Workshop on Wicked Problems


Anke Gruendel and Claudia Mareis

19 11 2021

The term “wicked problems” describes problems characterized by a lack of a clear definition. According to Horst Rittel, the concept’s originator, such problems are not easily bounded and often include contradictory or changing facts, opinions, and values held by diverse stakeholders. As a result, problem definition and resolution strategy are necessarily interlinked. Such problems cannot be approached with rational, linear problem-solving methods but rather demand an iterative approach that seeks provisional resolutions rather than permanent and fixed solutions. While the term is more than half a century old, it remains astonishingly current.

This workshop sought to provide an opportunity for an exchange of thoughts and ideas around complexity and uncertainty between the clusters of excellence Matters of Activity (Humboldt University of Berlin) and Temporal Communities (Free University Berlin). “Wicked problems” served both as an entry point for such an exchange and as a reference point for orienting the work done in the clusters towards broader social, environmental, and political problem spaces.