Accelerating the public’s learning curve on wicked policy issues: results from deliberative forums on euthanasia
The concept of wicked problems has been increasingly recognized in policy studies over the last decade. However, 40 years after the concept was introduced, the bulk of the available research still seems to follow the same approach: Issues are identified as being wicked problems, and rather similar models are theorized to address them. We argue that the research on wicked problems would benefit from a stronger empirical slant; the current research adopts just such an empirical approach in focusing on the role of citizens in tackling wicked policy issues. More specifically, the mechanisms of deliberative democracy are analyzed. This is important because wicked policy issues are commonly associated with fragmentation and incoherence. Deliberative mechanisms are then thought to lead toward public judgment, a form of shared understanding where citizens strive to understand the complexity of the issue and, working together in deliberation, seek the best ways to address it. Drawing on the outcomes of four deliberative forums on euthanasia conducted in Finland in November 2013, the current research analyzes whether the deliberation process helped the participants to progress on the public’s learning curve and whether it was ultimately likely to foster authentic public judgment on a particular wicked policy issue.
KeywordsWicked problem Deliberative democracy Public policy Euthanasia Empirical study
We would like to thank Kone Foundation for funding this research and Lyn Carson, Maija Setälä, Salla Kyrönlahti, and Tomi Niemi for their valuable assistance during the project. We are also grateful to three anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.
- Ackoff, R. L. (1974). Redesigning the future. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
- APS. (2007). Tackling wicked problems: A public policy perspective. Australian Public Service Commission Commonwealth of Australia. http://www.apsc.gov.au/_data/assets/pdf_file/0005/6386/wickedproblems.pdf. Accessed February 9, 2015.
- Atlee, T. (2004). Critiquing America speaks’ process and alternative approaches as paths to “collective intelligence”. Group Facilitation: A Research & Applications Journal, 6(Spring), 93–101.Google Scholar
- Bächtiger, A., Niemeyer, S., Neblo, M., Steenbergen, M. R., & Steiner, J. (2010). Symposium: Toward more realistic models of deliberative democracy. Disentangling diversity in deliberative democracy: Competing theories, their blind spots and complementarities. The Journal of Political Philosophy, 18(1), 32–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Carcasson, M. (2013). Tackling wicked problems through deliberative engagement. Colorado Municipalities. October, 9–13.Google Scholar
- Carson, L. (2011). Dilemmas, disasters and deliberative democracy: Getting the public back into policy. Griffith Review, 32(winter), 25–32.Google Scholar
- Carson, L., & Hart, P. (2005). What randomness and deliberation can do for community engagement. Paper presented at International Conference on Engaging Communities, Brisbane, Australia. http://www.activedemocracy.net/articles/engag-comm.pdf. Accessed February 9, 2015.
- Carson, L., & Hartz-Karp, J. (2005). Adapting and combining deliberative designs. In J. Gastil & P. Levine (Eds.), The deliberative democracy handbook (pp. 120–138). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
- Clarke, M., & Stewart, J. (2000). Handling the wicked issues. In C. Davies, L. Finlay, & A. Bullman (Eds.), Changing practice in health and social care (pp. 377–386). London: Sage.Google Scholar
- Conklin, J. (2005). Dialogue mapping: Building shared understanding of wicked problems. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
- Crosby, N., & Nethercut, D. (2005). Citizens juries: Creating a trustworthy voice of the people. In J. Gastil & P. Levine (Eds.), The deliberative democracy handbook: Strategies for effective civic engagement in the twenty-first century (pp. 111–119). San-Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
- Elstub, S. (2010). The third generation of deliberative democracy. Political Studies Review, 8(3), 291–307.Google Scholar
- Esterling, K., Fung, A., & Lee, T. (2010). The difference that deliberation makes: Evaluating the “our budget, our economy” public deliberation. Chicago: John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.Google Scholar
- Gutmann, A., & Thompson, D. (2004). Why deliberative democracy?. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Habermas, J. (1999). Moral consciousness and communicative action. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Hänninen, J. (2012). Eutanasia—Hyvä kuolema [Euthansia—A good death]. Helsinki: Duodecim.Google Scholar
- Head, B. (2008). Wicked problems in public policy. Public Policy, 3(2), 101–118.Google Scholar
- Herne, K., & Setälä, M. (2005). Deliberatiivisen demokratian ihanteet ja kokeilut [Ideals and experiments of deliberative democracy]. Politiikka, 47(3), 175–188.Google Scholar
- Horn, R. E., & Weber, R. P. (2007). New tools for resolving wicked problems: Mess mapping and resolution mapping processes. http://stanford.edu/%7erhorn/a/recent/Clmrgy.pdf. February 9, 2015.
- Lukensmeyer, C. (2005). A town meeting for the twenty-first century. In J. Gastil & P. Levine (Eds.), The deliberative democracy handbook (pp. 154–163). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
- Marcous, I., Mishara, B. L., & Durant, C. (2007). Confusion between euthanasia and other end-of-life decisions. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 98(3), 235–238.Google Scholar
- Morrell, M. E. (2010). Empathy and democracy: Feeling, thinking, and deliberation. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press.Google Scholar
- Offe, C. (2011). Crisis and innovation of liberal democracy: Can deliberation be institutionalised? Czech Sociological Review, 47(3), 447–472.Google Scholar
- Prasser, S. (2012). Euthanasia: Tackling a ‘wicked’ policy problem. Health Matter, 62(Winter), 20–22.Google Scholar
- Raisio, H. (2010). The public as policy expert: Deliberative democracy in the context of Finnish health care reforms and policies. Journal of Public Deliberation, 6(2), 1–34.Google Scholar
- Raisio, H., Ollila, S., & Vartiainen, P. (2012). Do youth juries enhance youth political and societal participation? Lessons from the Vaasa experiment. Scandinavian Journal of Public Administration, 15(3), 41–59.Google Scholar
- Reed, P. M., & Kasprzyk, J. (2009). Water resources management: The myth, the wicked, and the future. Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management, 135(6), 411–413.Google Scholar
- Roberts, N. (2000). Wicked problems and network approaches to resolution. International Public Management Review, 1(1), 1–19.Google Scholar
- Rurup, M. L., Smets, T., Cohen, J., Bilsen, J., Onwuteaka-Philipsen, B. D., & Deliens, L. (2011). The first five years of euthanasia legislation in Belgium and the Netherlands: Description and comparison of cases. Palliative Medicine, 26(1), 23–49.Google Scholar
- Steiner, J. (2012). Learning to deliberate. In G. M. Carney & C. Harris (Eds.), Citizens’ voices: Experiments in democratic renewal and reform (pp. 3–7). Galway: ICSG.Google Scholar
- Yankelovich, D. (1991). Coming to public judgment: Making democracy work in a complex world. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press.Google Scholar
- Yankelovich, D. (2011). How to achieve sounder public judgment. In D. Yankelovich & W. Friedman (Eds.), Toward wiser public judgment (pp. 11–32). Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press.Google Scholar
- Yankelovich, D. (2015). Wicked problems workable solutions: Lessons from a public life. London: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar