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Tackling ‘wicked’ problems for sustainable water services

Published on: 21/06/2016

Read IRC's literature review on approaches to driving whole system change in the effort to achieve sustainable water services for everyone.

This review identifies theory, rationale and methods underpinning complexity-informed approaches to effecting change in large, dynamic, complex adaptive systems. The insights gained from this body of literature are discussed in relation to the rural water sector in low- and middle-income countries - a sector facing ‘wicked’ problems whose solution requires changes in the mindset and behaviours of multiple actors (Rittel and Webber, 1973).

Framing this sector as a socio-technical system creates the possibility of examining how large-scale change may emerge and evolve in dynamic and complex systems. Also tools are described which are well suited to simulating and experimenting with complex problems for the purpose of identifying policy options and potential solutions.

This work is part of IRC's ongoing effort to ground our practice and deepen our (conceptual) knowledge of these approaches in theory and methods offered by the field of complexity sciences.

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