Confronting Wicked Problems in the Metropolis

An APSA 2013 Annual Meeting Paper by Jered Carr and Brent Never: “These problems facing many metropolitan regions in the U.S. are complex, open-ended and seemingly intractable. The obstacles to regional governance created by these “wicked” problems are the root of the criticisms of the consensus-based “self-organizing” strategies described by frameworks such as New Regionalism and Institutional Collective Action. The self-organized solutions described by these frameworks require substantial consensus exist among the participants and this creates a bias toward solving low-conflict problems where consensus already exists. We discuss the limitations of these two influential research programs in the context of wicked problems and draw on the concept of nested institutional action situations to suggest a research agenda for studying intergovernmental collaboration on problems requiring the development of consensus about the nature of the problem and acceptable solutions. The Advocacy Coalitions and Institutional Analysis and Development frameworks have been effectively used to explain regional collaboration on wicked environmental problems and likely have insights for confronting the wicked fiscal and social problems of regional governance. The implications are that wicked problems are tamed through iterated games and that institution-making at the collective-choice level can then be scaled up to achieve agreement at the constitutional level of analysis.”