Wicked problems unraveled: Explaining the Dutch government's incremental approach to the United Nations Sustainable Development goals

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The in 2015 adopted United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda resembles the complexity and wickedness of problems that policy planners and govern-ments face today. The last couple of decades, a growing number of academic articles has been written on these wicked problems, which are perceived as complex, contested, interdependent, and resistant to resolution. The literature on wicked problems recommends a holistic strategy to these kind of issues, but interestingly the Dutch government approaches the national implementation of the SDG Agenda with an incremental strategy. This research aims to explain why the Dutch government approaches the SDG Agenda with an incremental instead of a holistic approach. Wicked problem theory falls short when clarifying the explaining mechanisms leading to incrementalism. Therefore, an inductive case study research is employed to discover how the incremental approach taken by the Dutch government towards the SDG Agenda can be explained. Three theoretical perspectives will be used to acquire a comprehensive understanding of the case: partisan influence theory, garbage can theory, and network theory. This research argues that a lack of high-level interest in the SDG Agenda in the Netherlands provides the political space for an incremental approach to develop.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen