Solutions to intractable problems: homelessness, debt, political polarization, and more


Today we’re introducing a weekly feature: a blog post composed of curated links to articles and podcasts from around the web, which elide with our mission — i.e., to present stories that identify a problem that is usually regarded as intractable, and suggest a solution or a way forward.

  • The Guardian reports on a small company in northern England that has resolved the persistent problem of gender pay-gaps. It decided to skip the traditional corporate hierarchy, establishing itself instead as a cooperative that pays all of its employee-members the exact same wage, regardless of race, gender, age, or experience.
  • Genocide is potentially preventable. According to researchers at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., the conditions that lead up to genocide are consistent. The conclusion: that if genocide can be predicted, it can also be pre-empted. NPR reported the story.
  • In their search for a compassionate solution to the problem of homeless people using libraries to bathe or sleep, libraries in San Francisco and Denver have hired social workers who work at the libraries, where their job is to direct homeless people to the services they need. The municipalities have also hired peer navigators with lived experiences of homelessness to help guide their work. Next City reports the story.
  • In order to fight the political polarization that is tearing Poland apart, five news outlets representing editorial positions across the political spectrum came to an agreement to publish one another’s stories, in order to present their readers with diverse opinions. Read the New York Times op-ed.
  • Helsinki has figured out a remarkable solution to the problem of homelessness. By implementing its Housing First program, which provides a stable and permanent home to indigent people for as long as they might need it, the city reduced the number of people living on the street from a high of 18,000 in 1987, to 6,600 today. The BBC reported the story.
  • How to reduce the social tension in university towns between local residents and the students and staff? The Institute on Inequality and Democracy at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs is working with social justice activists and community organizers, and asking how their research can help advance and sustain movements on the ground. Read the Next City story. 
  • Newspapers around the world have for years been shutting down, reducing staff, or operating at a loss as advertising revenue continues to slide downward, but The Seattle Times might have found a solution. The paper is working with reporters to understand which stories and products drive subscriptions, rather than clicks. One Seattle Times reporter noted on Twitter that the result so far has been: No layoffs. Read the story at Digiday.
  • A grassroots movement in Louisville, Kentucky, has tackled the unaffordable housing issue. Black Lives Matter raised the funds to purchase inexpensive houses, which they then gifted to transient families and single mothers with low incomes. Read about it at Yes! Magazine.
  • An insurance company, noting that its employees had an average student loan debt of $32,000, came up with a solution: It would allow its workers to trade up to five of their 28 paid vacation days for assistance with that debt. Read the Bloomberg Business report.