During a Wicked Problems Plaza session the participants will go through four spaces in the cylinder that are related to the four dimensions of issues: head, heart, hands and partnering. The actual sequence of the sessions can differ, depending on the nature and goal of the session. The most frequently used sequence of a WPP session is problem driven. It follows the route interest space – equity space – efficiency space- partnering space. The idea behind each stage of this basic sequence is to trigger participants to think/act differently regarding the wicked problem. Each space contains their own set of activities, tools, roles and materials needed. Participants might encounter spaces and tools that they are not used to, which will help them to get out of their comfort zone. Please have a look at the examples - some of them use a different sequence that might inspire you. You might also look at the upgrading section on how you can optimally make use of the different spaces.
A WPP session usually takes a full 8 hour day. Alternatively, you can organize the spaces on separate days. We have also done ‘light’ versions of the WPP in 3-4 hours – in which case managing expectations about the limited results of the session becomes important.
Opening of a Wicked Problems Plaza session
Allow some time for the participants to meet each other informally and talk with each other over a cup of coffee. Welcome the participants, introduce yourself and your co-facilitator, give a short explanation of what a WPP is and what participants can expect out of the day. Introduce the concept of a pressure cooker and that time pressure might annoy people but also helps them to get out of their comfort zone. Make sure participants understand that they won’t solve the wicked problem today!
Also explain ‘rules’ right at the beginning:
- Safe space; everyone should feel free to express himself/herself
- Anonymous: no personal quotes/anecdotes leave the room unless permitted
- Listen to each other: listen with attention to what others have to say, don’t interrupt
- Don’t disturb the process: switch off phones, etc
- Take a pro-active role: the success of the WPP depends on the participants’ work
Explain the different spaces and the structure of the day. Make sure you include sufficient breaks and communicate about them upfront.
· Reserve about 15 minutes at the end of the session for a closing and short evaluation.
· Ask participants to reflect on the day. You can use the following questions: Did you learn something new today? What has inspired you most? What will you do differently when you wake up tomorrow?
· Make this feedback round more interactive by having participants write down their reflections on colourful post-its/papers. Not everyone needs to explain his comments, but everyone leaves his/her feedback on the floor before going home.
· Invite the participants for a drink (mention this already in the invitation) and leave enough time for it. Encourage the participants to share business cards and to talk bilaterally/multilaterally about next steps during the drinks.
· E-mail the participants a week afterwards with a summary of the day, pictures that have been made, a possible news item that was written, etc. Also provide them with the notes that were made during the day on the wall. Ask the participants whether they have more feedback for you.