How can sustainability science
achieve impact for wicked problems
such as climate change?
Bruce Campbell and Sonja Vermeul...
Outline of the talk
• What are wicked problems? The example of
agriculture under climate change
• What do we know about ta...
complicated
complex
simple
The modern dilemma
• Growing recognition that
– Natural resource systems and social systems are
complex, unpredictable and...
Wicked problems: where society cannot agree
on either the problem definition or the solution
How is climate change a
“wicked problem”?
controversy
system complexity
institutional complexity
Can wicked problems be tamed?
What to focus on when dealing
with wicked problems
• Teams
• Politics
• Behaviors
Teams for wicked problems
• Work on all parts
of the problem
• Diverse approaches
& skills
• Iterative debate
• Enough com...
Competition
Authority
Cooperation
Politics of
wicked
problems:
where the
power lies
Behavior change for wicked problems
So if the CGIAR is
going to help
solve wicked
problems,
what needs to
be done more?
Sunday morning ideas
Monday morning ac...
Principles for wicked problem science
• ‘Good enough is best’ principle
• ‘Consensus beats reality’ principle
• ‘Trust bea...
1. ‘Good enough is best’ principle
•Don’t close off possibilities too early
•Learn by doing: apply solutions with
stakehol...
Example: ICRISAT’s CODEWA project
CC impacts cannot be predicted in a
way relevant to smallholders
Best strategy = promote...
Example: ICRISAT’s CODEWA project
1st year
2nd year
3rd year
Researcher influence
on experiments
none
1 variety
complete t...
2. ‘Consensus beats reality’ principle
• Don’t build technologies and toolkits
in isolation
• Use impact pathways, with re...
Example: CIFOR’s success with REDD
Incentive
scheme for
forest carbon
Incentive
scheme for
forest carbon
Collaborative
Par...
3. ‘Three thirds’ principle
• Radically rethink allocation of
resources between research and
stakeholder engagement
• Inve...
Example: Meridian report
4. ‘No neutral gear’ principle
• Drop the language of “win-win-win”
and be frank about trade-offs,
winners and losers
• Ge...
Example: Commission on Sustainable
Agriculture and Climate Change
Reduce losses and waste in the food system by 50%
safety...
Final reflection: is the rôle of science in a
wicked world to drive or to catalyze
development?
May the force be with you
Recommended reading
Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning
http://www.metu.edu.tr/~baykan/arch467/Rittel+Webber+Dilemm
a...
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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

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

  1. 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. 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. 3. complicated complex simple
  4. 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. 5. Wicked problems: where society cannot agree on either the problem definition or the solution
  6. 6. How is climate change a “wicked problem”? controversy system complexity institutional complexity
  7. 7. Can wicked problems be tamed?
  8. 8. What to focus on when dealing with wicked problems • Teams • Politics • Behaviors
  9. 9. Teams for wicked problems • Work on all parts of the problem • Diverse approaches & skills • Iterative debate • Enough common ground for progress
  10. 10. Competition Authority Cooperation Politics of wicked problems: where the power lies
  11. 11. Behavior change for wicked problems
  12. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 20. Example: Meridian report
  21. 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. 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. 23. Final reflection: is the rôle of science in a wicked world to drive or to catalyze development?
  24. 24. May the force be with you
  25. 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
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