Charles Rutheiser

Thinking about Resilience as a Wicked Problem

A critical challenge in communicating and implementing resilience thinking lies not only in defining resilience in a practical way, but in recognizing the kinds of problems that are associated with building or encouraging the resilience of particular kinds of social and spatial systems, such as communities and cities. During the first part of the presentation, Charles Rutheiser sketchs out the proposition that understanding resilience as a “wicked problem”—a kind of challenge that is resistant to definitive resolution using methods drawn from science and engineering owing to manifold complexity, context dependence and social fragmentation—might prove helpful in appreciating the opportunities, strengths and limitations of resilience thinking and action in the urban context where an “engineering resilience” frame is often the default setting. Seen from this perspective, resilience is not only a wicked problem, but a “wicked word.”  In the second part of his presentation Charles moves from this rather abstract notion to the more concrete by  showing how another widely-used wicked word—“community”—can provide us with clues about how resilience can be integrated more effectively in planning, policy, and common usage.

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