Wicked notes #2


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Hivos and Kennisland co-operate in organizing the Wicked Series. In this series the objective is to learn more about the complex dynamics of wicked problems by generating new insights derived from innovatives strategies and approaches that are currently deployed and experimented with in the context of wicked problems.

The Wicked Notes are a direct knowledge product of the Wicked Series and reflect on the ideas and findings generated by the members of this new network during the series.

The Wicked Notes will eventually be part of a Wicked Publication, co-created by Hivos, Kennisland and the Wicked-members to share insights and ideas on the dynamics of wicked problems.



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Wicked notes #2

  1. 1. Ken nisl THE WICKED NOTES # 2 and &H ivos 14 January 2013, Issue 2 Expedition Log by Marlieke Kieboom EM MK@ AIL KL. NL TEL 020 EPHON -57 56 7 E 20Unlocking the Black Box:How does transparency work? EXPEDITION TRANSPARENCY13 DECEMBER, OPEN CO-OP, AMSTERDAMIt is a cold December evening when weembark on our second Wicked adventure.The Bite-Me catering had worked hard towelcome us with hot, spicy drinks andprepared delicious food, presented intransparent and nontransparent wrappers.Our 40-member crew arrived just in timeor rushed in fashionably late, but around7 PM we were ready to kick-off thesecond episode of the Wicked Series. Thistime on transparency!IS TRANSPARENCY A WICKED STRATEGY?In the session on Greece transparency wasmentioned as a potential innovativestrategy. The assumption was that bymaking (the movements of) informationmore transparent and accessible, we mightbe able to move away from the dynamicsof wicked problems. One group forexample developed ‘Greeky Leaks’, aninitiative to share and exchange skills andknowledge on local coping strategies.Anno 2013 there is indeed a clear trend tomore openness. Photographer: Aukje Dekker Kennisland / Hivos | Wicked Series | www.kennisland.nl / www.hivos.nl
  2. 2. THE WICKED NOTES #2! PAGE 2The usual notion is that openness will desired knowledge about the wickedcreate better governance, more problem has to be knowledge from differentaccountability, more responsibility, and perspectives and experiences. It is not aboutoverall better outcomes in the context of who gets it right, but about sharingwicked problems. But how does experiences about coping with suchtransparency as a strategy actually work in problems. It is about tapping into thispractice? distributed knowledge and developing new stories. Second, we always need to look at theINTRODUCING WICKED PROBLEMS underlying patterns and values that wire wickedSome of our expedition members were new problems. You can find wicked problemsto the Wicked Series, others had attended pretty much in every sphere of society. Butthe first session. To refresh our memory, we need to understand why and where weChris Sigaloff [Kennisland] took us back to get stuck. Where can we discoverour first session about Greece, where we got similarities in the patterns and startcompletely entangled in the wicked understanding the underlying values? Only “Openness is notproblem of ‘ the economic crisis’. We then can we get unstuck. the same asattempted to distil innovative strategiesfrom new, small, community-based Thirdly, in such a messy process it is useful transparency”initiatives that are being hatched in the to use an approach that is characterized bysocietal margins. Chris first highlighted a agility. We need to develop strategies thatfew elements of wicked problems by are able to continuously jump back andparaphrasing a thought provoking article forth from a global understanding that iswritten by Jay Rosen, which can be read constantly in revision, to local solutions thathere. are constantly being tested. This approach suits wicked problems better than theIn hindsight the exercise on Greece brought ordinary, linear strategies where peopleus valuable insights on how to approach typically gather information, outline thewicked problems as an ongoing, agile options, analyse the costs, pick the bestprocess. A few elements may be highlighted option, hire the experts, and implement thehere. solution. Agile development is learned behaviour for coping with wicked problemsFirst, it is clear that one single person can [Jay Rosen].never solve a wicked problem. You need ahorizontal network that contains different Fourth, we need to learn from thetypes of knowledge, and people that want outgrowth of wicked problems, recognize theto work together over an urgent issue. The smoke signals and start connecting the dots Kennisland / Hivos | Wicked Series | www.kennisland.nl /www.hivos.nl
