Managing ‘wicked problems’ through complex adaptive governance networks

Christopher Koliba, Joop Koppenjan

Research output: Chapter/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic


This chapter explores how ‘wicked problems’ can be distinguished from those problems that can be understood through a ‘linear’ logic, the core concepts and mechanisms that define governance networks that function as complex adaptive systems and the set of managerial strategies that can be employed to harness complexity and steer governance networks toward optimal structures, functions and solutions. It concludes that complex governance networks are needed to address the wicked problems facing many public managers but that the performance of these governance networks is often suboptimal, as their emergent properties, structures and functions are not understood by the public managers responsible for their stewardship. Consequently, public managers need to be able to gauge the substantive complexity inherent to the problems themselves, the strategic complexity inherent to the composition of the actors involved and the institutional complexity inherent in the prevailing rule structures and institutional norms.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPublic Management and Governance
Subtitle of host publicationFourth Edition
PublisherTaylor and Francis AS
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781000951813
ISBN (Print)9781032253732
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 selection and editorial matter, Tony Bovaird and Elke Loeffler; individual chapters, the contributors.

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