Great that you are considering to organise a Wicked Problems Plaza session! Each WPP session is unique. It should always be structured specifically to address the wicked problem at hand and to match the goals and expectations of the stakeholders that will be involved. You can read the theory page and homepage of this website to find more general information about the WPP. This facilitation manual will help you to prepare the session.
The following steps are crucial to explore the wicked problem and the goal of the WPP session, and to gain insight into the commissioning organization and the other stakeholders with their interests.
· Read this manual and talk in depth with the commissioner of the WPP in order to fully understand the wicked problem that they would like the WPP to address. In some cases, it might not be completely clear who the commissioning party is – and sometimes, it might be you! Make sure you have a clear understanding of roles and interests. Take at least 6 weeks before the planned date to start preparing the session. Discuss alternatives for the WPP and/or make the case that the WPP is the best method for facilitating this dialogue.
· Have a good conversation about the expectations that the commissioner and stakeholders have about the WPP and try to give clarity about objectives and possible outcomes of the session. Make sure that a commissioner understands that the wicked problem won’t be solved during that day. Also, explicate that the commissioning party has a responsibility to make sure that ideas that come up during the day will be sustained and followed up.
· Study the wicked problem by reading a few basic publications about the theme. Familiarise yourself with basic arguments used by relevant stakeholders and make a short-list of possible approaches. The goal is not to become an expert, but you do want to make sure that you will understand the participants.
· Create a focused and specific question that could be answered during the day.
· Define the most relevant (groups of) stakeholders. Always look in each of the societal spheres: private companies, governments, and NGO’s. What is their expertise, what are their responsibilities and their opportunities in contributing to the wicked problem? Make a spreadsheet with their names, roles and contact information. Try to get the ‘whole system in the room’, meaning that you aim to bring together different perspectives that are relevant to the issue at hand.
· Adapt the WPP method and concept to your specific session, problem and the selected stakeholders. Think about the structure, the length of the session, the location and the date. Make a script for this WPP session: think about methods, time, space and materials needed. Look for an example of a script at the education section of this website.
· Allocate facilitators. Most WPP’s require two facilitators (one senior and one junior) to guide the processes. In addition an external resource person can be present in order to give the opening presentation and answer content-related questions. In case you would like to work together with a facilitator who is familiar with the WPP concept, you can find their contact details here.
· Select the participants of the session and send them personal invitations (and reminders when needed).
· Make an information sheet that includes basic information about the wicked problem from diverse perspectives. Send this as ‘homework’ to the participants about one week in advance, with some practical information for the day. You can find an example of an information sheet for a student group about e-waste in the education guide.
· Organize practical matters: reserve a room, catering, buy/hire all relevant materials. Preferably, the room is large enough to move around, in order to move between the four different spaces. Ideally, you can use the walls to directly write on or to hang large papers on to write on. In this way the room represents the written journey that participants move through, and they can easily read back what they have been saying before.