A new programming series from the Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) will encourage campus and community members to come together in conversations around community safety and justice.
“Exploring Wicked Problems: Community Safety and Justice” is the first line of programming in CCE’s new “Exploring Wicked Problems” series. Wicked problems are those that are often difficult or impossible to solve. They have no easy solutions.
“We’re thrilled to launch this new series,” said Harriett Steinbach, assistant director of CCE. “It will create opportunities for more in-depth exploration of a wicked problem through multiple programs and perspectives. It also speaks directly to CCE’s commitment to democracy, civic engagement, and community problem solving.”
The idea for the Exploring Wicked Problems series originally emerged during conversations with CCE staff as a way to offer individuals a deeper dive into a social issue, as opposed to many existing one-day programs and events. “We felt that a deeper dive allowed us to highlight various kinds of civic engagement and how it connects to the particular issue,” said Steinbach. “Wicked problems are also interdisciplinary; we saw this as a way to showcase the interdisciplinary nature of civic engagement and public problem solving.”
Plans for the series began a year ago, prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. CCE staff decided to kick off the series with the topic of community safety and justice. Last spring, staff members applied for and received a Fell Trust grant to assist with some program costs, including the purchase of copies of Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson for book group discussions.
“This programming is a great fit for our Center’s new strategic plan which emphasizes the importance of elevating conversations about controversial issues in order to create a more just and equitable world,” said Dr. Katy Strzepek, director of CCE. The topic of community safety and justice came to the forefront across the country this summer as the nation witnessed protests led by the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Many communities are now discussing changes to community justice practices to include restorative justice, embedding social workers into police forces, and revamping policies to embrace anti-racist practices,” said Strzepek. “It is important for communities to learn to discuss wicked problems with courage and respect. Listening deeply to each other’s stories helps people create thoughtful responses to difficult issues.”
Steinbach echoed the importance of communities coming together to discuss wicked problems. “We are starting to go deeper into complex community issues with this series, and a key element of that is bringing the campus and community together. No single entity can solve a wicked problem. We need to harness the assets of all stakeholders to do that.”
Plans for the community safety and justice programming evolved throughout the summer and fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “We aren’t able to offer as many activities and the type of activities that we originally envisioned,” said Steinbach, “but we are still excited to be able to encourage these conversations this spring.”
All events will take place virtually.
- A series of book groups hosted by the Normal Public Library, the YWCA of McLean County, and the Division of Student Affairs will kick off the programming. The groups will all be reading Just Mercy.
- In mid-February, a digital screening of the film adaptation of the book will be available.
- Closing out the series is a Deliberative Dialogue, “Safety & Justice: How Should Communities Reduce Violence?,” on February 23.
Visit the CCE website for full details on the events taking place.
The next line of programming in the Exploring Wicked Problems series will likely begin in the fall. CCE staff are investigating topics and will begin planning in the next few months. If you would like to suggest a topic or are interested in potential partnerships, contact CCE at CivicEngagement@IllinoisState.edu.