Engaging Multiple Worldviews With Quantitative Decision Support

A Robust Decision-Making Demonstration Using the Lake Model

Published in: Risk Analysis (2020). doi: 10.1111/risa.13579

Posted on RAND.org on August 25, 2020

by Robert J. Lempert, Sara Turner

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Many of today's most pressing policy challenges are usefully characterized as wicked problems. With contested framings parties to a decision disagree not only on potential solutions, but on the nature of the problem they are trying to solve. The quantitative tools of risk and policy analysis, commonly designed to develop and compare choices within a single decision framing, are poorly designed to bring quantitative information into debates with contested framings. This study aims to build on recent advances in decision making under deep uncertainty (DMDU) to demonstrate methods and tools that may help resolve the tension between quantitative decision support and multiworldview approaches for addressing wicked problems. The study employs robust decision making (RDM), one common DMDU method, and a new version of the lake model, a simple and widely used model of a coupled human and natural system, to conduct a stylized analysis that reflects three different worldviews. The RDM analysis solves the decision challenge independently for each worldview and then compares each set of solutions from the vantage of the other worldviews. The resulting utopia-dystopia matrix informs problem reframing that seeks robust, adaptive strategies independently consistent with each worldview and thus provides a locus for agreement. The study describes how stakeholder engagements might use such analytic tools and their information products to provide overlapping but alternative entry points for groups with fundamentally different worldviews to engage with each other in deliberative processes appropriate for wicked problems.

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