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Collaborative problem solving for community safety
Collaborative problem solving for community safety

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2.2 Solving a problem

People such as community police officers, who work with the community and diverse groups, will often face a wide range of problems on a daily basis either individually or as part of a team. Either way, you will do it better if you have a good feel for what problem solving involves.

The term ‘problem solving’ is widely used but there are many other terms (e.g. ‘opportunity finding’) that convey very different shades of meaning, some of which may be more suitable for your purposes. For instance, often:

  • What you are tackling is not a ‘problem’ in the ‘something-has-gone-wrong’ sense, but a concern, an opportunity, a new direction or an improvement. It may be about ‘pursuing good things’ rather than ‘fixing bad things’
  • The main activity is not ‘solving’ but exploring, defining, resolving, bypassing, reframing or managing.
  • It is not a single, discrete problem, but a densely interconnected part of a huge web of issues and concerns that change and develop over time and may transform in appearance depending on your viewpoint.

When you find yourself in a situation that calls for some kind of analysis or action, see which terms provides the best and most helpful frame for your thinking. For instance, some people find it helpful to reframe ‘problems’ as ‘opportunities’ or ‘challenges’ – for them these more open frames may feel exciting and optimistic – while others may find the neutral language of ‘issues’ and ‘concerns’ more helpful. Each of the many different terms creates its own metaphor for what is involved, and suggests its own, slightly different, ways of working.

Figure 1