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Mobilizing a Community to Solve Problems

Posted on November 15, 2011

Abe Wandersman (bio) claims that addressing community-based problems requires involvement from the community.


Well the idea on a lot of problems, whether it's AIDS or homelessness or child abuse or substance abuse or teen pregnancy is that these are not only individual and family problems. They're community problems. If they're community problems, the community should be involved in the solution.

And so what does it mean to involve a community? That brings in an area called community mobilization and bringing in different sectors of the community, like the faith-based sector or the business sector, the schools, youth, neighborhood groups, media, in some cases the police department and the health department. So if you can bring all those kinds of groups or sectors into this effort, that's a community effort and a community coalition effort.

If a coalition is fortunate and has gotten funding from some outside source of money, they'll often hire some staff. And one of the jobs of the staff is to help in that mobilization effort. It's really necessary to get people in the community who are volunteers but for one reason or another really motivated about that issue—somebody in their family has that or something like that—so that they become a champion.

And it often helps to have people in power, like somebody on city council or a police chief or a school superintendent, play a role because they know this is an important problem. So for example, if you're interested in something like bullying prevention, bullying leads to kids not coming to school which leads to not doing well in school and so school superintendents become interested in bullying prevention.

So you get the school superintendent's interest because they're interested in academic performance, and they start to get involved in this, and you get other people like parents whose kids have been bullied or other folks who have a natural interest in this arena to become involved and they often put in a lot of volunteer energy because they're motivated by their passion to make a difference.

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Excerpted from interview with Dr. Wandersman at the 2011 Global Implementation Conference in Washington, DC.


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