By Brian W. Head

With scholarship that combines deep conceptual knowledge with practitioner insights, Brian Head unpacks some of the most pressing and complex policy challenges we all face. Rich with empirical detail, this book looks set to become the definitive work on wicked issues and what to do about them.
Claire A. Dunlop, Professor of Politics, University of Exeter, UK


This new book by Fellow and public policy expert Professor Brian Head provides a comprehensive exploration of wicked policy problems. The book begins with an overview of the origins and subsequent development of the study of policy complexity starting with the work of Horst Rittel and Mel Webber in the 1970s. It then unpacks and distills the common policy approaches that have been more or less successful historically in dealing with different kinds of complex issues. It then discusses the application of these approaches to a range of current challenges in two broad domains: environmental sustainability and social well-being. The final chapter explores new policy approaches to emerging challenges including social experimentation and co-design, and also discusses the unique challenges posed by emerging trends in populism and ideology.

Professor Head’s optimistic conclusion is that wicked problems can at least partly be tackled by policy makers, with the most important success factors being the quality and completeness of information, adequate resourcing, cross-sector coordination and high quality political leadership.

The book is published by Palgrave MacMillan as an Open Access publication available to download here.

About the Author

Brian W. Head is a leading scholar in public policy and management. Prior to joining the University of Queensland as Professor of Policy & Evaluation in 2007, he held senior public service roles in the Queensland Government, including as Queensland’s Public Service Commissioner and Executive Director of the Premier’s Department and several other Departments and Agencies. He has led the not-for-profit policy and research organisation the Australian Research Alliance for Children & Youth, and held a number of academic positions at Murdoch and Griffith Universities. He has written extensively on policy making, evaluation and governance and works closely with collaborators in Australia, the EU and North America. He was elected a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in 2012 in the discipline of Political Science.