A diverse group comprising the University of Georgia, Athens; Tuskegee University; and community based organizations undertook to develop an organization modeled after a federal commission to address persistent poverty in the Black Belt Region (BBR). In spite of objective data describing poverty in the region, each stakeholder viewed the problem differently. As a result, two different legislative initiatives were designed to address the problem. Competition and disagreement among the stakeholders fueled a rush to formulate a solution without first investing sufficient effort to define the right problem. Failure to define the right problem could lead to a Type III error: solving the wrong problem. For the present paper, we employed problem-structuring theory to analyze, a posteriori, the activities of the Black Belt Initiative (BBI). We then used insights from that analysis to formulate an alternate approach for devising a solution that would likely reduce the probability of a Type III error.

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