Creative Problem-Solving Strategies

CAPA responds to urgent challenges with creative problem-solving strategies that draw on the skills of conflict resolution, complex systems analysis, and research and design.

With a deep commitment to collaboration, CAPA works with existing public and private organizations locally, regionally, nationally, and globally. One of the ways this is accomplished is by linking the classroom to outside agencies, think tanks, and community groups. By bringing students, stakeholders, and citizens together, CAPA aims to cultivate democratic debate and public action around specific problems. Through such collaboration, our goal is to make the world a better place and to create the replicable structures that can adapt, serve, and sustain a quality of life that all humans deserve.

Conflict Resolution

The ability to define one's interests and interact effectively in everyday life is the skill of negotiation. Whether it is a collaborative and principled approach or an adversarial position, the ability to negotiate is essential for citizens to work for the public good. Learning how to be an impartial third party who can facilitate others to resolve serious conflicts is the practice of mediation. Facilitation skills are essential to lead public and private discussions and collaborative skills allow groups to tackle complex problems together and find innovative design solutions.  All of these conflict resolution skills: negotiation, mediation, facilitation and collaboration are necessary to navigate this complex world and be effective in creative problem-solving.

Complex Systems Analysis

The contemporary issues in our world today—from climate change adaptation and mitigation, to incarceration reform, to peacebuilding in post-conflict zones—are increasingly complex. An understanding of hierarchical and non-hierarchical structures, emergent patterns, and self-organizing systems are important to understand in order to deconstruct complicated, intractable problems. Tipping points, triggers, moments of criticality, and places of leverage are all ways to analyze and intervene in complex systems across the globe. The ability to improvise is increasingly in demand as there are more asymmetric forces confronting each other, producing more conflicts. The ability to adapt to changing conditions, to recognize pattern formation, to live with ambiguity and unpredictability are all capacities that are needed to understand complex problems and acquire 21st Century skills.

Research and Design

Information abounds in today’s world, but salient and reliable data can be hard to come by. More than ever, successfully addressing existing problems calls for first producing better understandings and measurements of those problems. Through student-led projects, faculty guided initiatives and community collaborations, CAPA sponsored research helps draw contemporary predicaments into actionable focus. Whether in clearly defining the stakes or in tailoring arguments for stakeholders, whether in sharply confronting the causes of injustice or in crafting equitable solutions, research in CAPA is conducted with the aim of informing meaningful change. Research techniques include: identifying constituencies, mapping outcomes, visualizing data, and bringing stakeholders to consensus. As important are teaching the capacities and skills for designing structures and their implementation. These skills include strategic planning, visual mapping, emergent structuring, pattern recognition, project management, adaptive functionality, and evaluation of outcomes.