Wicked problems are those that are difficult or impossible to solve. They have no easy solutions.
As part of its commitment to democracy, civic engagement, and public problem solving, the Center for Civic Engagement is launching a new occasional series to explore wicked problems. This initiative creates opportunities for more in-depth exploration of a wicked problem through multiple programs and perspectives. This first topic in the series is Community Safety and Justice. Check out this news article for information about the creation of this new series.
Programs listed below are all held in the month of February 2021. All events are virtual. These events are made possible, in part, from a grant from the Fell Trust.
Utilizing the National Issues Forum Institute (NIFI) model of deliberation on wicked problems, members of the campus and community are invited to take part in this Deliberative Dialogue on February 23 from 7 to 9 p.m. To participate, register online.
Deliberative Dialogues are guided conversations on a political or controversial topic. This model of conversation removes polarizing positions and one-sided lectures by simply asking participants to investigate specific solutions to an issue through the help of an issue guide and facilitator.
From the Safety & Justice NIFI Issue Guide:
After falling steadily for decades, the rate of violent crime in the United States rose again in 2015 and 2016. Interactions between citizens and police too often end in violence. People are increasingly worried about safety in their communities. Many Americans are concerned that something is going on with violence in communities, law enforcement, and race that is undermining the national ideals of safety and justice for all.
It is unclear what is driving the recent rise in violence, but bias and distrust on all sides appear to be making the problem worse. Citizens and police need goodwill and cooperation in order to ensure safety and justice. For many people of color, the sense that they are being treated unfairly by law enforcement—and even being targeted by police—is palpable. Others say police departments are being blamed for the actions of a few individuals and that the dangers, stress, and violence law enforcement officers face in their work is underestimated. Still others hold that if we cannot find ways to defuse potentially violent interactions between citizens and police, we will never be able to create safe communities in which all people can thrive and feel welcomed and comfortable.
How should we ensure that Americans of every race and background are treated with respect and fairness? What should we do to ensure that the police have the support they need to fairly enforce the law? To what degree do racial and other forms of bias distort the justice system? What should we do as citizens to help reduce violence of all kinds in our communities and the nation as a whole?
How should communities increase safety while at the same time ensuring justice? This issue guide is a framework for citizens to work through these important questions together. It offers three different options for deliberation, each rooted in different, widely shared concerns and different ways of looking at the problem. The resulting conversation may be difficult, as it will necessarily involve tensions between things people hold deeply valuable, such as a collective sense of security, fair treatment for everyone, and personal freedom. No one option is the "correct" one; each includes drawbacks and trade-offs that we will have to face if we are to make progress on this issue. They are not the only options available. They are presented as a starting point for deliberation.
Several book groups met in February to discuss Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson. We encourage you to read it on your own!
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson tells the story of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) from the early days with a small staff facing the nation’s highest death sentencing and execution rates, through a successful campaign to challenge the cruel practice of sentencing children to die in prison, to revolutionary projects designed to confront Americans with our history of racial injustice.
One of the EJI’s first clients was Walter McMillian, a young Black man who was sentenced to die for the murder of a young white woman that he didn’t commit. The case exemplifies how the death penalty in America is a direct descendant of lynching—a system that treats the rich and guilty better than the poor and innocent.
The 2019 film dramatization of Bryan Stevenson's book was available to stream online earlier this month. The film stars Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx, and Brie Larson. If you missed our free screening, we encourage you to look for the film on your streaming platforms or at your local library.