Uncovering wicked problem’s system structure : seeing the forest for the trees.
Purpose: This article uses systems thinking, systems theory, and Camillus’ (2008) framework for responding to wicked problems to provide social marketers with a theoretically based framework for approaching strategy formation for wicked problems. The article treats fast fashion as an illustrative case, and takes a step back from implementation to provide a framework for analysing and gaining understanding of wicked problem system structure in order for social marketers to then plan more effective interventions. The proposed approach is intended as a theory-based tool for social marketing practitioners to uncover system structure and analyse the wicked problems they face.
Approach: Following Layton (2014), this work provides theoretically-based guidelines for analysing the black box of how to develop and refine strategy as first proposed in Camillus’ (2008) framework for responding to wicked issues.
Findings: The prescription thus developed for approaching wicked problems’ system structure revolves around (1) identifying the individuals, groups, or entities that make up the system involved in the wicked problem, then (2) determining which social mechanisms most clearly drive each entity and which outcomes motivate these social mechanisms, before (3) determining which role the entities play as either incumbent, challenger or governance and which social narratives drive each role’s participation in the wicked problem.
Originality/value: This article shows that using systems thinking can help social marketers to gain big picture thinking and develop strategy for responding to complex issues, while considering the consequences of interventions.