wicked problems

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Nov 30, 2016 - potential of leisure education to address the 'wicked problems' ..... changes in family structure and parental involvement in children's activities.


ISSN: 1492-7713 (Print) 2151-2221 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rloi20

The potential of leisure education to address the ‘wicked problems’ prioritized in A Framework for Recreation in Canada Charlene Shannon, Jacquelyn Oncescu & Susan Hutchinson To cite this article: Charlene Shannon, Jacquelyn Oncescu & Susan Hutchinson (2016) The potential of leisure education to address the ‘wicked problems’ prioritized in A Framework for Recreation in Canada, Leisure/Loisir, 40:3, 253-270, DOI: 10.1080/14927713.2016.1252937 To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14927713.2016.1252937

Published online: 30 Nov 2016.

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Date: 01 December 2016, At: 05:26

LEISURE/LOISIR, 2016 VOL. 40, NO. 3, 253–270 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14927713.2016.1252937

The potential of leisure education to address the ‘wicked problems’ prioritized in A Framework for Recreation in Canada Charlene Shannona, Jacquelyn Oncescub and Susan Hutchinsonc a

Faculty of Kinesiology, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, Canada; bDepartment of Recreation and Tourism Management, Faculty of Management, Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo, Canada; cSchool of Health and Human Performance, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada ABSTRACT

‘Wicked problems’ are social problems that are difficult to solve because of complex interdependencies and incomplete, contradictory, or changing requirements that are often difficult to identify. While challenging to define and solve, focusing on wicked problems offers an opportunity for the recreation sector to wrestle with significant persistent social problems and to contribute to change. Addressing wicked problems requires innovative and flexible approaches along with collaborations, knowledge transfer, and knowledge integration that cross disciplinary and agency boundaries. Examples of the ways leisure education can be part of the solution to problems of sedentary behaviour and family poverty are provided to demonstrate its potential to contribute to addressing wicked problems.


Received 18 July 2015Accepted 10 June 2016 KEYWORDS

Canadian society; leisure education; recreation; wicked problems MOTS-CLÉS

Société canadienne; formation aux loisirs; problémes vicieux; activités récréatives


Les ‘problèmes vicieux’ sont des problèmes sociaux difficiles à résoudre en raison des interdépendances complexes qui les sous-tendent, ou en raison d’exigences incomplétes, contradictoires ou changeantes qui les rendent difficiles à cerner. Bien que difficiles à définir et à résoudre, les problèmes vicieux constituent pour le secteur récréatif une occasion unique de s’attaquer à d’importants problèmes sociaux et à contribuer au changement. La résolution de problèmes vicieux nécessite l’adoption d’approches innovantes et flexibles, qui incluent de la collaboration, des transferts de connaissances et de l’intégration des connaissances interdisciplinaire et interagences (Weber & Khademian, 2008). Nous présentons des exemples d’intégration de la formation aux loisirs à la solution de problèmes de sédentarité et pauvreté familiale, afin de démontrer son potentiel de contribution à la résolution des problèmes vicieux.

CONTACT Charlene Shannon [email protected] PO Box 4400, Fredericton, NB E3B 9W9, Canada

Faculty of Kinesiology, University of New Brunswick,

© 2016 Canadian Association for Leisure Studies / Association canadienne d’études en loisir



