Handbooks of Research on Public Policy series
Edited by Robert Geyer and Paul Cairney
Chapter 8: Effective policy making: addressing apparently intractable problems
Policy and decision makers are often faced with complex problems, which appear very difficult to address or even unsolvable and which challenge existing methods and approaches. The problems are complex and multidimensional, yet they are addressed in a relatively simplistic way, usually addressing a single dimension. For example the emphasis may be on culture, or finance, or new technology, when all those as well as many other dimensions may be contributing to the problem space. This chapter will describe an approach based on complexity theory, which has been developed and tested over two decades in 30 different research projects. The approach, which is part of the EMK methodology, identifies the multiple dimensions of the ‘problem space’ which may include social, cultural, technical, physical, political, economic, leadership and other dimensions. Organizations often feel overwhelmed by what they perceive as the enormity of such a task because it is seen as an endless list of issues to be addressed. However, by identifying a set of critical co-evolving clusters, policy makers are able to set up enabling environments that can effectively address complex challenges.
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