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Featured Symposium

The Vanderbilt Law Review is pleased to announce a symposium entitled “Governing Wicked Problems,” which will be held at Vanderbilt Law School, October 24–25, 2019. The event will be co-hosted by Professors J.B. Ruhl and James Salzman, who describe the theme in this way:

“Governing Wicked Problems” explores whether emerging theoretical and empirical work centered around concepts of resilience, adaptive governance, and complex adaptive systems offers a generalizable approach that could improve upon the conventional “war on” strategy often taken when government wrestles with intractable policy challenges—i.e., wicked problems.

Wicked problems are the opposite of hard but ordinary problems, which public and private governance institutions can solve in a finite time period by applying standard techniques. Not only do conventional governance processes fail to tackle wicked problems, they may exacerbate situations by generating undesirable consequences. The symposium is organized to step back and ask whether there are general governance design principles that could prove useful across the category of wicked problems. More fundamentally, we are pushing back on the conception that each wicked problem is sui generis as a governance challenge.

We have invited a small number of thought leaders from a variety of fields to write about both substantive wicked problems (such as climate change and gentrification) and governance strategies to address such problems (such as resilience and adaptive governance). The focus of the symposium is neither to run through each problem and its specific challenges nor to consider governance strategies in the abstract. Instead, we will marry the specific and abstract, asking what generalizable insights have been learned about how to design public and private governance regimes to manage wicked problems.