Introduction According to Mundy (1998), the goal of leisure education is to enable individuals to enhance the quality of their lives through leisure by developing ‘an understanding of leisure, of self in relation to leisure, and of the relationship among leisure, their own lifestyle, and society’ (p. 5). While Mundy’s definition includes both a person-centred (e.g. self in relation to leisure) and an ecological perspective (e.g. relationship between leisure and society), leisure education has generally focused on developing the self rather than on the group or environment in which the individual interacts (Dieser, 2013). Recent position and research papers in a special issue of World Leisure Journal devoted to leisure education highlighted the potential role of leisure education in supporting social change (Dunlap, 2012) and addressing complex social and health problems such as childhood obesity (Kleiber, 2012; Shannon, 2012). In the special issue, Dieser (2012) also called for more leisure education research ‘that takes a sociological or ecological approach in order to remedy or prevent social problems and individual disabilities/disorders’ (p. 55). Beyond the special issue, there are other examples of scholars using leisure education in ways that support social wellness and social policy development (Dieser, 2013). In Southwestern Ontario, the Stride Night and Stride Circles programmes offered incarcerated women opportunities to interact and socialize with noncriminal volunteers and to participate in a variety of leisure activities (Yuen, Arai, & Fortune, 2012) in preparation for re-entry into the community. The programme helped to reduce recidivism as the women developed new supportive relationships, gained a sense of empowerment and were able to experience a shift in their identity beyond that of ‘prisoner’. Dupuis and Gillies’ research (2014) applied an integrated radical education and critical pedagogy approach to leisure education with persons with dementia (PWD). By not only providing information to PWD but encouraging their active engagement in dialogue about leisure, PWD were empowered and ‘created a new face of dementia’. Their participation through sharing stories and teaching others exemplified how leisure education can serve as a vehicle for social transformation for marginalized populations. Similar to these scholars, we view leisure education as a viable resource for preparing not only individuals to thrive in Canadian society, but also for preparing families and communities to address complex social and societal problems and supporting them in those actions. The purpose of this paper was to use the lens of ‘wicked problems’ to examine the social problems that are identified as relevant to the recreation sector and to consider ways in which leisure education may be implemented to support solutions to or mitigation of these social problems. A Framework for Recreation in Canada 2015: Pathways to Wellbeing (hereafter referred to as the ‘the Framework’; Canadian Parks and Recreation Association [CPRA] and Interprovincial Sport and Recreation



Council [ISRC], 2015) is a recent document that highlights both complex social problems and identifies potential strategies towards solutions. Our paper will introduce the concept of ‘wicked problems’, outline the key goals and priorities identified in the Framework document, offer examples of how some of the goals and priorities within the Framework can be appropriately labelled as wicked problems, and then recommend how incorporating leisure education within current and future national, provincial and local strategies and actions to address these wicked problems could be beneficial. What are wicked problems? ‘Wicked problems’ is a term used to describe social problems that are difficult or impossible to solve because of the complex interdependencies on incomplete, contradictory, or changing requirements that are tough to recognize (Kreuter, De Rosa, Howze, & Baldwin, 2004). Examples of wicked problems include issues such as global climate change, healthcare, obesity and poverty. Wicked problems was a concept first introduced by Rittel and Webber (1973) in their paper, ‘Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning’. In the paper, they distinguished the kinds of challenges that are characteristic of the social problems commonly addressed within social science arenas from those that are typical in the hard sciences (Jordan, Kleinsasser, & Roe, 2014). Rittel and Webber (1973) argued that modern social problems resist being solved for a few of reasons. First, locating the source of the problem can be difficult. Second, social and political factors are dynamic and sometimes change during the process of solving the problem. They also emphasized that wicked problems involve multiple level stakeholders, each with their own perspective and biases of the nature of the problem, which compounds the ‘wickedness’ of the problem. In contrast, issues in the hard sciences (i.e. mathematics, engineering), while highly complicated and technical, are considered ‘tame’ because experts can use analytical approaches to solve problems related to their discipline (Kreuter et al., 2004). In short, most problems in the hard sciences are more easily defined, and solutions can be developed and applied. Rittel and Webber (1973) identified 10 primary characteristics of wicked problems: (1) There is no definitive formulation of a wicked problem. Different stakeholders have different perspectives on the ‘problem’. (2) Wicked problems have no stopping rule. There is no definite solution and problem solving usually ends when resources run out. (3) Solutions to wicked problems are not true-or-false, but good-or-bad. Perceived solutions vary depending on stakeholders’ values and goals. (4) There is no immediate and no ultimate test of a solution to a wicked problem.



