Why Business Can Alleviate Wicked Social Problems?

Whenever there are humans, there are social problems, only matters to what extent. So what is the social problem? From the time we are living now, we face climate change, social injustice, homelessness, food insecurity, poverty, health care, aging challenge, technology exclusivity and etc on a global level. And all of them are so-called ‘wicked social problem‘, which is coined by Webber and Rittel in 1973.

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They introduced the term in the context of distinguishing problems that are complex, involving so many different systems, and yet no clear answers. They also proposed ten characteristics of wicked social problems:

  1. There is no definitive formulation of a wicked problem.
  2. Wicked problems have no stopping sign, which means there are no signals to show they are solved.
  3. Solutions to wicked problems are not true-or-false, but only better or worse.
  4. There is no way to test the solution.
  5. Every solution is a “one-shot operation”; because there is no opportunity to learn by trial and error, every attempt counts significantly.
  6. There is no end to the number of solutions or approaches.
  7. Every wicked problem is essentially unique.
  8. Every wicked problem can be considered to be a symptom of another problem.
  9. The choice of explanation determines the nature of the problem’s resolution.
  10. Planners, that is those who present solutions to these problems, have no right to be wrong. 

As wicked social problems are so unique, complex, and cannot be solved easily, then are there any methods to mitigate them and their effects? Researchers found that many of these problems are entangled with markets, so corporations may play a role in improving our society, to pursue a ‘common good’ as a goal of marketing.

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Some researchers have studied the relationship between marketing and wicked social problems, and proposed several metatheoretical frameworks and theories:

  1. Systems theories. It includes but is not limited to service ecosystems theory, social ecology and behavioral ecological systems theories, complexity theory and complexity economics, and structuration theory. Basically, it assumes that systems are continually evolving, and highlights the relationship between each market and network agents, which could apply to understanding the interconnections between markets and wicked social problems.
  2. Practice theory. It focuses on a wide range of routinized practices and processes in market systems, from micro, meso, and macro levels. Such as how CSR, brand activism, and corporate philanthropy, contribute to or mitigate a wicked social problem.
  3. Institutional theory. This theory is concerned with the relationship between institutions and their external environments, such as norms, rules, and beliefs, so that it can be applied to examine the breadth and depth of wicked social problems.
  4. Socio-material theories. It includes both human and non-human actors and how they network and affect each other. Regarding wicked social problems, understanding stakeholders and what is contributing to the problem have the capacity to mitigate wicked social problems.
  5. Social and cognitive psychological theories. It studies consumer behaviors, their emotions, attitudes, intentions, social groups, identity, and other factors in individuals or groups that could be used to illuminate agent actions that contribute to wicked social problems.
Image source: B-corp

We face numerous social problems and their consequences every day worldwide. Given that many of these problems are entangled with markets, business leaders and researchers should acknowledge their responsibility to help alleviate them. Marketing for a better world is not just a slogan, but actually a possible way to mitigate wicked social problems.

This is article is an abstract of a research paper: UNRAVEL-ing gnarly knots: A path for researching market-entangled wicked social problems.


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Why a 2-year-old Japanese toddler can shop by himself?

Recently there’s a Japanese reality show ‘ Old Enough‘ went viral on Netflix, showing a bunch of kids ranging from two-and-a-half to five years old, walking on the street and shopping alone as they’re sent on errands for their families. People are amazed by their ‘capabilities’ considering their age, especially Americans, which also triggered a debate over kids’ safety.

Image source: Netflix

So why can this ‘incredible thing’ happen in Japan? Japanese parents are not worried about their children’s safety? Is this a way to train kids to be independent? What can we learn from this?

Firstly, of course, Japanese parents are concerned about their kids’ safety, but sending them to shop is safe in Japan. According to Wikipedia that Japan’s rate of intentional homicide per 100,000 population was one of the lowest in the world at 0.3 per 100,000 inhabitants, while America’s rate was 4.7 per 100,000 people. And Japan’s gun homicide rate was 0.01 per 100,000 people, while America’s rate was 3.5 — 350 times the rate of Japan.

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The second is education. We can see that Japanese school kids are often asked to clean their classrooms, serve schoolmates meals, even grow vegetables at school and sometimes cook by themselves. They are also trained to take trains or buses alone from a young age, of course, for younger kids, schools will distribute a yellow patch on their uniforms to identify them on the street so that they can start their adventurous journey more smoothly. So independence is part of Japanese education, they believe independence is the most important attribute, either from their parents or school teachers. On the other hand, parents and teachers also think being independent is the responsibility of kids.

