Operationalizing contested problem-solution spaces: The case of Dutch circular construction

M.J. Wiarda, T.B.J. Coenen, N. Doorn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
28 Downloads (Pure)


In shaping collective responses to societal challenges, we currently lack an understanding of how to grasp and navigate conflicting ideas on societal problems and potential solutions. The problem-solution space is an increasingly popular framework for conceptualizing the extent to which problem-oriented and solution-oriented views are divergent. However, this reflexive framework needs an operationalization to become useful in practice. We contribute to this debate by demonstrating how Q-methodology can be used to systematically identify, describe, and compare collectively held visions in relation to problems and solutions. We use the case of Dutch circular construction, and identify three conflicting imaginaries that inform us about disagreement and common ground. We conclude by discussing how policymakers can use different approaches to navigate contestation, presumably mobilizing actors for a collective response.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100752
JournalEnvironmental Innovation and Societal Transitions
Issue number100752
Publication statusPublished - 2023


This work was supported by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and
nnovation program Co-Change [grant number 873112] and PRO-Ethics [grant
number 872441], Rijkswaterstaat, and by the Dutch National Research Council (NWO) [grant number VI.Vidi.195.119].


  • wicked problems
  • problem-solution spaces
  • circular economy
  • contestation
  • sociotechnical imaginaries
  • Q-methodology


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