(5) Every (attempted) solution to a wicked problem is a ‘one-shot operation’. Because there is no opportunity to learn by trial and error, every attempt counts significantly. (6) Wicked problems do not have an enumerable (or an exhaustively describable) set of potential solutions, nor is there a well-described set of permissible operations that may be incorporated into the plan. (7) Every wicked problem is essentially unique. (8) Every wicked problem can be considered to be a symptom of another problem. (9) The existence of a discrepancy representing a wicked problem can be explained in numerous ways. The choice of the explanation determines the nature of the problem’s resolution. (10) The social planner has no right to be wrong; in other words, there is no public tolerance of experiments that fail. These ten characteristics are not linear or mutually exclusive, and will vary depending on the context and situation in which they are applied. Although wicked problems were initially framed in social policy planning (Rittel & Webber, 1973), the characteristics have been recognized and applied in a wide range of scholarly topics including political science (Roberts, 2000), natural resource management (Salwasser, 2004), obesity (Head, 2008), urban and regional planning (Innes & Booher, 1999), higher education (Jordan et al., 2014; Watson, 2000), mental health (Hannigan & Coffey, 2011), poverty (Onyango & Jentoft, 2010), and sport (Sam, 2009). Scholars applying the wicked problem lens have emphasized that addressing wicked problems can lead to unforeseen consequences, largely because the problem is indefinable or the method to tackle the issue is inappropriate. As a result, the solutions and/or approaches used to implement solutions can create and/or intensify wicked problems (Sam, 2009). Complex and wicked problems exist within the societies that generate them and solutions require change including change in how the problem is framed and approached (Brown, Deane, Harris, & Russell, 2010). The wicked problem lens offers a useful approach for examining the recent national recreation framework which aims to address complex social challenges facing Canadian societies. A Framework for Recreation in Canada: pathways to wellbeing The Framework (CPRA & ISRC, 2015) is a national strategy framework designed to guide the recreation sector in re-visioning recreation’s role in achieving wellbeing. The Framework was developed as a co-led initiative by the provincial and territorial governments (except Quebec), the Canadian Parks and Recreation Association, and all provincial/territorial parks and recreation associations (including l’Association québécoise du loisir municipal). It is the result of a comprehensive consultation process that began with a



National Recreation Summit in 2011. In 2015, the Framework was ratified by all provincial and territorial ministers with the exception of Quebec. The Framework was developed to respond to complex social, health or environmental challenges impacting Canadians and Canadian communities including: demographic changes (e.g. Canada’s aging population); economic inequities (especially amongst visible minority populations), social challenges (e.g. persistent unemployment, limited civic engagement), new and emerging technologies, infrastructure deficits (especially in rural and remote communities), threats to the natural environment, and challenges to health (CPRA & ISRC, 2015, pp. 10–11). As it relates to the latter, the Framework highlights that changes in modern lifestyles combined with changes in social and physical environments have resulted in: ‘risk behaviours such as sedentary living; risk factors for disease such as obesity, chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease; [and] mental health concerns such as depression and youth suicide’ (p. 11). These risks are consistent with those identified by the World Health Organization (2010) and the Public Health Agency of Canada (2015). The Framework document reframes these challenges as opportunities for revisioning recreation’s role in achieving individual, community and environmental wellbeing. As noted in the Framework document: Recreation has the potential to address challenges and troubling issues such as increases in sedentary living and obesity, decreased contact with nature, and inequities that limit recreation opportunities for some population groups. Doing this requires a clear understanding and commitment to a shared vision, values and goals, as well as the development and implementation of action plans. The Framework provides a foundation for reflection, discussion and the development of such action plans. (CPRA & ISRC, 2015, p. 4)

Within the Framework the following vision for recreation in Canada is identified: ‘A Canada in which everyone is engaged in meaningful, accessible recreation experiences’ (p. 4) that foster: (a) individual wellbeing: individuals with optimal mental and physical wellbeing, who are engaged and contributing members of their families and communities; (b) community wellbeing: communities that are healthy, inclusive, welcoming, resilient and sustainable; and, (c) the wellbeing of our natural and built environments: Natural and built environments that are appreciated, nurtured and sustained. Although the Framework was primarily designed for implementation by those in the public recreation sector, it acknowledges that ‘implementation requires discussion and collaboration with a broad range of stakeholders’ (CPRA & ISRC, 2015, p. 5) across health, education, justice, social, sport, heritage and culture, etc. The writers of the Framework document describe it as a: [C]all to action that invites leaders, practitioners and stakeholders in a variety of sectors to collaborate in the pursuit of common priorities, while respecting the uniqueness of individuals and communities across Canada . . . .The Framework presents an opportunity



to return to traditional paths and to forge new ones that will ensure recreation’s continued relevance and leadership in the journey to wellbeing. (CPRA & ISRC, 2015, p. 5)