Image source:

The third and less interfering factor is the city’s infrastructure – Japanese public infrastructure is of a higher quality on roads, highways, railways, subways, etc, and they are often on time. Nevertheless in the 21st century, with the development of technology, parents can easily track their kids’ location also the public transport information.

Image source: world bank

Japan has set a high standard for child safety, why not other nations? And if you want to know more about the “how,” then start watching the “Old Enough” TV series.


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What is Ireland’s ‘Housing for all’ plan?

The Ireland government published their ‘Housing for All’ 2022 progress report on 7th April 2022, which shows the progress in delivering affordable homes, construction sector capacity, innovation and planning reforms.

The ‘Housing for All’ is the housing plan for Ireland to the end of 2030, which aims to provide every citizen an affordable home to purchase or rent at a reasonable price, in order to have a high standard living of life.

The houses are built for affordability that is 20% lower than the market price, plus a €250 million local home loan available for 2022, moreover, they hope to deliver an additional 1,319 houses for the homeless in the period to 2026, also for disabled people, to eradicate homelessness and support social inclusion.

According to the plan, by the end of 2030, 300,000 homes will be available, including 90,000 social homes; 36,000 affordable purchase homes, 18,000 ‘Cost Rental’ homes and approximately 156,000 private homes.

The full report is available at – Housing for All – Q1 2022 Progress Report (


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Here is what you should do if you truly want to know about the Ukraine crisis

Since yesterday, Russia started its invasion of Ukraine, there’s tons of information and news everywhere, which is difficult for normal people to distinguish the facts from them. We want people to get aware of what is really happening in Ukraine, also to filter out misformation, so here is what you should do:

Follow the trusted sources, not influenced by a political standpoint:

Big news channels are trustworthy, the New York Times, CNN, The Guardian, etc, but some of them have their standpoint, so you can sense their political views before you fall into their circle. For example, Fox News said that ‘Putin just wants to keep his western border secure’ in their headline yesterday, which is the total opposite of the facts and that is why you should avoid such information.

Image source: CNN

In addition, it is more recommended to follow the government’s official channels to keep updated, for instance, the Defence of Ukraine Twitter, also Bellingcat has collected the Lists of Twitter accounts to follow for people who want to know about the conflict.

Double-check the source:

The photo of the burning plane was released yesterday on Twitter, saying it was shot during the Ukraine crisis, and Bellingcat later revealed that the image was taken in 1993 and people used it to boost their internet flow as it was for the Ukraine crisis. So if you ever doubt the images or information you receive, please double check your source, and we recommend Bellingcat organization, they are an open-source investigation platform aimed to find the truth, and they have started their project to document this Ukraine crisis in order to hold Russia accountable for the consequences.

Distinguish between facts and opinion/emotion/judgment:

The internet is full of information, and we humans are rational beings since we have different points of view rather than facts, so we can easily be influenced by others’ views. We respect people’s views regarding this crisis, but we hope you could distinguish them from facts, in order to form your own, not led by others.


‘A Russian armed vehicle ran over a civilian car on the street of Kyiv’s Oberon district’

‘Ukrainian Army destroys the large force of Russian invasion from southern Crimea’

‘In Lviv, western Ukraine, sirens sounded as loudspeakers urged people to seek shelter’



‘Wasn’t Putin supposed to invade Ukraine over the weekend according to US intel sources’

‘Maybe Ukraine should have given up joining Nato to avoid this bloodshed’

‘It is all because of the weakness of Western countries, Nato and the UN’


Do not stop at the title:

A media title is the first impression so it is attractive and usually exaggerated. With the fast load of life, most people would stop at reading the titles, not go deep into the content, which may limit the understanding of the whole crisis. And it is mostly can be seen in the Russian and Chinese media.

Chinese media title: Ukraine is being abandoned by the west and everyone is frightened.
Russian state TV paints Moscow as the savior of eastern Ukraine
(Image source: apnews)

It is important to fight misinformation or fake news, because we all may become one of the victims of it one day.


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Social problems

Study shows Social Media use is related to Mental Health in youth

Social media is increasingly accessible among youth with affordable phones and the internet, especially in developed countries. Previously, there’s a report accusing that Facebook and Instagram may increase anxiety and depression for the youth, so researchers want to know that is there any association between how much time spent using social media and mental health problems.

