Accelerating the public’s learning curve on wicked policy issues: results from deliberative forums on euthanasia
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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.
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