Specifically, the Framework outlines five goals and priorities for action under each goal. The goals are: (1) Foster active living through physical recreation. (2) Increase inclusion and access to recreation for populations that face constraints to participation (3) Help people connect to nature through recreation. (4) Ensure the provision of supportive physical and social environments that encourage participation in recreation and help to build strong, caring communities. (5) Ensure the continued growth and sustainability of the recreation field. In the document, it is stated that, ‘our opportunity is to identify concrete ways we can work together to enable all Canadians to enjoy recreation and outdoor experiences in supportive physical and social environments that enable participation’ (CPRA & ISRC, 2015, p. 2). A number of different solutions, identified as strategic action priorities, are outlined in the Framework document (and summarized in Table 1). In the next section, we highlight a few key Table 1. Examples of strategic priorities for each of the goals identified in the Framework for Recreation in Canada, 2015. Goal Active living

Examples of strategic action priorities – Enable participation in physically active recreation throughout the lifecourse (p. 21) – Inform recreation leaders about the importance of reducing sedentary behaviours and enable them to explore and implement strategies and interventions that address this important public health issue (p. 21) Inclusion and access – Develop and implement strategies and policies which ensure that no families or individuals in Canada are denied access to public recreation opportunities as a result of economic disadvantage (p. 22) – Recognize and enable the experience of Aboriginal peoples in recreation with a holistic approach drawn from traditional values and culture (p. 23) – Enact policies of non-discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression. Provide a welcoming and safe environment for people with all sexual orientations and sexual identities (p. 23) Connecting people and – Develop public awareness and education initiatives to increase understanding nature of the importance of nature to wellbeing and child development, the role of recreation in helping people connect to nature and the importance of sustainability in parks and recreation (p. 25) Supportive – Provide recreation facilities and outdoor spaces in under-resourced commuenvironments nities (including on-reserve and in remote and rural areas), based on community and/or regional needs and resources (p. 27) – Develop and implement targetted recreation education campaigns that increase knowledge about how recreation contributes to enjoyment and quality of life, and help people acquire the skills and attitudes they need to plan for making recreation a part of their lives (p. 27) Recreation capacity – Develop a strategy to enhance community-based leadership in recreation (p. 29)



examples to demonstrate what we see as some of the ‘wicked problems’ in these solutions. Wicked problems and the national recreation framework Rittel and Webber’s (1973) characterization of wicked problems creates a path to explore the Framework (CPRA & ISRC, 2015). Specifically, we can identify and critically consider the challenging landscape of the recreation sector; the sector’s vision, goals and priorities; and the suggested strategies for moving the recreation agenda forward. The intention is to consider the potential of accepting the wicked problems that influence and exist within the Framework, but also to discuss the possibility of leisure education’s role in mitigating these problems. The recreation sector is embedded in a vortex of wicked social problems. As suggested in the Framework (CPRA & ISRC, 2015), the recreation sector is influenced by larger societal trends and emerging issues related to demographic change, urbanization and environmental degradation, increasing health disparities and inequities, and local infrastructure deficits. Each of these challenges is a wicked problem meaning the recreation sector is responding to and interacting with a number of wicked problem scenarios that not only influence the capacity of the sector to deliver recreation services, but also how the sector can meet the changing needs of individuals and communities. Understanding the characteristics of wicked problems allow us to more critically discuss the vision, priorities, goals and suggested action strategies of the Framework. According to Rittel and Webber (1973), wicked problems are difficult to define and interpret which limits the possibility of solving them. In relation to enabling active healthy lifestyles, for example, many factors across the life course affect individuals’ leisure and recreation participation. Research has demonstrated that individuals struggle to adapt their leisure to various life stages or situations including motherhood (Dlugonski & Motl, 2013; Miller & Brown, 2005), retirement (Nimrod, 2007), illness (Shannon & Shaw, 2005), or an acquired disability (Hutchinson, Loy, Kleiber, & Dattilo, 2003). Because individuals can experience their normative and non-normative life transitions differently, there is no single solution to enhancing recreation participation across the life course. Thus, creating one set of policies and procedures that will enhance active healthy lifestyles across the life course can be seen as wickedly problematic. A second characteristic of wicked problems is the multiple interpretations of what the problem is. Interest groups, individuals and organizations will frame policies and strategies based on their interests and values. Lack of scientific certainty or gaps in knowledge can also complicate how a wicked problem is viewed (Head & Alford, 2015). When considering the problems associated with sedentary lifestyles, for example, researchers have identified a number of different contributing factors: the increase in technology use in the personal and



