This summer, students from The Hague Summer School were challenged by The Wicked Problem Plaza on how to deal with Wicked Problems.

‘Solving world big issues trough connecting the private and public sector’ is the central topic of The Hague Summer School (The Hague University of Applies Sciences). The Hague Summer School offers students with different cultural backgrounds, willing to make this world a better place, a two- or four week course that makes them work together on world topics like poverty, pollution, environmental and economic crises. Students choose electives from a varied programme of lectures, company visits, workshops, and Wicked Problems Plaza sessions. The  method of The Wicked Problem Plaza provides an ultimate ‘lab’ to make students really think through wicked problems.

Three actual Wicked Problems were offered: boat migrants in the Mediterranean Sea, conflict minerals in the Congo and returning combatants. These were the Wicked Problems that the students had to work on. Not sitting in a classroom listening to the teacher and possible solutions, but the ‘Wicked Problems Plaza method’. Students worked in three groups, one per wicked problem. All students had to find a picture that symbolized the wicked problem for them, in order to introduce their own perspective to the group of fellow students.  This exercise showed them the many different elements of the problem at hand. The students also discussed which stakeholders were dealing with the problem and could help towards reaching possible solutions.

The students even came to the Wicked Problems Plaza acting as one of the stakeholders! After that, they discussed the dilemma’s they faced when dealing with the problem and the trade-offs that they faced when looking for solutions. However, they also dreamed together about what the world would look like when the wicked problem was no longer there. This was shared in the larger group, after which the students also made a personal reflection of how these trade-offs made them feel. And then it was time to think about solutions. Big and crazy ideas came up during the brainstorming sessions, although the students also had to reflect on the feasibility of these ideas. Finally, these ideas were shared in the groups and the stakeholders started to negotiate about their potential contributions to these solutions. The negotiations did not go smoothly, as was expected regarding the wickedness of the problem.

By using the Wicked Plaza method, students learned how to deal with wicked problems. They noted the importance of looking at the issue from various angles and perspectives, and that negotiations are not about your own standpoint but merely about listening to the others. They also found that it is difficult to identify yourself with a stakeholder. The students had to hand in a personal reflection in the end of the week, encouraging them to think about their own personal development regarding wicked problems and the topic of The Hague Summer School: ‘Solving world big issues trough connecting the private and public sector’.

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