A wicked problem is in fact a system of interrelated problems where there are many players and the problem adapts – it changes and anything you do will change the problem. So what can you do to find a solution? Learn about the problem, study and watch the system, appericiation of other points of view, become skilled in how to use the system and educate stakeholders.
Example of flooding which is only a problem when we intended the flooded area for other purposes. We can do as in this picture; put up a warning sign (which does not really solve the problem but prevents more problems from occurring (hopefully) or we can build dykes which move the problem into another area. So most spatial problems are wicked problems. (Photo: Morien Jones)
What can you do?
To learn about the system you need three core knowledge areas:
- Technical engineering to be able to model and understand the physical processes
- Spatial information to know where, when and what is happening, and
- Spatial planning and governance to be able to use for interventions as well as predict socio economic drivers. For each an explanation follows
You always need three types of knowledge: in Spatial Engineering you learn the skills and methods to deal with all three!
The following map is an example of where what is happening in time. The map shows Jakarta in Indonesia. The city is slowly sinking. Between 1974 and 2010 more than four meters (13 feet). The land collapsed because water was pumped from aquifers beneath the city to supply the population of Jakarta.
Use spatial information to:
- quantify the problem
- provide data for modeling and predicting future effects
- communicate about possible interventions.
Land subsidence in Jakarta in period 1974-2010 (Source: Deltares 2010)
Technical engineering is needed to:
- measure the model
- design interventions
Flood model simulation for the Kampala area
Spatial planning and governance
Socially robust interventions are those that are sustainable for the stakeholders involved. An example of non sustainable intervention can be found in Kampala. A flood drainage was build was not maintained and therefore does not solve the flooding problem. It increased the problems for the inhabitants of the city because they cannot cross the drainage canal. Another example of a solution creating new problems.
Use spatial planning and governance to:
- ensure socially robust interventions
- include stakeholders
- understand socio-economic drivers of change.
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