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Housing for the Poor is a Truly Wicked Problem. The Edge of Chaos and Weld Seek a Solution.


In conjunction with “Poverty in Birmingham,” a series of articles which will run throughout 2014 and into 2015, Weld is joining with the Edge of Chaos program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham to host a series of “Wicked Problem” discussions. Each discussion will take place the week after the appearance of a cover story in the Weldseries, and will be focused on the poverty-related issue highlighted in each story. The key issues to be examined in the series are housing, transportation, health, education, employment and race.

The first Wicked Problem discussion, “Housing the Poor: Challenge and Hope,” will take place this Thursday, June 19, from 1-4 p.m. It will be held at the Edge of Chaos, which is located on the fourth floor of UAB’s Lister Hill Library, 1700 University Boulevard. The discussion is open to the public.

The Wicked Problem discussions will be focused on formulating an action plan centered on permanent solutions to issues related to poverty. As Edge of Chaos director David Hooks notes, this approach is in keeping with both the Edge of Chaos mission and Weld’s objective in launching the “Poverty in Birmingham” series.

“We all know about the woes of the underprivileged in Birmingham,” Hooks says. “While Weld’s work in highlighting those woes is valuable, their goal and ours is to go beyond that. We want to develop implementable solutions to the problems that are articulated in theWeld series. Through the Wicked Problem discussions, we bring together academia, business and the community in a ‘collision of minds’ that makes it more likely to find real and workable solutions to the most difficult problems we face in Birmingham.”

The Edge of Chaos is a concept of the UAB School of Public Health and its dean, Dr. Max Michael. According to Hooks, in the 18 months since its launch, the program has hosted more than 900 meetings attended by a total of more than 25,000 people.

The Wicked Problem discussions hosted by the Edge of Chaos andWeld will follow the program’s established format. Each will feature up to 30 invited participants, who will participate in a facilitated discussion of the topic at hand. Utilizing the contents of the discussion, Edge of Chaos staff will develop an action plan, which will be published and expanded upon in future installments of the “Poverty in Birmingham” series, and also presented to appropriate parties with the potential for implementing each action step.

“The action plan is designed as a permanent solution, with the understanding that implementation will be over the long term,” Hooks explains. “Additionally, short-term steps that are immediately implementable will be included. This series is not simply about the theoretical pursuit of what is possible. It is designed to provide real solutions for real problems to help real people.”

Dispatch from the Edge
Wicked Problem: