In the Fall of 1998, a small group convened by the Pew Partnership for Civic Change gathered in a hotel meeting room to ponder a simple challenge. Hometown answers to America’s most pressing problems were cropping up in communities across the nation. In small towns and in big urban centers, nonprofit organizations, local governments, and citizens’ groups were working together to find solutions. How best to uncover these solutions and discover what made them work? What was the most effective way to identify, study, and tell the world about these efforts?
Just telling the stories of these communities, it was decided, would not be enough. There needed to be some process of analysis, of validation, in order to demonstrate that these programs were effective, and not merely well-known or well-intentioned. At the same time, the research process needed to go beyond a sterile collecting and crunching of quantitative data. What was needed was a middle ground between a comprehensive but dry impact evaluation on the one hand, and purely anecdotal description on the other.
Solutions for America was the answer. Launched by the Pew Partnership in 1999, Solutions was a two-year national research initiative designed to identify, document, and disseminate information about successful efforts to address tough challenges in communities across the country. The project was initially launched as Wanted: Solutions for America, but the search is now over: we have uncovered solutions that work. This report documents our findings.