In this multifunctional space, participants are encouraged to behave in a way that addresses ‘wicked’ problems in a constructive sequence, and use their collective intelligence to bring critical elements in at the right time. The objective is to create real and sustainable solutions that are both pragmatic and idealistic.
“It’s a safe space” says Rob van Tulder, Professor of International Business-Society Management at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM), and the driving force behind the creation of the WPP. “But it’s also a pressure cooker. When you have people from a large corporation that is struggling with human rights violations in its supply chain together in the same room with representatives of a human rights activist group, you have to lock the door. It might look like a paradox but you need to keep people in the box to make them to think outside of the box.”
The WPP even looks like a pressure cooker – windowless, round, and made of steel. Van Tulder cheerfully concedes that this is no accident. “The first session we ran in there, people were complaining that they were almost literally perspiring. They weren’t hot, just confronted by the intensity of the situation,” said Prof. van Tulder. He continues: “The WPP concepts are science-based. Moreover, the activities in the WPP will be part of a longer-term action research project on creating collaborative solutions to sustainable development problems in which the Partnerships Resource Centre at RSM will have a leading role.”
The Wicked Problems Plaza in The Hague is part of the New World Campus (NWC) and was officially opened on Friday 29 May. Four hundred people braved the wind and rain to explore the NWC, described by one guest, Marleen Brouwer, Adviser Wageningen UR Centre for Development Innovation (CDI), as “a beautiful, sustainable building for the creation of beautiful, sustainable ideas.”
The ambition of the New World Campus is to stimulate co-operation and thus accelerate innovation by connecting a diverse range of actors both online and offline at the NWC.
Being one of the most sustainably renovated buildings in The Hague, the NWC provides a series of spaces and offices for organisations and individuals committed to sustainable solutions. This broad remit drew an eclectic crowd to the opening: a representative of The Hague’s government chatted with an artist who uses the energy generated by fish droppings to grow living art in aquatic environments, and a lobbyist for ethical media rubbed shoulders with the owner of a company that uses drones to locate poachers on the African savannah.
Marcel van der Klaauw, senior adviser to The Hague’s task force on forward-thinking investment, explained that this is exactly what the NWC is for. “We don’t want people to feel that [the campus] is only for people from this region. This is an investment in knowledge infrastructure and it belongs to all of us. It is for everybody committed to creating real solutions.”