Volume 79, Number 1

April 2004

Shaping Community Problem Solving Around Community Knowledge

Gerald P. Lopez

In this Commentary, Professor Gerald P. Lopez explores the origins, ambitions, and challenges of the Neighborhood Legal Needs & Resources Project (NLN&RP) and the role of the NLN&RP in the formation, mission, and future of the recently launched Center for Community Problem Solving at New York University. Informed by the “rebellious vision” of lawyering, the NLN&RP employs sophisticated survey methods and street-level contacts to collect, analyze, and distribute neglected knowledge about the problems faced by, and the problem solvers available to, residents of six New York City neighborhoods. Without drawing regularly upon such knowledge, problem solvers of every sortfall short of what they might achieve and what these low-income, of color, and immigrant communities deserve. For all its imperfections, the NLN&RP demonstrates one important way in which those working across public, private, and civic realms can team up with client communities to shape problem solving around community knowledge.