Interest space

Interest space

This space is all about hearing and learning about the perceptions that stakeholders have of the wicked problem

Aims of this space:

·        Introduction of participants and their positions and interests

·        Introduction of the wicked problem

·        Identifying the wickedness of the problem by uncovering layers and dimensions of the problem

The tools below can help you with that. You can select and adapt the tools to fit with the topic and sequence of the session. In case you do not start with the interest space, it is smart to do an introduction of the participants and the wicked problem in the alternative first space. The interest space will then take less time and will be more focused on identifying different interests in addressing the problem.

During the interest space, the (co-)facilitator writes down the issues that are raised, somewhere visible for all to see. At the end of the space it is good to discuss these issues with the group. Ask the participants what is still missing. What makes the problem so wicked? Also explain that the list will never be exhaustive and that this is not the aim of this exercise.

Ultimately, this space should result in a list of the different perspectives that stakeholders have towards the problem. These perspectives can be based on their different interests, understandings and/or experience with the problem.

Tool: Symbols E-mail the participants about a week in advance with the question to take along an object that symbolizes the wicked problem for them. Start the interest space by sitting in a circle. The facilitators start with telling a short story about the object they brought and why it symbolizes the problem for them. After that they put the object in the centre. Then others will do the same. Everyone starts with mentioning their first name without naming their organization or function. The story will identify one’s position towards the wicked problem. The stories also identify first elements of why the problem is wicked. The (co-)facilitator writes down those elements. You can choose to organise this introduction as a circle practice or use story telling practices. As an added bonus, this tool will also create a personal atmosphere in which participants will feel free to share ideas.

Tool: occupation game. Use a game to let participants discover each other’s occupation or position with regards to the wicked problem. Make cards with everyone’s official function in their professional work (or use business cards with the names erased). Then, let everyone take a card from a closed box and search for the person that matches the card. A brief bilateral conversation will follow led by a common question; e.g. ‘how does your work relate to this wicked problem?’ After a few minutes, people can introduce their conversation partners to the group by sharing the content of their discussion.

Tool: Introduction of the wicked problem – e.g. with a movie, photos and/or resource person – make it vivid for the participants. Make sure that during this activity you do not only send out information to participants, but that it becomes a discussion in which they together identify the different layers of the problem.

 Tips: In this space it is crucial that participants learn to attentively listen to each other with an open mindset. Try to stimulate a safe atmosphere by reminding participants of the rules to not interrupt and to listen to each other. It might be the case that some persons have more expertise than others and that these persons’ contributions overrule those of others. Try to level this by giving everyone a chance and to overcome eventual power hierarchies.