Problem structuring methods, wicked policy problems and the 2009 Australian Repco Rally

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Rapid change and increased diversity in the policymaking environment over the last few decades have confronted policymakers with new challenges, including dealing with and overcoming wicked problems (i.e., issues highly resistant to resolution). Wicked problems always involve multiple actors with diverse goals and finding optimal solutions that satisfy all policy actors are often impossible to find. Three methods in particular have been used to address wicked problems. Overall however, these methods have not proved as effective as Problem Structuring Methods (PSMs) which were designed specifically to assist diverse groups address a problematic situation of common interest, characterized by high levels of complexity, uncertainty and conflict.
The event policymaking environment is not impervious to wicked problems as events do not operate in isolation but are tightly linked to the community in which they occur. Indeed there is a diverse array of policy actors within the event policymaking environment which often results in a lack of consensus in goals and problem definition. Not surprisingly then, policy actors are increasingly seeing the emergence of wicked problems in the policymaking process of events, yet little attention has been paid to addressing such policy issues.
The purpose of this paper is to address this gap in the research and to provide readers with an insight into PSMs by discussing the potential application of PSMs to the 2009 Australian Repco Rally. This international racing car event which was held in the Northern Rivers region of NSW, Australia, clearly demonstrated a wicked problem involving multiple actors from various institutional backgrounds with divergent perspectives and goals. Complex problems emerged during the policymaking process of the event and this culminated in a high degree of uncertainty, controversy and conflict during the event policy making process. The broad aim of this paper then, is to enhance understanding of PSM’s by demonstrating that when the method is utilised in a collaborative environment, it can provide an approach that will assist event policymakers in dealing effectively with a wicked problem.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings from Global Events Congress IV: Festivals & Events Research
PublisherLeeds University
Publication date2010
Publication statusPublished - 2010
EventGlobal Events Congress IV: Festivals & Events Research - Leeds, United Kingdom
Duration: 14 Jul 200916 Jul 2009


ConferenceGlobal Events Congress IV: Festivals & Events Research
CountryUnited Kingdom


  • policy
  • tourism
  • event
  • problem structuring methods
  • sport
  • wicked problem

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