Academically, there are few longitudinal studies have investigated this association, and none of them have quantified the proportion of mental health problems among adolescents attributable to social media use. So researchers designed a longitudinal cohort study of 6595 participants from September 12, 2013, to October 23, 2016, a large nationally representative cohort study of US adolescents. This study used household interviews using audio computer-assisted self-interviewing.

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Based on the data analysis, they found that adolescents who spent more than 30 minutes of time on social media, compared with no use, were associated with an increased risk of internalizing problems alone. And the use of social media for more than 3 hours per day compared with no use remained significantly associated with internalizing problems alone.

So their research suggested that adolescents who spend more than 3 hours per day using social media may be at heightened risk for mental health problems, particularly internalizing problems. Accordingly, we may set limits on daily social media use, increase media literacy, and redesign the social media platforms, which seem to be effective means of reducing the burden of mental health problems in youth.

Read their full research: Associations Between Time Spent Using Social Media and Internalizing and Externalizing Problems Among US Youth | Adolescent Medicine | JAMA Psychiatry | JAMA Network


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Social business

📣Changemaker Challenge to Fund Big Ideas

The T-Mobile Foundation and Ashoka launched the fourth Changemaker Challenge together, a contest that gives young leaders the opportunity to advocate their ideas to drive digital empowerment, whose ages 13 to 18 are located in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

Until March 31, 2022, 15 winners will be selected to win up to $15,000 in seed funding to practice on their projects, as well as an all-expenses-paid trip to T-Mobile headquarters in Bellevue, Wash., to participate in the three-day Changemaker Lab later.

To know more and apply here!


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What do we know about Elderly Service and Technology?

Researchers have found innovation, specifically, technology can improve elderly lives and other stakeholders’ benefits in the long run. Innovative interventions have been implemented in several sectors, and they will play an even bigger role in the future, especially with social innovation, which seemed to be a force to create social change and social impact. Meanwhile, technology has been seen as an obvious representative of innovation, which has been widely used in the private sector, and yet to be seen as great potential in the public sector as well.

Elderly Services and technology:

Due to the expected growth of elderly people with chronic diseases and the associated strain on formal care services, there is a need for new and innovative solutions for supporting informal caregivers (Steffen Torp et al. 2008). One promising approach is using assistant technology in elderly care, due to the advanced development of information and communication technology (ICT). Although technology has been well understood and developed in a variety of disciplines, there is not as much research talking about the natural place of technology in aging and the elderly. Britt Östlund (2004) has suggested that contemporary research should include studying the problems associated with aging as part of its work. Biologists study the physical changes associated with aging, economists study the role of the elderly in social economics, social psychologists study role changes, etc.

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In the beginning:

In the 1990s, the issues of the elderly with technology have been noted in few conferences and later the role of the elderly in the IT society was articulated in a number of policy documents which put the issue on the political agenda and resulted in funding for research and development ((Bangemann, 1994). Researchers argue that the attention to the elderly with technology, on one hand, is because of the growing elderly population and the problems associated with rising as well. On the other hand, is due to the market needs to sell new technology solutions to the elderly and their families. When it comes to technology, the elderly are the most vulnerable group based on our preconception that the elderly is needy and outdated, hence technology is far more than advanced for them. Thus, there are two obvious research perspectives working with the elderly from the technology and non-tech sides.

Two perspectives:

Researchers from the technology background are driven to apply technical knowledge to solve problems or, in some other way, create new possibilities for people (Britt Östlund, 2004). Generally, they develop the technology first and then study how the elderly interact with the technology, in order to test the efficiency and usability of the technology.

