The Solution Is Us Update 3.15.18

Hi everyone! Apologies for the radio silence over the past week or so. Several of you have asked where things stand and what the next steps are. So let’s jump in.

Idea Submission

We received 173 ideas through 70 submissions on the website. These ideas ran the gamut, with the most popular ideas being:

  • Increased resources and programming to improve mental health treatment
  • Increased school security and safety measures (note: this did not include arming educators, which was one of the least-popular ideas)
  • Additional restrictions on purchase/ownership of semi-automatic weapons (definitions varied widely, a point which several other submissions addressed)
  • Increased/enforced background checks (coincided with support for raising minimum age)
  • Anti-bullying and mentoring (focused on reducing social isolation, especially for boys and young men)

Remember, the key point of this process is to develop comprehensive solutions through a collaborative, inclusive process. So when you reflect on these results to date, please do so with an open mind. The problem of gun violence will likely require a multi-pronged approach. If ever there was a “yes, and” moment, this is it.

Local Community Engagement: Listening Sessions

We’ve also had two local community engagement conversations focused on listening and exploring perspectives. Here are some of of the biggest takeaways/new questions:

  1. Right now, people seem to really need to be heard, and it seems like we’re providing a space and place that focuses on listening. That seems like a valuable first step.
  2. A broad theme of accountability emerged, as did the notion that what we're really talking about is a culture shift. That seems really big and long-term, so we need to balance and fuel long-term goals with short-term action and practice.
  3. We talked a lot about figuring out what we don’t know about gun violence, from a data perspective. This requires research. (see below).
  4. We talked about how our process must blend head and heart – critical thinking and empathy. We need to strive to go beyond our current frames and be willing to consider new frames of the problem – and the potential solutions.
  5. How do we connect with existing groups who are already leading on these issues and are in need of greater resources or support?
  6. While this is bigger than politics in my opinion, the political process surely needs to be a part of the solution. So we need to figure out what that looks like in terms of supporting specific policy and officials that reflect where this group lands collectively. 

Based on attendance at the first two sessions and interest in a third, we will schedule one more facilitated conversation for perspective sharing. This will enable us to make sure we’re providing sufficient opportunity for local voices to be heard. If you’re interested in attending that local session, please respond to this Doodle poll so we can pick a date that works for most. If you’ve attended an earlier session, your attendance is definitely still welcome and desired – just know we’ll be covering largely the same information as the first two. Once we have a preferred date, we’ll share that via the mailing list and Facebook for RSVP purposes.

Planning for Action

We’ve had good dialogue so far, and after this third community engagement listening session, I believe we’ll be ready to shift to planning mode. This next step will help us answer the following question clearly: “What does success look like for The Solution Is Us?”

At this stage, I think it may be worthwhile to convene a small, diverse core planning team of 2-4 people who can make a commitment of 2-3 hours a week for 3 to 4 weeks, to work on developing an action plan that starts here in Richmond and has connections to similar work elsewhere in the country, where that makes sense. Please email me if you’re interested in being on that core planning team.

Supporting Student-Led Initiatives

As we all know, the young people in our community are getting involved and leading conversations we haven’t had related to gun violence. Based on the first two conversations, many of us felt that we (the “adults in the room”) should provide light guidance to student groups who want it, especially related to safety, fundraising, communication and staying focused from the educational process – without being heavy-handed. The goal is simply to help them be successful – both with their protests and with school.

To that end, Maxwell Nardi, an area high school senior, came to our first conversation and shared more information about what student groups are doing and how you can get involved if you’re interested. He’s provided several links related to the 4/20 Virginia National School Walkout Protest:

Getting Involved

Finally, many of you want to know how you can get more directly involved in The Solution Is Us. There are several things I can use your help on right now:

  1. Everyone, please help spread the word. Share our Facebook page ( and ask your family and friends to submit their ideas through the website: This is core to our approach which focuses on collaboration and inclusion to identify a comprehensive solution.
  2. Serve on the core planning team as discussed above.
  3. Help collect research. I envision this person as someone who is good at researching things online, knows how to identify reliable, trustworthy and objective sources of information, and wants to contribute to this work, but likely can’t connect in person. Please email me if you’re interested in this role.
  4. Serve as a liaison to student-led initiatives in your community. In this role, I believe you should be someone who sees the gun violence problem broadly (as one impacting both schools and neighborhoods in our communities, across socioeconomic groups). People in this role will provide a light level of communications support for students who want/need our help as adults (parents, teachers and concerned citizens), by gathering and disseminate information between this group and the student-led initiatives. Please email me if you’re interested in this kind of role.

That’s all for now. Looking forward to hearing from you and seeing you soon.

- James