Confronting Wicked Problems in the Metropolis

34 Pages Posted: 5 Sep 2013

See all articles by Jered Carr

Jered Carr

University of Missouri-Kansas City

Brent Never

University of Missouri at Kansas City

Date Written: 2013


These problems facing many metropolitan regions in the U.S. are complex, open-ended and seemingly intractable. The obstacles to regional governance created by these “wicked” problems are the root of the criticisms of the consensus-based “self-organizing” strategies described by frameworks such as New Regionalism and Institutional Collective Action. The self-organized solutions described by these frameworks require substantial consensus exist among the participants and this creates a bias toward solving low-conflict problems where consensus already exists. We discuss the limitations of these two influential research programs in the context of wicked problems and draw on the concept of nested institutional action situations to suggest a research agenda for studying intergovernmental collaboration on problems requiring the development of consensus about the nature of the problem and acceptable solutions. The Advocacy Coalitions and Institutional Analysis and Development frameworks have been effectively used to explain regional collaboration on wicked environmental problems and likely have insights for confronting the wicked fiscal and social problems of regional governance. The implications are that wicked problems are tamed through iterated games and that institution-making at the collective-choice level can then be scaled up to achieve agreement at the constitutional level of analysis.

Suggested Citation

Carr, Jered and Never, Brent, Confronting Wicked Problems in the Metropolis (2013). APSA 2013 Annual Meeting Paper, American Political Science Association 2013 Annual Meeting, Available at SSRN:

Jered Carr (Contact Author)

University of Missouri-Kansas City ( email )

Department of Public Affairs
Bloch School of Management
Kansas City, MO 64110
United States

Brent Never

University of Missouri at Kansas City ( email )

5100 Rockhill Road
Kansas City, MO 64110-2499
United States

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