Created by Leslie Cory, Solutions Specialist
Shining a spotlight on problems makes it difficult to see solutions already in motion and responses waiting to be tested. These stories help us turn on the house lights, so to speak, and take a deep all-around look at what's working, who's making it work, and who else could learn from the lessons that have emerged.
In addition to the investigation into a distinct topic covered by each story, the collective approaches offered here provide a couple of significant takeaways on how to report on societal problems:
Encouraging Resilience: Teenagers in Kearns, Utah, reported that they were using drugs and alcohol at a higher rate than their peers from surrounding regions. Rather than focus on assigning blame, The Salt Lake Tribune reported on how the county took the original mission of a program developed by the University of Washington – to bolster healthy relationships between parents and students – and adapted it to decrease adolescent substance abuse. Several states away, in Oakland, California, city officials have long faced a housing crisis. In response, Law at the Margins covered how those who were experiencing homelessness were working with a local activist group to build self-governed communities where "homeless communities can help themselves."
Cultivating Collaboration & Evaluating Impact: To report on Chicago’s need to replace lead pipes that carry drinking water, WBEZ looked for lessons in two other cities that had successfully addressed this problem. Similarly, in Alabama, AL.com (Alabama Media Group) reported on a local effort to establish a Maternal Mortality Review Committee – a unit that was already well-established in other states across the nation.
- How would you describe the differences between the solutions the government has proposed for the homeless community in Oakland versus the solutions that the community has invented for themselves?
- When should a community turn to their neighbors for examples of how to solve a pressing issue? What makes one problem or solution particularly apt for cross-application in multiple areas or populations?
- This collection covers a variety of important healthcare topics: housing, maternal mortality, youth substance use.... Identify one healthcare issue that is particularly relevant within your community and create a new collection showcasing solutions to that issue.
- Journalism is a collaborative practice: reporters are writing for their community, but they also depend on community members as sources for information. Indeed, the very purpose of journalism, according to the American Press Institute, is to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies, and their governments. With that in mind, SJN wants to help connect news readers and journalists. Beside the name of the journalist on any of our story pages or the results page of the Solutions Story Tracker, you’ll find a Twitter icon that will link you directly to the journalists profile. Tweet at them with questions or compliments about their piece - you might be surprised by how much writers want to engage with their audiences! Don’t forget to tag us too (@soljourno) and use the hashtag #journalistintheclassroom if you are reading as part of an academic assignment.
- Local control and ownership is one of the SJN Success Factors, tactics that are critical to the success or failure of a response to a given issue. When programs are built and managed by the people served, they tend to be more efficient and effective. In the Oakland story specifically, while both the community and the government solutions involved "tiny house" style units, the structures built by unhoused individuals responded directly to the trauma experienced by people in need, incorporating multiple windows and doors that increase comfort for people who have experienced violence and/or incarceration, but they are frequently torn down by city workers. While these evictions are labeled as part of efforts to keep the city clean and hygienic, the residents of the encampments often lose all their belongings during such sweeps. The "Tuff Shed" government housing projects are not subject to unannounced sweeps, but they cannot accommodate families and often force strangers together into one unit. Both efforts suffer from a lack of basic services like trash pick up and public showers; ultimately, the unhoused residents of the city want to government to invest in the solutions originating from the community, which are more responsive to the specific needs of people experiencing distress.
- While these situations certainly vary on a case-by-case basis, this collection (and other stories) can help us understand how to cross-apply lessons. All of Alabama's neighboring states - Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and Tennessee - already had maternal mortality committees, the states have many similarities in population and demographics, so it follows that approaching the problem from a similar angle would be productive. Taking a step back to look at issues from a top-down perspective and understanding where your community intersects with others is a great step toward cultivating collaborations that will hopefully provide solutions for greater numbers of people overall - without having to reinvent methods every time.
Other answers will vary. For more information on creating collections, watch this tutorial.