustainability science achieve impact for wicked problems such as climate change? Bruce Campbell and Sonja Vermeulen CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), CCAFS Coordinating Unit, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
  • 2. Outline of the talk • What are wicked problems? The example of agriculture under climate change • What do we know about tackling wicked problems? • How can these principles and tools be applied to management of science in the CGIAR?
  • 3. complicated complex simple
  • 4. The modern dilemma • Growing recognition that – Natural resource systems and social systems are complex, unpredictable and highly dynamic – Different people and groups have different values, viewpoints and priorities that are equally valid • Yet we continue to search for standard solutions that achieve steady states
  • 5. Wicked problems: where society cannot agree on either the problem definition or the solution
  • 6. How is climate change a “wicked problem”? controversy system complexity institutional complexity
  • 7. Can wicked problems be tamed?
  • 8. What to focus on when dealing with wicked problems • Teams • Politics • Behaviors
  • 9. Teams for wicked problems • Work on all parts of the problem • Diverse approaches & skills • Iterative debate • Enough common ground for progress
  • 10. Competition Authority Cooperation Politics of wicked problems: where the power lies
  • 11. Behavior change for wicked problems
  • 12. So if the CGIAR is going to help solve wicked problems, what needs to be done more? Sunday morning ideas Monday morning action
  • 13. Principles for wicked problem science • ‘Good enough is best’ principle • ‘Consensus beats reality’ principle • ‘Trust beats certainty’ principle • ‘The three-thirds’ principle • ‘No neutral gear’ principle Adapted from Fullana et al, 2011
  • 14. 1. ‘Good enough is best’ principle •Don’t close off possibilities too early •Learn by doing: apply solutions with stakeholders when they still have lots of problems
  • 15. Example: ICRISAT’s CODEWA project CC impacts cannot be predicted in a way relevant to smallholders Best strategy = promote risk evasion strategies based on crop varieties Top-down climate proofing of varieties Bottom-up selection & diversification
  • 16. Example: ICRISAT’s CODEWA project 1st year 2nd year 3rd year Researcher influence on experiments none 1 variety complete training Seed selection and multiplication by farmers
  • 17. 2. ‘Consensus beats reality’ principle • Don’t build technologies and toolkits in isolation • Use impact pathways, with realistic theories of change and partnerships, as “living documents” for the entire team
  • 18. Example: CIFOR’s success with REDD Incentive scheme for forest carbon Incentive scheme for forest carbon Collaborative Part’ship on Forests Collaborative Part’ship on Forests Scientific evidence Scientific evidence High citation journal paper High citation journal paper Forest DayForest Day Media packs, UNFCCC guides Media packs, UNFCCC guidesClear & shared messages Clear & shared messages Simply REDD Moving Ahead with REDD Simply REDD Moving Ahead with REDD
  • 19. 3. ‘Three thirds’ principle • Radically rethink allocation of resources between research and stakeholder engagement • Invest wisely in the right partnerships based on shared objectives and complementary skill sets
  • 20. Example: Meridian report
  • 21. 4. ‘No neutral gear’ principle • Drop the language of “win-win-win” and be frank about trade-offs, winners and losers • Get serious about social diversity and power
  • 22. Example: Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change Reduce losses and waste in the food system by 50% safety / waste trade-off safety / waste trade-off different access for different farmers different access for different farmers
  • 23. Final reflection: is the rôle of science in a wicked world to drive or to catalyze development?
  • 24. May the force be with you
  • 25. Recommended reading Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning http://www.metu.edu.tr/~baykan/arch467/Rittel+Webber+Dilemm as.pdf Tackling Wicked Problems www.apsc.gov.au/publications07/wickedproblems.pdf