Problem-Solving Meeting Example: Neighborhood Park at Risk
It's springtime, and a neighborhood park in a Midwestern city of 50,000 is having problems. The Parks Superintendent, Al Smith, has informed Park Board members about acts of vandalism: posts and railings are being ripped from bridges, graffiti is being painted on benches, and off-road bikes are ridden over grassy banks, making trails and causing erosion. Local police caught four juveniles shooting pellet guns at hikers at the park and discovered three other youths rappelling from the Hundred Foot Bridge over Crow Creek. (Rappelling had been heavily discouraged after a youngster fell, injuring himself seriously two years ago.) Finally, residents of a nearby subdivision are depositing tree limbs and grass clippings near the park entrance, and realtors are using the entrance way to post "FOR SALE" signs.
Al Smith also pointed out a project offer made by a Boy Scout earning his Eagle Scout badge. Andrew Pike asked the Board if he could landscape a parking lot and entryway to a new trail in the park and presented a plan for flowers, plants, and trees.
A problem-solving session is called for! First, consider what the meeting objective should be. Is it to deal with each individual problem or would an overall approach work better? Think about these things: what is the problem, who is responsible for dealing with the problem, what is causing the problem, what actions would eliminate the problem, and what other problems may occur if particular actions are taken. A good meeting objective might read: to create a list of solutions for our neighborhood park problems. Then create an agenda for this problem-solving meeting.
The minutes for the meeting reflected the action discussed. The issue discussion yielded the result that the problem was caused by young people in the park, especially at night, a lack of supervisory "presence," and flagging community support for the park. The Town Board accepted responsibility for pursuing solutions. The brainstorming produced these:
After the brainstorming portion of the meeting, Frank Corvin noted that some solutions were positive and some were negative. He suggested that unrealistic solutions, such as putting an electric charge on bridge rails be eliminated and that solutions which were positive and involved community effort to accomplish be used in the final list of solutions. The final list:
During the discussion of impact of these solutions, the participants voiced their satisfaction with a positive approach to problems. Since budget concerns were an issue, the Board felt effective, but not costly solutions could be found. They discussed encouraging more Boy Scout projects, similar to Andrew Pike's. They realized that involving the community would require their coordinating efforts and more meetings at Town Hall, but they felt they could do that. Finally, they agreed to get information on implementation and meet again to decide which ideas to implement first.