Wicked Problem of Regional Development Policy in Iceland


  • Anna Guðrún Edvardsdóttir
  • Rannveig Ólafsdóttir
  • Allison Williams




Wicked problems; political economy; public participation; policy; rural development; sustainable development; global drivers; region; place; community; Iceland.


With increasing globalization, the influence of global drivers on local livelihood and prosperity is becoming more apparent at the local level. Global drivers are for the most part driven by economic incentives and often disregard sustainable rural development. This paper uses a political economy perspective to investigate how global impacts are affecting regional development policy. This is accomplished via content analysis and literary study of regional development policy documents post-2000 in Iceland, recognized as a predominately rural island nation. Contributing to the literature on public administration and policy in Iceland and elsewhere, the paper argues that regional development and sustainability in rural regions is a wicked problem and emphasises the importance of a holistic perspective in sustainable regional and rural development. Conclusions suggest that place-specific, nuanced approach needs to be taken to meet the demands of sustainable development. As influenced by the new regionalism, places, and the communities within them, differ in environmental, economic, social, and cultural ways. The uniqueness of places underpins the vital importance of inhabitants´ participation in decision making. Moreover, addressing wicked problems at the community level is an easier and a more transparent way to diagnose and manage issues of concern.

Author Biographies

Anna Guðrún Edvardsdóttir

Research Scientist at the Hólar University.

Rannveig Ólafsdóttir

Professor at the University of Iceland.

Allison Williams

Professor at the McMaster University, Canada.




How to Cite

Edvardsdóttir, A. G., Ólafsdóttir, R., & Williams, A. (2023). Wicked Problem of Regional Development Policy in Iceland . Icelandic Review of Politics & Administration, 19(2), 131–152. https://doi.org/10.13177/irpa.a.2023.19.2.3



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