Identifying Problems Types

Three Problem Types

Type 1 Problems (Technical Problems)

Agreement on definition of problem, agreement of potential available solutions

Type 2 Problems (Value Problems)

Agreement on definition of problem, no agreement on potential options

Type 3 Problems (“Wicked” or Intractable Problems)

No agreement on definition of problem or options

Type 1

  • “How” questions
  • Experts can solve
  • Limited consideration of values
  • Usually limited or no participation/collaboration required

Ex: Fastest route to Pittsburgh, how to solve differential equation, how to fix a broken arm, how to best get stain out of a rug, how to create a more efficient light bulb

Type 2

  • Value dimensions make “reasonable solution” less apparent
  • Usually agreement on the definition of the problem, but not on available solutions
  • Expertise/information is insufficient
  • Value hierarchies mean that people must live with or implement the solutions
  • Evoke emotions and sometimes stubbornness

Ex: Gen ed reform,

Challenges with Type 2 Problems

  1. Many are both technical and value driven, but…
  2. People tend to dismiss or not recognize value problems or value components
    Ex: Reducing teen pregnancy

Ex: Keystone XL pipeline

Ex: “Combat” drugs: enforcement is “out there” rather than in families, neighborhoods, schools, etc. Someone else’s problem. (It’s a Type 3 problem, but it illustrates the pt)

Type 3

  • Multiple Stakeholders
  • Overlapping jurisdictions
  • Powerful moral dimensions
  • Deep histories
  • People come up with different solutions (from their worldview) instead of defining the problem (like eisegesis vs. exegesis)

Ex: Poverty, Climate Change, Abortion, Gun Policy

Ex: School Shootings (regulation, mental health, or on-site defense/responses, but not: responsibility training, resources for those in distress)

  1. No one (alone) actually has sufficient power to address/solve
  2. No discipline or mental model can fully explain
  3. Often contested technical information (ex: value of higher ed degree, climate change)

Features of Public Issues (Jeffrey Luke)

(Type 2 and Type 3)

They are systemic (multiple causation, systemic constraints, nonsummative)

  1. Public Issues Cross Traditional Boundaries
  • Organizations/jurisdictions
  • Functions
  • Time periods/generational perspectives

2. Public Issues are Socially Constructed

  • Differing values, beliefs, cultural traditions, worldviews
  • Strategies based on person’s perception about cause(s) and effect(s)
  • Scientific/technical data necessary but not sufficient

3. No Optimal Solution

  • Intractable; never entirely solved
  • Merely technical remedy is ineffective; requires deeper systemic change