In another non-tech group, the key issues are

  • (1) Technology as a tool to solve the elderly’s problems. Dario, Branislav and Damir (2016) conducted a texts analysis that revealed a strong interaction between physical activity, the elderly, and ICT systems. Specifically, technology plays an important role in promoting physical and social activity among elders. It echoes the paper of Regina and Peter (2016) that ICT use was consistently found to affect social support, social connectedness, and social isolation in general positively.
  • (2) Macro-level studies on technology acceptance and costs. Rana Mostaghel (2016) discusses how the elders’ acceptance of innovative technology in their everyday lives is a key factor in the success of governments, technology providers, healthcare providers and other major players in the lives of elders. William and others (2009) conducted a randomized controlled trial and found that their 18-month intervention using home environmental interventions (EIs) and assistive technology (AT) devices showed a significant decline for FIM (Functional Independence Measure) and the institutional and certain in-home personnel costs reduced through a systematic approach to providing AT and EIs.
  • (3) Ethical issue and humanity. Many researchers pointed out that technology should not replace all human contact and connection. In the early time, Michael and Eric (1985) had already warned that we should balance technology and humanity. Eftychios and others (2020) concluded that the technology should be implemented so that users don’t feel their privacy is violated and retain control without compromising efficiency.
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Call for research:

From a micro view, the research and practice on the relationship between innovation and the wellbeing of the elderly would explore the room for innovation in the elderly and their future needs under the conception of success of aging. Meanwhile, it offers a unique glimpse of innovation/technology in the elderly that contributes to the design for the elderly as Britt Östlund (2004) stated that social-science-oriented researchers can make contributions to projects with technical applications. In light of organization and government entities, there are very limited studies on the application of well-grounded and established theories from the fields of innovation and technology management (Kohlbacher & Hang, 2011), so relevant research is a key force in the public organization to be highly innovative and forward-thinking through the lens of elderly services organizations.


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Social problems

3.7 Million More Children in Poverty in the US in January 2022

In December 2021, the child poverty rate was 12.2%, while in January 2022, it increased to 17%, which was the highest rate since December 2020. The 4.9% increase represents 3.7 million more children in poverty, and the Latino and Black children were the largest percentage-point increases (7.1 % and 5.9 % respectively).

Due to the rollout of the monthly Child Tax Credit, it kept 3 million children from poverty in July, by December, 3.7 million children were kept out of poverty and reduced monthly child poverty by 30 percent. But after the expiration of the monthly Child Tax Credit payments in January 2022, leading to the highest number of children living under the poverty line.

Zachary Parolin, Sophie Collyer, and Megan A. Curran from Bocconi and Columbia University developed a novel method of forecasting poverty to trace poverty monthly and noted the changes above based on the monthly income of the family unit and other estimates with a two-week lag. Read more of their work here.


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Empathy should be applied in ‘The Great Resignation’

In our earlier article, we’ve talked about the serious and unique situation happening around the world that so many people have left their jobs during Covid-19, which we call ‘The Great Resignation’. So what should we do in this torrent of times as an individual?

We Need Empathy:

Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, that is, the capacity to place oneself in another’s position. And it is especially important in critical situations because we need to understand each other in their position and think for them so that we can come to a point on which we both shall agree.

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As an employer:

In Covid-19, business is hard to operate and survive, let alone lose some staff on the way. With the influence of the great resignation, the employer should grasp the chance to talk through and understand its own staff, for example, having a conversation about the changes in their life, how do they think of their current job, what do they want to achieve and etc, in this way to bring a better understanding. If some staff wants to quit, then the employer may also apply empathy and understand the reasons behind it and work it out together whether it’s about the salary or work schedule or something else, so that both sides can make certain changes and finally work towards the same goals.

As an employee:

Covid-19 has changed the lives of people from all sides, we no longer work in the office, and remote work is becoming the norm. With the impact of the great resignation, you may also want to quit and find a better or high-paid job, then why not consider it as an opportunity to negotiate with your employer with empathy skills, and they may fulfill your wishes without you quitting your job. If you already resigned and still looking for a better bet, then you may think of how to make a difference in your life, for your family, your community also society.

We are all the sands of the torrent of the time, and we all have different perspectives when it comes to such a pandemic, so empathy is applied to understand each other to make better choices and make a difference in each other’s lives.


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Truck Protest in Canada

In the early January of 2022, convoys of truck drivers gathered in Ottawa, Canada’s capital, to protest the mandatory vaccine role for truckers who travel to the United States and then re-enter Canada. Later their actions inspired similar demonstrations in other cities of Canada, also other countries, including Australia and New Zealand.

Image source: CNN

Protesters blocked the city and bridge for days and on Feb. 6, the mayor of Ottawa declared a state of emergency, later on Feb. 14, Mr. Trudeau declared a national public order emergency trying to stop the protest, which is rare in Canada.

Image source: CNN

Some of the bridges have opened but the minister of public safety said people should avoid coming to Ottawa. And the protest is still in its current position.

Image source: CNN


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