Waco seeks to unravel community knots

By Hermann Pereira


I recently came across a term I had heard before but which has a new meaning now that I work at Prosper Waco. The term, “wicked problem,” has an entirely different context now that I work in a more community-facing role.

Wicked problems are those social or cultural problems that are difficult to solve because of their complex and interconnected nature. These problems look like a ball of yarn that is knotted up in a ball. How do you approach the knot? Which strings do you pull? Is it worth even trying? Can I unravel this alone? All of these are natural questions to ask when facing a wicked problem.

Many issues come to mind in the areas of health, education, housing, workforce, healthcare, and financial security. I wouldn’t label the areas as wicked problems but more so the particular issues within those areas. All these areas are interconnected in so many ways. As a community we must have the will and ability to work together on these wicked problems.

It is important to have a strong understanding of an area and then begin to ask the right questions. For example:

  • Does every Wacoan have the same access to workforce training, supports, or jobs?

  • Does every student at every school district have the same access to college and career opportunities?

  • Does every Wacoan have access to healthcare or behavioral health services?

  • Does every Wacoan have access to banks and financial services?

Unfortunately the answer to these questions is too often “no.” There are barriers, policies, and systems that are getting in the way of equal access and opportunities.

At Prosper Waco we are leaning into these wicked problems, trying to ask the right questions, and then beginning to unravel the “yarn” one string at a time. This cannot be done alone. It is paramount that we join community partners that have the will and ability to begin to pull the right strategic strings.

If you want to join us in unraveling these wicked problems please reach out. I would love to have a conversation about this and/or other topics with you. Please feel free to reach out — hermann@prosperwaco.org.

Hermann Pereira is chief program officer for Prosper Waco.