  3. 3. THE WICKED NOTES #2! PAGE 3to discover which stories are successful and help us An old story creeps up, and the numberscope with wicked problems. In doing so we 1984 blatantly flash in our faces from thecannot forget that the world looks different to double transparent screen in the room. Theypeople who hold different interests. But we remind us all of the Big Brother’s tale of howcan only move forward if we start an abundance of open information intrudesunderstanding and recognizing these stakes into very private spheres of our lives toand move beyond them to learn from the exercise control (check this Pizza-call!) Paulnew, inspiring, innovative initiatives that closes his story by stating that completesprout from the dark matter in the societal transparency is often not desirable, but wemargins. better acknowledge that opening up data is an ongoing, increasing process. We shouldWICKED TOUR GUIDES therefore continuouslyWe took the first hurdle by learning more ask ourselves what areabout transparency as a wicked issue. This the benefits to be intime we had three tour guides on board to control of information?explore the topic. Paul Keller [Kennisland], And consequently, whatexpert on copyright and open access, turned are the benefits ofour minds upside down by showing us the freedom ofmany faces of transparency and asking the information? In this wayaudience poignant, almost philosophical we realize and recognizequestions. For example: If you have the right that data is politicized,to access information, does it mean you and that we better dealactually therefore need to access this with it as a given,information? Paul explained with several instead of ignoring thisexamples that data might look objective, but fact.is often not used in an objective way bydifferent parties. He points out that behind Fieke Jansen [Hivos], expertthe transparency issue there are many hidden on citizen agency in relation to ICT, mediapower structures. Some infrastructures might and technology continues the story of Paullook very transparent and open, but are and makes it more complex by showing usintended to keep people from achieving their examples from Hivos’ practice on electiongoals (like obtaining access to the European monitoring initiatives in East Africa. FiekeUnion). Furthermore he claims that made it clear that initiatives that were‘transparency leads to objectification of intended to promote transparent structures,information’ is a stubborn myth, just as and therefore improve democratic elections,‘privatization supposedly leads to consumers were not always making the most importantmaking the best choices’. According to Paul, data available. For example only making aprivacy should be seen as a property of mobile reporting system available on the dayinformation. With technological progress of elections, might make the elections looksystems become more transparent. This is fair to outsiders. But in real life, the riggingsomething that is largely out of control of and manipulating of votes happens much Realize andsociety. before the actual elections take place. Fieke’s examples also showed that the more data was recognize thatThe other side of transparency is privacy. available, the more vulnerable the system data is politicizedThe technology is actually there to make became for malign purposes like dataevery piece of information visible to us. manipulation. By making some data moreWhen this serves us well we tend to frame transparent, other data gets covered up,this as transparency. When it is against our consequently making the situation moreinterests we call it a privacy violation. In nontransparent and prone to abuse.reality these are two sides of the same coin:the public official who has to surrender his Nishant Shah [Centre for Internet andexpense receipts feels violated in his or her Society, Bangalore, India] was unfortunatelyprivacy, while the public demands access in unable to attend our session due to (verythe name of transparency. nontransparent) bureaucratic procedures. Kennisland/Hivos | Wicked Series | www.kennisland.nl / www.hivos.nl
  4. 4. THE WICKED NOTES #2! PAGE 4However thanks to our high-tech society he relevant that more transparency is achieved,was able to share an audio note with us and what exactly should be made more(listen here), in which he explained the transparent? Second they had to find outvarious detours his visa had made. Nishant’s what would happen if this case wouldstory made us wonder who actually needs to actually gain more transparency. What isbecome transparent in order for a actually needed to create a more(non)transparent system to be created and transparent infrastructure in this case? Andoperated? In his story he states that it is not what are the outcomes for differentenough to just build systems of stakeholders when the case becomes moretransparency. It is important to ask transparent? Third and last, the groupsourselves how these systems are deployed, presented the outcomes to each other. Theand who are the people using them, and for insights were very inspiring and brought us Three steps inwhat purpose? His story matched our some interesting, new clues, which are the assignment:theme perfectly, and we listened to his summarized below.contemplations on transparency quietlybefore starting our group assignments. To ThinkWant to listen more to his reflections? Here HEALTH CARE: GAINS AND LOSSES To Actis a second, not-yet-published audio-note in The group that delved into the costs ofwhich he takes a different angle on the story treating the Pompe disease came to know To Reactof Gujarat (listen here). that raising transparency might have its economic gains: by unlocking scientific knowledge to the public and by pricingFOUR TIMES TRANSPARENCY medical interventions competition maybeSo how does transparency work in our own higher and lead to faster and cheaperpractice? We were presented with