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Public Administration

Executives
Governance
Government
Institutions
Local Government
Policy Analysis
Public Choice
Public Policy
S22
Anne Lange
Universität Potsdam
Thomas Danken
Universität Potsdam
Katrin Dribbisch
Universität Potsdam
Rebecca-Lea Korinek
WZB Berlin Social Science Center


Abstract

Contested Public Administrations? Organizing Wicked Problems Scholarship and practitioners increasingly argue that public administrations are confronted with unprecedentedly uncertain, complex, and ambiguous policy issues. They echo a longstanding debate that discusses them as distinct challenges and label them as ‘wicked problems’. Climate change is reasoned to be an ideal-typical example: The problem of climate change is uncertain because causes and risks are poorly understood and contested, while consequences of action are unpredictable; climate change is complex because it requires cross-boundary interactions in diverse policy domains, including multiple actors; climate change is ambiguous because it lacks a consensual problem-definition and –solution as actors advocate divergent worldviews and interests. Other examples of ‘wicked problems’are security, welfare state reforms, and food safety. How, why, and under what conditions do public administrations respond to ‘wicked problems’? Which approaches are more successful – and why? These research questions reopen perennial theoretical and empirical concerns about challenges of knowledge generation and utilization, the limits of centralized approaches to coordination vis-á-vis the trend towards organizational specialization and departmentalization, and the intricacies of intra- and inter-organizational strategy-making. This section seeks to advance theoretical and empirical knowledge on how administrations cope with ‘wicked problems’, particularly from an organization and institutional theory perspective. Yet, this section also encourages contributions that draw on related theoretical traditions. Panel Suggestions The Conceptualization of ‘wicked problems’ The aims of this panel are twofold: First, it seeks to advance the theorisation of »wicked problems« in order to understand their distinct nature. Second, this panel explores the chances and limits of different theoretical perspectives on the organization of ‘wicked problems’. Theoretical and empirical contributions are equally welcomed. Knowledge Generation and Utilization Reflecting the increasingly prominent role of expert and scientific knowledge in the recent debate, this panel explores the role of different forms of knowledge and expertise in the process of managing ‘wicked problems’. It will in particular explore how political and politico-administrative actors jointly with experts perceive, make sense of, interpret, and negotiate problem-definitions of and -solutions to ‘wicked problems’. Coordination vis-á-vis Specialization This panel addresses the role of different modes and mechanisms of coordination in translating ‘wicked problems’ into coherent policies and in their implementation against the backdrop of the increasing fragmentation of public administrations. It invites contributions that explore the analytical chances and limits of different approaches to coordination such as negative vs. positive coordination, network and multi-level governance. Intra- and Inter-organizational Strategy-Making The concept of ‘strategy’ is discussed and has been applied as an alternative to both traditional concepts of bureaucratic planning on the one hand and incrementalism on the other. However, empirical evidence on the creation, legitimation, implementation, and monitoring of strategies as a means of managing ‘wicked problems’ is scant. This panel welcomes contributions assessing these issues. ‘Wicked Problems’ in Specific Policy Domains and Levels of Governance This panel explores the responses of public administrations to ‘wicked problems’ in specific policy domains such as energy, migration, and security, as well as on specific levels of governance. It particularly welcomes contributions that champion a comparative perspective.
Code Title Details
P020 Coordination and Multi-Level Governance View Panel Details
P059 Coping with Crisis View Panel Details
P094 The Organisation of Wicked Policy Problems View Panel Details
P109 The Role of Expertise in EU Regulatory Governance View Panel Details