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Working on Europe: YUFE Academy, Session 5

24 September 2021 | 16:0018:00

| Spoken language: English

Session 5: Wicked problems, origins, and governance approaches needed to move towards a sustainable society

Lecturer: Dr. Robin van Kessel | Assistant Professor at the Department of International Health at Maastricht University

Time and date: Friday 24 September (16.00-18.00)


Session details

This lecture’s core topic revolves around the co-existence of many ‘wicked’ problems in modern society, which are problems that are hard to conceptualise, seemingly resistant to solutions, and involve an array of stakeholders. Notable examples include climate change, humanitarian crises, digital divides and – most recently – COVID-19.  To truly understand what can be taken in addressing wicked problems, it is first necessary to understand what mechanisms create and sustain them. This lecture will explore three overarching societal drivers of change that can be connected to the creation and continued existence of wicked problems. Subsequently, the lecture will focus on one particular ‘wicked’ problem: digital divides. It expands on what the economic and public health consequences can be in a Digital Age when digital divides are not adequately addressed prior to the transition to a digital society. In doing so, the digital divides in Europe – often regarded as the pinnacle of digital connectivity – are highlighted. Finally, the lecture will explore different governance approaches and concrete steps that can be pursued to work towards addressing and (potentially) solving ‘wicked’ problems.

Pre-attendance materials:

  • van Kessel, R., Wong, B. L. H. (2021). Building Back Better after COVID-19: a scoping review of wicked problems affecting developed countries and implications for global governance. Available from:
  • Head, B. W., Alford, J. (2015). Wicked Problems: Implications for Public Policy and Management. Administration and Society, 47 (6), 711–39.
  • Kickbusch, I., Leung, G. M., Bhutta, Z. A., Matsoso, M. P., Ihekweazu, C., Abbasi, K. (2020). Covid-19: How a virus is turning the world upside down. BMJ, 369, 10–2.
  • Honeyman, M., Maguire, D., Evans, H., Davies, A. (2020). Digital technology and health inequalities: a scoping review. Cardiff: Public Health Wales NHS Trust. Available from:
  • Mazzucato, M. (2019). Governing Missions in the European Union. Brussels: European Commission.

Specific Learning Outcomes:

  • Understand the complexity of ‘wicked’ problems.
  • Understand the consequences of digital divides in an ever-digitalising society.
  • Explore different options for modern governance to adequately work on ‘wicked’ problems.

Lecturer Profile

Dr. Robin van Kessel is currently employed as an Assistant Professor at the Department of International Health at Maastricht University. His primary research focus constitutes the area of ‘wicked’ problems (in particular digital divides), digitalisation of society, and governance approaches. His background consists of a PhD in the field of autism and education policy in the European Union and an MSc in Governance and Leadership in European Public Health. Next to his position in Maastricht, he is also involved in the Young Researchers Network of Studio Europa Maastricht and in the Global Health Workforce Network Youth Hub of the World Health Organization.

What is the YUFE Academy?

Working on Europe YUFE Academy is a series of student-based, research-centred lectures jointly organised by the Maastricht University and Studio Europa Maastricht under the Young Universities for the Future of Europe (YUFE) alliance. Even though the program was developed with students in mind, you do not have to be a student to participate in the lectures, everyone is welcome to join!

The upcoming lecture series aims to provide unique and interdisciplinary research on Europe and European integration. Fostered through a proactive and critical debate, students will be engaged in exploring the most relevant concerns of the European Project and discover their role in shaping its future.

This year’s programme will feature five interconnected, two-hour sessions. The aim of the academy is to introduce the students to the topics of European inequalities, citizens’ participation and heritage, executive federalism, migration, and welfare. Enrolled students will be able to attend all lectures or participate in individual lectures that are of interest to them.


Students must register to individual lectures using the following button


Participation is free of charge.

The registration portal will be open until September 10, 2021.

The number of participants is limited to 150.


24 September 2021


Studio Europa Maastricht