Public policy that does the right thing rather than the wrong thing righter

Ison, Ray and Collins, Kevin (2008). Public policy that does the right thing rather than the wrong thing righter. In: Analysing Collaborative and Deliberative Forms of Governance, 14 Nov 2008, The Australia National University, Canberra, Australia.



Motivated by the reprisal of ‘wicked problems’ in Australian public policy discourse we make the case for understanding climate change adaptation, water and river managing, and other complex, uncertain, natural resource issues as ‘wicked problems’. This ‘framing’ of social planning dilemmas dates back 40 years yet public policy practitioners still do not seem well equipped in terms of understandings and practices to engage with these situations and to effect systemic improvements. Drawing on a decade of research in Europe we make the case for investing in social learning as an alternative governance mechanism and as a form of praxis for managing in ‘wicked problem’ situations. We outline our main research findings to explain how we understand and enact social learning. In doing so, we also draw on the Open University UK’s 35 years of experience of teaching systems thinking and practice for managing ‘wicked problems’. We conclude by opening up an invitational space to explore the commonalities and differences in research on social learning with that on deliberative practices and governance.

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