By David Sherwin, President at Pivedite
How do you create a solution to a social problem? How do you make positive social change in your community? How do you even start? Ask around and I am sure you’ll get a lot of opinions.
For those seeking answers to these kinds of questions, I recommend checking out the Citizens Campaign. They can provide the training and resources you need to create solutions to social problems in your city.
I connected with the Citizens Campaign last year. After attending several meetings and interviewing 4 of their members, I believe… “these citizens have solutions”.
According to the Citizens Campaign’s website, they are a nonprofit organization that:
- Is “dedicated to empowering citizens through civic leadership training in innovative problem solving to meet today’s challenges and provide an alternative to dysfunctional politics.”
- Wants to create a “cultural shift from a structure based on who has the power to who has the best solutions.”
- Is “guided by four core principles: we teach citizens to address common-purpose issues; develop evidence-based solutions; utilize our successful no-blame approach; and produce cost-effective results.”
Some of their major accomplishments include:
- “Developed and won adoption of the strongest State-Level Pay-to-Play Reform Law in the Nation.”
- “Developed and won adoption of the Citizen Service Act opening appointments to government policy boards and commissions.”
- “Developed and won adoption of over 200 city and town-level citizen empowerment laws.”
- “Won sweeping series of reform laws in Newark, called by the New York Times among the most far-reaching of any American City and gained the adoption of an Environmental Commission, the first in Newark’s history.”
The Citizens Campaign has worked primarily in New Jersey, but they have expanded to other cities around the country including to Philadelphia in 2019. The group in Philadelphia is called the “Philadelphia Civic Trust”. The Philadelphia Civic Trust first gets ordinary community members to become a “Civic Trustee”. According to their website, “Civic Trustees are people who have decided they want to be No-Blame problem solvers for their communities and our country. Using their No-Blame problem solving training and committing to work under the principles of The Civic Pledge, they work together in Civic Trusts to research and advance practical solutions to the issues facing their communities and our nation”.
After becoming a Trustee, they start or join a committee focused on the issue they are passionate about. To get Trustees started, the Philadelphia Civic Trust has them read a manual called Citizen Power & The Art of No-Blame Problem Solving: A 21st Century Citizens Manual. Overall, the manual explains various approaches, techniques, and processes involved in modern-day problem solving. The most important components of the manual are the “10 steps of the no blame problem solving approach”. The central idea is that blaming one group or person is not effective, and a better approach is to build consensus and create realistic solutions. The 10 steps the Trustees follow are:
STEP 1: IDENTIFY YOUR ISSUE FOCUS
STEP 2: SUBMIT A PUBLIC RECORDS ACT REQUEST
STEP 3: CONDUCT EVIDENCE-BASED RESEARCH
STEP 4: SHAPE YOUR SOLUTION
STEP 5: MAKE SURE IT IS COST-EFFECTIVE
STEP 6: DO THE DOABLE
STEP 7: GET SUPPORT FROM EXPERTS
STEP 8: PRESENT A READY-TO-ADOPT SOLUTION
STEP 9: MAKE A RESPECTFUL PRESENTATION
STEP 10: RESPECTFUL PURSUIT
In addition to the manual, there are a ton of resources and training materials on their website. What’s fascinating is that their training materials are used in schools and colleges. In Philadelphia, they are attempting to have the Community College of Philadelphia create courses based on their training materials. Some of their trainings/resources are about civic engagement, power civics, and various methods on problem solving.
So… if you want to make real change in your community, check out the Citizens Campaign and the Philadelphia Civic Trust. Because… “these citizens have solutions”.
In Part 2 of this article, coming out in a couple of weeks, I summarize interviews I had with 4 Trustees. I’ll talk about their backgrounds, why they joined the Philadelphia Civic Trust, the issues they are working on, their proposed solutions, and how their stories can inspire others to take action.
For more information about the Citizens Campaign and Philadelphia Civic Trust, check out their website https://thecitizenscampaign.org/civic-trusteeship/philadelphia/ or email Russell Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org.