public spheres (Owen et al., 2011); urban sprawl (Kelly-Schwartz, Stockard, Doyle, & Schlossberg, 2004); physical activity curricula in the school system (Dale & Corbin, 2000); public funding at the community level (Sallis et al., 2006); changes in family structure and parental involvement in children’s activities (Quarmby, Dagkas, & Bridge, 2011); and access to community recreation programmes, facilities and parks (Epstein et al., 2006). It is clear that the reasons for sedentary lifestyles can involve a combination of intrapersonal, interpersonal, and environmental factors with each factor requiring different sets of actions. As such, the recreation sector’s ability to shift citizens from sedentary to active lifestyles with one approach or one solution is unlikely. As noted previously, the approach used in addressing a wicked problem can be highly contentious and debated and can cause a cascade of unanticipated consequences that exasperate the wicked problem (Jackson & Sam, 2007; Sam, 2009). Consider the Framework’s priority to ‘develop and implement strategies and policies, which ensure that no families or individuals in Canada are denied access to public recreation opportunities as a result of economic disadvantage’ (p. 22). The challenges of poverty have been discussed in leisure research (Bowling, 2002; Scott, 2013; Trussell & Mair, 2010) and researchers have pointed to a number of issues with the recreation sector’s policies and strategies intended to serve economically disadvantaged populations. For example, subsidized programming in public and non-profit recreation systems is often considered a standard practice to support economically disadvantaged individuals and families. However, these practices can create unanticipated negative impacts (McCarville, 2008). Procedures for accessing subsidized programming have participants ‘proving their poverty’ in a public recreation setting that causes embarrassment and may enhance feelings of shame and guilt. As McCarville (2008) found, the subsidized programming that is in place to help low-income individuals may actually be preventing them from accessing resources to support their recreation participation. Moreover, when cost is eliminated as a barrier for accessing recreation services, other barriers to participation emerge and are exposed. For example, not everyone who can afford to participate in recreation services does. Eliminating or lessening cost will not automatically result in individuals who are economically disadvantaged participating in recreation and access the associated benefits. We believe that leisure education can support the Framework’s vision to mitigate wicked problems such as low rates of physical activity and inequitable access to recreation. In the following sections we outline what we see as the possibilities for leisure education to be both a valuable tool and approach that the recreation sector can use to engage individuals, families, and communities in addressing the wicked problems impacting Canadian society.



Leisure education within the national framework The Framework does not include specific discussion of ‘leisure education’. Instead, it refers to ‘recreation education’ which is defined as: the process of acquiring the knowledge, skills, and attitudes required for positive experiences in recreation. Recreation education helps individuals and communities understand opportunities, potentials and challenges in recreation; understand the impact of recreation on wellbeing; and gain knowledge, skills, and appreciation enabling full participation in recreation experiences. (CPRA & IRSC, 2015, p. 35)

Recreation education is identified as a priority within the ‘supportive environment’ goal of the Framework that ‘seeks to ensure the provision of supportive physical and social environments that encourage participation in recreation and help to build strong, caring communities’ (CPRA & ISRC, 2015, p. 26). The priority item related to recreation education focuses on the development and implementation of ‘targeted recreation education campaigns that increase knowledge about how recreation contributes to enjoyment and quality of life, and help people acquire the skills and attitudes they need to plan for making recreation a part of their lives’ (p. 27). The use of different language by the academic and practitioner communities could complicate the understanding of leisure education’s role or perceived relevance related to the Framework as well as knowledge transfer. In the implementation phase, we believe it will be important to link the Framework’s conceptualization of ‘recreation education’ with existing leisure education research and resources (e.g. World Leisure Commission on Leisure Education; Leisure Information Network’s Online Collection and Resource Hub focused on Leisure Education). Beyond the issue of terminology, the positioning of leisure/recreation education and its expressed role in the priority statement is somewhat underwhelming given the potential of leisure education processes. The priority focuses on individual development (e.g. knowledge, skills and attitudes) without acknowledging that leisure education could make contributions at the institutional, community, and policy levels as argued by several scholars (Dieser, 2013; Dupuis & Gillies, 2014; Yuen et al., 2012). The followings sections offer ways in which leisure education could support the goal of mitigating wicked social problems. Leisure education can support knowledge transfer and integration

