Publication date (electronic): 31 December 2015
A complexity based diagnostic tool for tackling wicked problems
Dr Sharon Zivkovic is the Principal Facilitator at Community Capacity Builders, Co-founder of Wicked Lab and a Sessional Lecturer in Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Adelaide. Community Capacity Builders is a for-profit social enterprise that has developed a project based active citizenship education program based on education for sustainability principles that embeds in government infrastructure. Wicked Lab is a new technology start-up that is developing enterprise software to assist communities and governments to address complex social policy problems. Prior to establishing Community Capacity Builders, Sharon held positions in the non-profit, private and public sectors. In 2001 Sharon received the Enterprising Woman of the Year Award in recognition of her contribution towards creating strong and enterprising communities. She received the Award for Best Overall Paper at the 2012 International Social Innovation Research Conference for her paper ‘Government’s role in social innovation: Balancing unplanned exploration and planned exploitation’. In 2015 Sharon received the Pank/University of South Australia School of Management Prize for Entrepreneurship.
Many of societies’ most pressing social policy problems are wicked problems. While complex adaptive systems theory has been recognised as an appropriate way to address this type of problem, complexity-accepting strategies are difficult for public administrations because they are at odds with their current dominant logic. This paper describes the development and implementation of a diagnostic tool for tackling wicked problems that is underpinned by complex systems leadership theories and takes into account the current needs of government. The diagnostic tool was reasoned during a research project that investigated how best to increase the social impact of an active citizenship education program in the City of Onkaparinga, South Australia. The research project identified that while the program developed the active citizenship characteristics desired by the three levels of government in Australia, graduates from the program encountered systemic blocking factors when they attempted to put what they had learned during the program into practice. To increase the program's impact, the diagnostic tool addresses these systemic blocking factors by focusing on nine leverage areas that enable systemic innovation and change to occur in communities.
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