four real- solutions. But this dynamic creates anlife wicked problems by actual problem ethical dilemma: who decides which price aholders who could provide more society is willing to pay to save one life?information on the matter right on the spot. Information is now often locked up inThe cases were presented by a doctor medical journals and dark deals in patented(health care costs), a project manager medical industries. The health care group(stimulating innovative education systems), a thought it would be a good idea to open uppublic servant (local governance and civic this type of information. At the same timeagency) and a knowledge policy officer an overall opening up of the information in(ICT tools and election transparency). The health care brings infringements of privacy.groups were then asked to figure out: who Personal information about a  patient couldare the stakeholders in this case, why is it easily lead to the judgements about  one’s   Kennisland / Hivos | Wicked Series | www.kennisland.nl /www.hivos.nl
  5. 5. THE WICKED NOTES #2! PAGE 5lifestyle. Does one deserve a treatment if one lives the government relaxes the formal rules in orderan unhealthy lifestyle? to collectively run a community building and promote entrepreneurship by co-owners? TheBLACK BOX IT! group found out that in this particular case, theHow to prevent an innovative project with a frequency of (informal) activities increased if thebottom-up, co-creative approach to evolve into a government exercised less control, demanded lesspinball game of interests and hidden agendas of transparency and gave more trust. But a demandall parties involved? The problem holders of an by the government for more control andeducation project were faced with this real time transparency actually lowered trust among theproblem in their work practice. The two working citizens with a particular interest (to make money,groups came with coherent, valuable insights. to undertake accepted economic activities) andOne insight was the circular paradox of co-creation. increased unrest.For a project to start, you need very clear goals, The conclusionbecause vagueness will never get you the finances was drawn that ifor the commitment of parties to start it. But the things seem toco-creation process asks for mere time and work reasonablypatience to really start understanding and sharing well, then do noteach other’s vision, language, culture, ideas and make them morehidden agendas. Not only at the beginning, but transparent!continuously throughout the whole workingprocess. This means that you can actually only The other groupdefine the clear goals, and what to be transparent dived into theabout, at the very end, when you have completed wicked questionyour project. whether more transparency would lead toThis is where the usual politics (which require higher levels of democracy. They came toconstant accountability) and the dynamics of co- conclude that a transparent election system cancreation (which require agility) collide. The first work both ways. Although the system might notstrategy that could counteract this dynamic is to work as intended, it can create the illusion ofcreate space for the transparency of intention: what to transparency, which might generate more trust inshare with whom, at what moment? This means the democracy at stake. This dynamic can havetrust and openness is needed to be built at various positive spill over effects, for example a stablestages throughout the process of co-creation. economy, less political unrest. But it can also reveal severe holes in the system and show thatA second strategy is the transparency of the process: it there are real problems to be dealt with whileis important to unravel the tame problems from there is no proper political system in place tothe wicked problems in one context and have the actually deal with the problems. They concludedparties involved recognize what they are good at that providing people with a tool does notsolving: tame or wicked problems? For example, automatically lead to more transparency, but itministries are good at solving tame problems, and might lead to just knowing more information. It isso-called labs are better at working with wicked then up to the people whether they can turn theproblems. And the third, last strategy is the information into action, which is not always atransparency of objectives: what do the different given in every country, given their politicalparties want to get out of the process? This situations.strategy is important to define what should be putinto the black box (the lab), and have the partiesaccept that it cannot be defined what will come CROWDSOURCING THE WISE ELDERSout of the black box once it is put in there. Our wicked quest continues! In our third and last session we will unpack the wicked problems ofTRANSPARENT VERSUS OPAQUE our aging population and learn from innovativeThe last two groups also showed interesting practices that tap into the potential and wisdomfindings. One group looked at what transparency of the elders. What can we learn from thesecould do for citizens and local government in a initiatives and what innovative strategies can weparticular neighbourhood. What happens when think of to address their challenges? Kennisland / Hivos | Wicked Series | www.kennisland.nl /www.hivos.nl