Empowerment of Communities to Address Impossible Problems

Empowerment of Communities to Address Impossible Problems

Neal Shambaugh (West Virginia University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1823-5.ch004
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The traditional view of problem solving is that experts are best addressed to solve complex but narrow problems. Intelligent novices, who have broad backgrounds and the motivation to learn and propose unique solutions, is an untapped source of experience. People increasingly want to take ownership of their lives and address problems that range from the routine (e.g., financial planning, healthcare, education) to the catastrophic (e.g., natural disasters, pandemics, terrorism). Features of human societies and traits of problem solving in humans are discussed. Examples of international problem solving are provided. The chapter describes three approaches to community problem solving, including problem solving groups, community decision support systems, and portals.
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The Range Of Human Problems

The cognitive research community has characterized problems as well-defined and solvable, ill-defined and resistant to solution, and wicked problems, that appear to be intractable (Churchman, 1967). Many problems that face families and communities could be characterized as ill-defined given their complexity and variability. Alternatively, this chapter labels three problem type categories, as routine, survival, and change to cover the continuum of problems facing communities in developed countries (Shambaugh, 2008).

The simplest category of problems facing middle-class families and communities can be labelled as routine, which occur throughout daily activities including jobs, family life, health and safety, education, entertainment, and well-being. Responsibilities of living in the 21st century have increased as a result of a continual and natural human demand for goods and services. “Getting and spending has been the most passionate, and often the most imaginative endeavour of modern life” (Twitchell, 2003, p. 191). Individuals now must make many important decisions related to their personal and professional lives. Increasing numbers of middle-class families from around the world are pressing the planet’s resources to meet these concerns. Governmental units and business organizations find themselves unable to provide many costly services and benefits to their citizens and customers (Zakaria, 2008). While governments, institutions, and organizations will continue to serve important functions, individuals and groups have already begun to mobilize action to provide their own welfare (Stanfield, 2000).

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