Take the fire out of fireworks

Anyone visiting The Netherlands during New Year’s celebrations wouldn’t be blamed if they thought riots and war had broken out. The volume of fireworks and the behaviour of the few that affects the many is a much debated issue. Bans in major cities were ignored, each year people die or are severely injured and now footage has shown the impact on birds and other wildlife. When accidents or criminal offenses happen – people throw fireworks at the ambulances, paramedics, police and fire brigade. Anyone arguing that the government is feeble in its stance on anti-firework laws is accused of imposing rules and taking away freedom of, non-verbal but very loud, expression.

The top 2 of Dutch values and norms of importance are egalitarianism and (intellectual and affective) autonomy. People dislike any ban, especially imposed by an elite from above. Changing the law can take years if we don’t know the guiding principles of certain values. A practical example is the ‘Stop the Infanticide’ (Stop de kindermoord) campaign of 1972 when mothers and action groups stood up for cycle paths and residential areas. So perhaps mothers and fathers, animal and nature lovers and doctors, police and the fire brigade from the public sector should follow the recent example of the farmers on tractors and head to The Hague and indicate what they want (e.g. safety and no waste of taxpayers’ money on public sector aid), not what they want someone else to give up. Because the 3rd value in the top 3 is harmony – the importance of living together (source: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/304715744_The_7_Schwartz_cultural_value_orientation_scores_for_80_countries ).

A stakeholder analysis is key to wicked problems because there are challenges at global, community and individual level. As there are no clear-cut fixes, proposing solutions (and challenging those solutions) often plays a prominent role, and they can affect the missions and operations of businesses worldwide. Even after taking action, there is no way of knowing which course of action is best and it is impossible to gauge whether or not a sufficient solution has been achieved. Interestingly, often the approach to a wicked problem is individualistic and there is the myth that what works in the USA, does not work in Kenya.

Another way to look at a wicked problem and find a bridge is to take the other person’s opinion at face value and ask why this is. If we take the fire out of the fireworks debate (pun intended) and bring in another example – e.g. believing in a flat earth – then that idea is so extreme that people don’t take the flat earthers seriously. But NASA does, because this community attracts people enough to want to understand the ‘why?’. Perhaps the truth of a gigantic universe with meaningless life is too terrifying for some, perhaps it is important to recognize the spiritual element of our existence, perhaps the idea of free thinking is important – again those values of equality and autonomy. How these values are translated into the diversity of behaviour, traditions and ideas is the beginning of a different dialogue.


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