What’s Already Out There is an attempt to accelerate the civic inventing process by highlighting programs that effectively address urgent community issues. The profiles included here are the result of a research project called Wanted: Solutions for America that set out to document existing solutions to some of our nation’s toughest challenges. We chose these 19 programs not because they offered the only solutions to specific kinds of civic problems—we were more interested in providing examples of working programs with demonstrable results that could be replicated in other places. At a time when all sectors need succinct information on what really works, these programs are invaluable as places to start.
Researchers from more than 20 institutions have taken an independent look at these community initiatives with an eye toward results and process. The collective conclusion of this group, as presented in this report, is overwhelmingly positive: these initiatives are working; these communities are stronger as a result; and we can learn a great deal from their triumphs as well as their mistakes. The program profiles included address a handful of specific issues, but the lessons learned have wide-ranging applications across all categories of civic invention. What these programs have in common is knowledge—knowledge about improving our ability as a nation to provide citizens with opportunities to succeed. Taken together, these 19 community success stories are examples of American ingenuity at its best.