Wednesday, July 13, 2011

"Wicked Messes”—Shifting the Focus From Problems to Possibilities

Last week, the regional leaders who make up the California Stewardship Network met in Sacramento. We have worked together for over a decade to create new approaches to problem solving as complexity and interdependence have increased exponentially. The siloed approaches of the past are ineffective, expensive and often make matters worse. One definition of a “wicked mess is a problem whose solution requires a great number of people to change their mindsets and behavior. Another way to say this is the solution requires transformational change.


  • Education—Shifting from industrial, top down, numbers driven models to life-long learning networks that support the development of creative, critical and tactical thinking skills and their application to real-time problems.

  • Justice—Shifting from a system primarily focused upon enforcement and punishment to restorative approaches and community based solutions.

  • Health—Shifting from symptom relief and high end professionals to an empowering, distributed model focused upon personal responsibility and public health approaches.

  • Human Services—Shifting from siloes of emergency and sustained support to a leveraged system focused upon pathways to self-sufficiency.

California Forward calls this “The Virtuous Cycle. Better education leads to better jobs, which leads to a healthier population, less poverty, less crime and, ultimately, less government. Smart Government would advance the Three Es simultaneously a prosperous economy, a quality environment and community equity.

Opportunity Favors the Prepared

Over a decade ago, Fresnans from all sectors began to look at our challenges through the Three Es. Understanding that the Three Es are interdependent and equally important is just the first step. One must step outside of them (Fourth Sphere) to discover where alignments can be made and resources can be leveraged. Most people do not take this step until they realize they cannot succeed in isolation. The level of complexity inherent in a "wicked mess" is beyond anyone's expertise or experience. This is new territory—we are off the map. Our choice is to learn new leadership skills or witness continuing deterioration. We must combine positional authority and leading without it to craft strategies complete enough to drill deeply into the roots while meeting urgent present needs. Go to for more detailed information and an opportunity to offer your comments.

New Models for Cross-Jurisdiction Collaboration

One of our partners, Joint Venture Silicon Valley Network, commissioned Accenture to do a white paper on cross-jurisdiction collaboration with examples from across the globe. The report is available at

No comments:

Post a Comment