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Deliberative Engagement: the Cure for “Wicked Problems”

by Claudine Perrault, Library Director

What is a “wicked problem”? Locally, it’s where we find ourselves on opposing sides of an issue, where we’re passionately making our case and no one on the other side seems to be listening. This Wednesday—with your participation—we’ll explore how to face wicked problems while charting a course to an even better Estes Valley.

We’re pleased to welcome a guest with deep insights into how communities work through tough issues. Our special guest is Dr. Martín Carcasson, Director of the Center for Public Deliberation at Colorado State University.

Mark your calendar for “Tackling Wicked Problems: the New Public Participation” on Wednesday, October 17 at 6 p.m. at the Estes Valley Community Center at 660 Community Drive. Click here to register.

Wednesday’s special event weaves together themes of Conflict Resolution Month and this season’s One Book One Valley. This year’s featured book is “Why Won’t You Apologize?” by bestselling author Harriet Lerner, currently being read and discussed community-wide.

Don’t worry if you haven’t read the book. Wednesday’s program is a stand-alone event—not a book discussion. All that’s needed are a few hours of your time and an open mind. Even better, invite a friend, neighbor, student or family member to join you.

For well over a decade, Dr. Carcasson has been carefully studying how citizens interact with one another. His research and related practices show that there are tangible ways to move from false polarization, to collaborative problem-solving in the public sphere.

“A revolution is beginning to occur in public engagement,” he says, “fueled by the growing distrust and cynicism in our communities, the increasing limitations of more traditional communication models, problem-solving processes that are no longer up to the task, and the growing realization that we can do much better.”

Wicked problems have something in common. They harbor such strong, competing values that quality communication seems impossible. To move beyond this, Dr. Carcasson will offer us the model of “deliberative engagement”, which brings people together by improving our shared conversations. In the process, we discover genuine opportunities for more inclusive civic action that influence local public policy.

Public libraries, he says, are among the places where these conversations can occur. Indeed, that’s a key Objective within the Library’s Strategic Plan: to “Engage community members in current affairs and decision-making.” The Library is passionately impartial about how to improve the community we serve. The Library’s role isn’t to take a stance on issues, but to provide a neutral place where issues can be discussed, guided by effective civic dialogue.

We are grateful to our partners this season, including the League of Women Voters, Town of Estes Park, the Estes Park EDC, and Estes Valley Restorative Justice.

Please join us this Wednesday, as we take first steps toward more effective community conversations, where divergent voices are engaged in collaborative and effective problem-solving.