An essential aspect of addressing wicked problems is the collection and sharing of relevant knowledge across disciplines and among groups of people and agencies with varied expertise. That knowledge can then be integrated into practice (Weber & Khademian, 2008). The challenge, however, is that knowledge sharing can also complicate the process of solving wicked problems



as stakeholders and/or policy makers may resist integrating knowledge from other ‘knowledge coalitions’ (e.g. leisure research; recreation practitioner knowledge) that may conflict with their perspective (Van Buuren & Edelenbos, 2004). Distributing information to other groups or offering to share knowledge may not be effective if potential knowledge users are not interested or do not see value in the information. While leisure education is generally considered a process that supports individual knowledge acquisition and decision-making (Dieser, 2013), we suggest that knowledge related to leisure (e.g. benefits/outcomes; leisure behaviour; barriers to leisure participation) needs to be shared in ways that links with the knowledge and knowledge needs of other relevant groups (e.g. medicine, social work, urban design) and can build collaborative capacity (Bundred, 2006) in addressing wicked problems. In some cases, engaging other knowledge coalitions in leisure education processes could reveal ways in which recreation and leisure researchers and practitioners may be able to meet the knowledge needs or demands of those other groups working towards addressing wicked problems. Such processes could also support collaborations that contribute to joint knowledge production. In considering the problem of sedentary lifestyles, as one example, doctors in some Canadian provinces now have prescription pads specifically designed for prescribing exercise to patients (Boisvert, 2015; Owens, 2014). While this likely impresses upon individuals the importance of exercise in relation to their health, the opportunity to support patients through leisure education could lead to more successful and long-term behaviour change. Realistically, doctors who are prescribing exercise may not have the time to discuss possible constraints to filling the prescription or how those might be negotiated. They likely do not have a list of resources (e.g. facilities, programmes) to provide to their patients that could support the filling of the exercise prescription. They may not be able to facilitate a conversation about patients’ interests and how to match those interests with the type of exercise they do (e.g. walking, biking, yoga) or the context within which they participate (e.g. individual versus social, unstructured versus instructor-led). However, doctors who prescribe exercise may have a sense of why patients may not follow through and what additional supports they perceive their patients need in filling the prescription. In this case, there may be opportunities for leisure researchers to enhance exercise prescription initiatives and for leisure educators to work within collaborative care teams to provide education and decision-making supports. Also, if the two ‘knowledge coalitions’ were willing to work together, it may be possible to jointly produce knowledge (e.g. effectiveness of leisure education in supporting patients in successfully fulfilling exercise prescriptions). Such knowledge would not only create evidence to support public policy decisions, but could also contribute to better integration of the different systems (e.g. recreation services, health care services) that serve families in communities (Jenson & Fraser, 2016).



