Wicked Sprint


If you want to address air pollution in Delhi, you will need to understand everything from agricultural policy to aerosol chemistry to traffic flow. Not only that, these problems have to be considered simultaneously, for the output of one informs our understanding of the other.

Furthermore, a field isn’t defined by abstract intellectual understanding as much as lived experience of effective action. Our first intervention is to create a rapid “feel” of a field of action through an intensive six day process we are calling a wicked sprint - borrowing the term “wicked” from wicked problems and “sprint” from design sprints.

The wicked sprint is our first prototype of the socratuc method. It consists of about three stages of intense activity where we go through the entire cycle from imagination to prototyping to implementation:

  • Introduction to Socratus, principles of collective wisdom and the first steps in imagining the wicked problem as a group of disparate actors.
  • Joint attention to quantitative and qualitative data that inform the wicked problem. We assume that the stakeholders agree on the validity of the data but don’t expect them to have the same interpretation.
  • Use systems thinking, mental models and concept mapping to turn the data into a preliminary system of knowledge for the wicked problem at hand. Again, we aren’t aiming to create publishable science as much as prototypable knowledge.
  • Prototype solutions to the wicked problem that takes the needs of all the stakeholders into account. In other words, turning knowledge into Human Centred Design.
  • Critique and second iteration. Open the first day’s solutions to an open critique and iterate the same process to arrive at a better prototype.
  • Agree upon individual and collective commitments to measurable actions that implement the prototype; should take the form of a public commitment like precept taking in traditional religious orders.

A Hypothetical Wicked Sprint: It’s clear that a shift to renewable energy is key to addressing climate change. However, there’s a distinct worry that already underprivileged communities will suffer during this transformation, say, coal mining communities in Virginia or Jharkhand, or African American communities that can’t afford solar panels and don’t have access to community solar. How can we design a just transition that changes our energy landscape while helping frontline communities flourish in the new economy? Answering such questions will be central to the Green New Deal in the United States and similar programmes elsewhere in the world and prototyping the just transition will help us understand the complexities involved in this process.

In combination the wicked sprint should/will have the feel of a contemplative retreat married to a design studio

Every wicked sprint will need a backend and the frontend. The backend consists of subject area experts (from design, science, technology, systems learning etc) who will help frame and guide the wicked sprint. The frontend will consist of the members of the field of action, i.e., stakeholders and actors who own the problem, the prototype and the precepts.