Analyzing Social Problems

I think all or nearly all social problems in the world are at root, about power. If you understand the several ways that we can understand power, it can give us insights as to the exact nature of these problems, which is necessary in order to design and test solutions.  The topics on the Home Page below this one are each about an important social problem in the world and how it pertains to power, and surely you can suggest more problems.

One of my colleagues, Emeritus Board of Trustees Professor Jeffrey D. Fisher, often said that if you can understand why a problem occurs, you should be able to propose solutions to it.

In my college course on the Social Psychology of Power and Inequality, the semester project is to select a power problem in the world, define it, analyze how it pertains to power, propose solutions based on that analysis, and then identify potential problems with the proposed solution. (This last part, just as in research design, should encourage improvements before solution is finalized.) In past years, student groups have developed projects of their own choosing on Rape Culture on College Campus, Government and Sub-state Terrorism, Domestic Violence, Gender Discrimination in Paid Work, among other topics.

Early in the semester we have a class discussion about the problems that interest them, trying to identify sets of 3 students who would like to work on the same problem, which requires refinement and compromise.  Then the group independently develops the project and presents their analysis near the end of the semester with feedback. (My specific assignment and the grading rubric are in the Teacher's Corner). I have been impressed by and learned things from all their presentations. With their permission, I share their presentation graphics. (The Policing one at the top is a powerpoint because it includes a video link; remaining ones are PDFs). I hope these inspire you to your own problem-solving.


Gentrification and Its Impacts

Intersectionality in the Workplace

Educational Disparities

Policing (PDF)