Key Points

· Many of the social issues private foundations and other philanthropies attempt to address — poverty, homelessness, global climate change — are wicked problems. That is, they defy easy definition, lack permanent solutions, and have multiple stakeholders.

· The wicked problems framework helps make explicit the challenging nature of the issue to be addressed, requires an inclusive style of leadership that seeks stakeholder involvement, and demands candid exchange among stakeholders about the nature of the problem and effectiveness of efforts to address it.

· A wicked problems framework provides a set of criteria and questions for evaluators of advocacy efforts to ask all the other stakeholders to asses: (1) the type and quality of leadership provided by the funder, grantees, and other stakeholders in terms of involving stakeholders and fostering a culture of candor; (2) the degree to which leadership and others were candid about the problem, the effectiveness of the strategies, and stakeholder contributions; and (3) quality and contributions of stakeholders.

· Two recent public policy advocacy efforts and their evaluation are used to highlight some of the issues a wicked problems framework makes apparent, and the possible ramifications if such a framework had been used from the initial stages of the advocacy efforts.

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