Practicing public policy in an age of disruption


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31 Citations (Scopus)


Once the muse of oracles and soothsayers, global systemic instability is now increasingly plausible given the convergence of wicked, synchronous, and interconnected problems like climate change and socioeconomic inequality. International organizations have confronted such crises with policy platforms like the Sustainable Development Goals, New Urban Agenda, and Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. However, there is increasing need to connect the meta-context of systemic crises with the practical realities facing local policy practitioners, who must determine how to manage the local impacts of a so-called “perfect storm” of policy challenges. This article argues first that policy interventions addressing wicked problems are locked into a legacy epistemic focused on discrete problem identification and associated policy solutions, and second that such policy thinking will fail to adequately address global crises. The article critically visits Enlightenment rationality-inspired instrumentalism underlying the ongoing high-modernist and technocratic approach of policymaking, deriving a suite of recommendations based on a theoretical application of policy capacity. Copyright © 2019 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-181
JournalPolicy Design and Practice
Issue number2
Early online date04 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019


Hartley, K., Kuecker, G., & Woo, J. J. (2019). Practicing public policy in an age of disruption. Policy Design and Practice, 2(2), 163-181. doi: 10.1080/25741292.2019.1622276


  • Wicked problems
  • Public policy
  • Policy capacity
  • Climate change


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