Connecting the Dots is a pamphlet by Jake Chapman, Charlie Edwards, and Simon Hampson and published by Demos. It aims to lay the foundations for changing how we deal with political complexity. The goal is to move the focus of policymaking away from the merits of individual policies and towards considering how issues are framed.
The document identifies that a lot of the most important policy issues are increasingly very complex. They are characterised by being unbounded in time, scope, and resources. They are elaborate systems of changing problems that interact with one another, and have been identified in various literature as ‘wicked’, ‘messes’, and ‘swamp-like’.
The pamphlet settles on the phrase ‘wicked issues’ and defines these as issues which defy solutions – meaning that they cannot be solved with the sort of procedures and approaches that work on more typical, technical issues. These outward-sprawling and interconnected issues are the source of profound disagreement and are in principle unpredictable.
Three case studies are examined. These are:
- Heroin use in the UK
- Climate security
- Gang crime in London
The aim of the case studies is to examine (a) how each issue is framed, and (b) where the disagreements lie concerning the issue. In each study, the case is made for thinking about the bigger picture rather than coming up with specific solutions.
The final chapter of the pamphlet offers some avenues toward a new government approach to wicked issues. It points out that the standard linear approach to problem solving is not best suited to dealing with wicked issues and suggests a more circular and holistic deliberative framework.