Community leaders to explore Fox Valley’s ‘wicked problems’ - January 8 2014

OSHKOSH, WI - Community leaders from throughout the Fox Valley area are coming together to explore innovative approaches and initiatives that are working in the battle to solve "wicked problems" - large, complex and systemic issues such as poverty, homelessness, sustainability and health and wellness.

Recognizing that solutions to wicked problems require us to think differently and employ new strategies, the Basic Needs Giving Partnership is offering a three-day experience called Tackling Wicked Problems to provide leaders with new tools to frame complex social issues and to envision new solutions.

"Our community has such complex challenges - the heroin epidemic, homelessness, obesity - and despite our best efforts to fix them, they still exist," said Diane Abraham, president and chief executive officer of the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation. "The Foundation is excited to be part of this experience because we really do believe our community is capable of solving these problems. It will require us to think a little differently and use new strategies, but there's a strong collaborative spirit here and together, we can do so much more."

The Foundation, the U.S. Venture Fund for Basic Needs and the J. J. Keller Foundation, all part of the Basic Needs Giving Partnership, encourage problem solvers from all sectors - nonprofit, government, education, health care, business, religion and philanthropy - to join the discussion so that our communities can begin to create a common language and framework for solutions since each sector is unique and has its own way of approaching problems.

"There is simply not enough money in this community to continue to do things the same old way and expect new outcomes," said Cathy Mutschler, director of giving and community engagement for U.S. Venture Inc., founder of the U.S. Venture Fund for Basic Needs.

By definition, wicked problems are large and complex systems so there are no easy solutions. "Poverty is one such problem that societies often treat but rarely fix," Mutschler said, "but this community-wide approach is the type of process that U.S. Venture believes will be successful."

"Coming up with long-term solutions to complex social problems requires collaboration and innovation, and we at the J. J. Keller Foundation are thrilled to be part of the effort," said Mary Harp-Jirschele, executive director of the J. J. Keller Foundation. "Problems don't happen overnight and they aren't fixed in short order, either. Together, we have a much better chance of finding the right answers."

The partnership has teamed with Forward Community Investments and Marquette University's Social Innovation Initiative to bring national experts on systems thinking, social innovation, collaboration, collective impact and scenario planning to the Fox Valley. The experience will serve as a springboard for collaborators to develop solutions for their communities' wicked problems.

"With so many of the problems that we try to address, we're addressing only the symptoms and we're not getting to the root causes. This program will really help us get a new perspective to address the entirety of our problems," said Peter Lang, member of the Board of Directors for the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation.

"I think the Board realizes that in order to succeed in its mission to make the greater Oshkosh area communities stronger, we must be innovative and this is one of the tools in our toolbox to help our community leaders find new methods of addressing our problems."

A "wicked problem" defies any standard attempt to find a solution
because it is a symptom or result of multiple, contingent and conflicting issues.

The Basic Needs Giving Partnership is committed to supporting long-term solutions that help move people out of poverty and is convening area leaders to explore innovative community initiatives and the dynamics behind their success.

Learning Overview
  • Presentations and exercises to introduce key concepts in social innovation, collaboration, collective impact, systems thinking and scenario planning.
  • Case studies to illustrate topical concepts in action.
  • Exploration of a wide range of community issues including health, education, housing, employment and hunger.
  • Coaching opportunities to support the development of ideas and solutions to community challenges and drafting of Basic Needs Giving Partnership grant application if appropriate.

  • Target audience
    Leaders from health and human service organizations, local or county government, educational institutions and socially-minded businesses including:
  • Executive directors or administrators
  • Department directors
  • Nonprofit board members
  • Program staff
  • Elected officials
  • Community leaders

  • Program Dates
    8:30 a.m. to 4:30 pm. January 28, 2014
    Details about the 1/28 program
    8:30 a.m. to 4:30 pm. January 29
    Details about the 1/29 program
    8:30 a.m. to 4:30 pm. February 5

    All sessions will be at The Waters, 1393 Washington Ave., Oshkosh

    Michael Goodman, an internationally recognized speaker, author and practitioner in the fields of systems thinking and organizational learning and change. Michael excels in helping leaders understand why their well-intentioned efforts to solve social problems often fail, and where to find leverage in a complex system.

    Chris Paterson, director of community and leadership development at Community Initiatives, a national consulting firm with nearly 20 years of experience working with national, regional and local efforts supporting collaborative strategies and shared learning for healthier, more vibrant communities. Chris and the CI team are engaged with (and learning from) multiple projects across the country seeking to adapt and apply the "collective impact" approach.

    Jeff Snell, leader of Marquette University's Social Innovation Initiative to find novel and sustainable ways to address social needs. Marquette is among the first 10 universities to be nationally designated a Changemaker Campus by Ashoka: Innovators for the Public, the world's largest network of social entrepreneurs.

    Dennis Johnson and Ben Williams, who provide advisory services for Forward Community Investments and who are consultants to hundreds of nonprofits across Wisconsin. When setting the course for an organization to maximize its mission-related impact, Dennis and Ben often turn to "what if" scenarios and/or the exploration of strategic and sustainable collaboratives when clients are navigating an increasing common challenge, like client demand outpacing organizational resources.

    About U.S. Venture Fund for Basic Needs
    Funded by the annual U.S. Venture Open, assists nonprofit organizations that offer creative solutions and have a proven track record of success in implementing critical programs that address the root causes of poverty. Collaboration is strongly encouraged to broaden impact and increase efficiency and effectiveness. Information at www.usventureopen.com.

    About the J. J. Keller Foundation
    A private, independent family foundation providing funding and support to nonprofit community organizations, projects and programs in the Fox Valley that address basic human needs, the causes and consequences of poverty and special areas of interest such as mental illness. Information at www.jjkellerfoundation.org or 920-720-7872.

    About the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation
    A nonprofit charitable organization created in 1928 by and for the people of Winnebago County, Waushara County, Green Lake County and Ripon, with more than $88 million in assets and $4.8 million in annual grants. Through charitable giving, the Community Foundation strives to make our communities thrive. Information at 920-426-3993.

    About the Basic Needs Giving Partnership
    One of the largest funding collaboratives in Northeast Wisconsin. A collaborative effort between the U.S. Venture Fund for Basic Needs, the J. J. Keller Foundation Inc., the Greater Green Bay Community Foundation, the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region and the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation, the partnership is committed to funding innovative solutions to address the root causes of poverty in Northeast Wisconsin.


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