As noted previously, when addressing the challenges of poverty and recreation participation, a number of public and non-profit agencies across Canada provide fee assistance programmes to low-income families (McCarville, 2008). While these programmes address the financial barriers to recreation participation that low-income families face, leisure education could help these families obtain the necessary skills, knowledge and resources that are needed to create leisure and recreation opportunities. In some circumstances low-income populations are unaware of the community resources that could support their family’s recreation activities, including the fee assistance programmes. For families that are aware of recreation programmes, some lack the confidence to engage in public spaces and feel stigmatized by public policies that force them to prove their poverty to gain access to recreation programmes. Fee assistance programmes are important strategies to increase accessibility, but do not necessarily create an inclusive environment where low-income populations have the confidence, skills and resources needed to participate. Building partnerships among community stakeholders who work directly with low-income youth and families including guidance counsellors, social workers, mental health workers, unemployment officers, and recreation service providers and also involving low-income individuals in discussions about access and participation is important for creating and sharing knowledge that could support recreation participation. Working collaboratively with other agencies that provide programmes and services to low-income individuals and families may also support the integration of leisure education with other programmes or intervention efforts in different systems (e.g. mental health, social services; Jenson & Fraser, 2016). Leisure education as a process to influence multi-level change Not unlike the wicked problems that public health or environmental management stakeholders contend with (Australian Public Service Commission [APSC], 2007), the wicked problems the recreation sector seeks to address involve facilitating sustained behaviour change. To make changes, stakeholders need to discern the levels of influence on the problem behaviour and then develop strategies for working at the various levels of influence. While leisure education has focused primarily on individual behaviour change and relied on individualistic frameworks, the process can be adapted and implemented at multiple levels simultaneously to influence both individual and systems-level change (Dieser, 2013). In the case of sedentary behaviour, individual level leisure education could include generating awareness of the value of physical activity during leisure time and the opportunities available within a community to engage in physical activity. For example, Shannon’s (2014) leisure education work with families who had an overweight or obese child was an intervention – an effort to



support parents in increasing their child’s leisure-time physical activity levels and to use leisure pursuits to elevate self-confidence and self-esteem. The leisure education manual used in the intervention programme could be adapted to focus on current issues that all parents face related to ensuring their children do not adopt sedentary lifestyles (prevention) and could be a resource to support national campaigns related to physical activity participation. Such awareness campaigns exist. On a national level, ParticipACTION’s ‘Bring Back Play’ campaign (launched prior to the latest ‘Make Room for Play’ campaign) recognized the near extinction of active play in contemporary society (Active Healthy Kids Canada, 2012) and targeted parents, as facilitators of children’s physical activity, for whom active play was a significant part of childhood and a source of physical activity. The television ads, however, did not address the trend of parental risk anxiety related to letting children play in backyards or neighbourhood parks without constant supervision (O’Connor & Brown, 2013). Therefore, system-level leisure education could focus on engaging parents, media, police service agencies, and neighbourhood watch groups in understanding ways in which socially constructed fear can impact parents’ responsiveness to calls to ‘Bring Back Play’. Such knowledge transfer and the engagement with these stakeholders, some of whom may not view themselves as part of the solution, could support the development of strategies related to crime reporting that does not sensationalize or over-report local crime and distort the public view of community safety that can result in parents restricting their children’s autonomous play. At a policy level, leisure education could involve advocating for community designs that support activity-friendly neighbourhoods – sidewalks, traffic calming measures, and playgrounds/parks within neighbourhoods. Generating awareness that the traffic environment in neighbourhoods (Bevan & Reilly, 2011; Jago et al., 2009), access and proximity to play spaces such as parks and playgrounds (Tappe, Glanz, Sallis, Zhou, & Saelens, 2013), and the availability of walking and/or cycling paths (Johansson, 2006) influences parents’ comfort with their children’s autonomous play, would further support urban design policies that may help ‘Bring Back Play’. Leisure education processes offer flexibility Wicked problems occur in social contexts and, as such, are dynamic. One of the challenges associated with wicked problems is that solutions developed in one context or community may not be transferable to other contexts or communities (Hannigan & Coffey, 2011). While lessons can be learned from successful community initiatives and promising practices when seeking



solutions to wicked problems, flexibility is needed in adapting solutions that meet the needs of individual communities (Gardner, 2011). The flexibility of leisure education is evident in the ability to apply either a person-centered or system-directed approach and to implement it to prevent and/or react to a wide range of social problems including juvenile delinquency and childhood obesity (Dieser, 2012). Leisure education can also be responsive to local community needs in supporting the Framework’s (CPRA & ISRC, 2015) agenda to address certain wicked problems or the negative outcomes associated with wicked problems. As mentioned previously, the Framework identifies one priority as ensuring those who are at an economic disadvantage are not denied access to recreation. Poverty is a wicked problem and the lack of opportunity to participate in recreation and access the associated benefits can be one consequence of poverty. The Framework highlights an initiative in Moncton, New Brunswick where, within the recreation services portfolio, ‘a Community Development Officer for Social Inclusion facilitates programmes and services for disadvantaged citizens in the city’ (p. 22). Depending on the resources that are available and collaborative relationships that exist, this approach may not be possible in other communities. Leisure education processes could be developed in communities by making use of local knowledge to determine how poverty may be impacting recreation participation. Perhaps in one community, transportation may be identified as a barrier by youth from low-income families in accessing existing recreation facilities and spaces (e.g. skate parks, tennis courts, pools, youth centres) that offer no-cost programmes and services to youth. In other communities lack of participation in recreation may be a result of potential participants being unsure that they will be accepted (Trussell & Mair, 2010). Trussell and Mair’s (2010) research found individuals from low-income situations were seeking ‘judgement free’ spaces. In each of these community scenarios, different strategies may be needed to meet the different needs of those living in poverty to ensure access to recreation. For example, leisure education could involve advocacy that emphasizes the positive outcomes of youth participation in recreation and encourages municipal officials to offer free transit to youth travelling to certain facilities within communities as a strategy for eliminating transportation as a barrier to participation. Leisure education with recreation staff members could involve generating awareness of the barriers that individuals living in poverty experience, the concerns these citizens have about participating, and how to create safe and welcoming spaces for low-income or other marginalized citizens. Conclusion The Framework for Recreation in Canada document (CPRA & ISRC, 2015) is intended to be a framework to guide problem-solving and action planning



that will enhance the wellbeing of individuals, communities and the environment. Although written primarily for the public recreation sector, the Framework recognizes the essential need to collaborate with service providers and policy makers across various sectors. Within the Framework document, strategic goals related to active living and social inclusion (among others) were identified, along with potential strategies for action. ‘Recreation education’ was one of these recommended actions. However, as discussed, the problems associated with sedentary behaviour and inequitable access to recreation are complex and interconnected with no single solution that will be sufficient to address either across all communities. Recreation practitioners and their agencies will need to work with key stakeholders to create multi-faceted, context-specific and flexible processes that address changes needed at both individual and systems levels. Yet, this problem-solving, planning and collaboration are focused on changing individuals’ and family’s recreation participation, suggesting that they too need to be part of creating solutions that will work. We believe leisure education provides the tools, approach and a set of principles that can effect change at individual and systems levels by facilitating engagement with the issues, knowledge, and contextual factors impacting problem solving and decision-making. Engagement involves the collaboration of scholars and researchers with community partners where there is a two-way exchange of knowledge, perspectives, expertise, and resources and where community partners and scholars are equal partners in a community of learners (Weerts & Sandmann, 2008). Leisure education can be an individual, family and community engagement tool, as well as an approach to facilitating this engagement, that could help the recreation sector work collaboratively with others (including individuals and families, as well as with other service providers) to tackle the wicked problems facing Canadian families and communities while addressing the broader goals of the Framework (CPRA & ISRC, 2015). While challenging to define and solve, focusing on wicked problems offers an opportunity for the recreation sector to wrestle with significant, persistent social problems and to contribute to change. Addressing wicked problems requires innovative and flexible approaches along with collaborations, knowledge transfer, and knowledge integration that cross disciplinary and agency boundaries (Weber & Khademian, 2008). Because wicked problems are constantly evolving (APSC, 2007), initiatives and solutions that are developed to address wicked problems need to be revisited and adjusted. The breadth of what leisure education processes can include (e.g. offering resources, sharing knowledge, revealing knowledge) and the approaches that can be taken (e.g. being person-centered versus system-centered; preventative versus responsive) means that the ways in which leisure education is offered can be adapted to fit with changing circumstances or the evolving problem. Leisure education



involves an exchange of knowledge where learning is enhanced. When this learning is co-created by community, recreation sector and allied stakeholders, then the greatest potential exists to address the wicked problems facing our new Canadian leisure society. Acknowledgements Deep appreciation is extended to Dr. Brenda Robertson, who initiated our thinking about the connections between leisure education and ‘wicked problems’ and to members of the ‘Gaspereau Gang’, a group of leisure scholars and practitioners who came together following the last Canadian Congress on Leisure Research (2014) around a shared passion for leisure education, including: Dr. Shannon Hebblethwaite, Dr. Hélène Charbonneau, Carol Peterson, Cheryl Jeffers-Johnson, Marie- Michèle Duquette and Marie-Pierre Nadeau.

Disclosure statement No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.

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