When wicked problems arise in society, the outcomes are often unclear and reaching a solution may be just as difficult as the problem itself.

Wicked problems are those that have seemingly infinite number of solutions, interconnections to other problems, and incomplete or contradictory knowledge needed to solve the problem. These problems do not have an easy “fix” and interdisciplinary collaboration is essential for effective change.   

At the Institute for Science and Policy, we bring diverse people together to talk about complex, societal issues that matter to them, their community, and our future. We strive to build bridges and relationships among people who may not have the opportunity to learn from those with conflicting or opposing points of view. In 2022, the future of Colorado’s water – under increasing pressures from climate change, growing populations, and an overstressed system – was a target focus of our work. Using our ability to convene, we hosted a series of discussions working towards greater awareness and new ideas on how we can use science and coalition building to shape the future of water in our state. 

The convening discussions were a space for people to be vulnerable, ask questions, learn from each other, test ideas, build relationships, and work towards a greater understanding of how their own work or role could be most impactful. The Roadmap to Better Decisions guide serves as a reflection on the process, highlighting the approach and lessons learned for anyone initiating much-needed difficult conversations. There are ways that we can all engage in more productive, thoughtful dialogue. But it takes effort, a capacity to be open to new perspectives, and a willingness to build trust. We hope this guide will be a helpful starting point. 


Kristan Uhlenbrock, The Institute for Science and Policy 

Kate Long, The Institute for Science and Policy  


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