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The Monterey Institute Community Innovation Challenge is the brainchild of Professor Kent Glenzer of the Development, Practice and Policy program. “Complex social problems require interdisciplinary and collaborative approaches,” he says, adding that addressing these so-called “wicked problems” requires expertise from across many disciplines – in the case of MIIS, many degree programs – to tackle them.

Close to 40 students from the Monterey Institute and several from California State University Monterey Bay jumped at the opportunity to participate in the first challenge, “Nor Any Drop to Drink,” focused on finding innovative solutions to Monterey County’s water issues. Channeling Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner, the challenge focused on Monterey County specifically, while providing insight into the broader issue of water challenges around the world. The students were invited to sessions with stakeholders from all over the county as well as a diverse group of experts. The final judging took place on Wednesday, April 23 as part of the Institute’s Earth Week celebrations.

The winning team consisted of five Monterey Institute students from the International Environmental Policy degree program: Matthew Nichols (MAIEP ’14), Emily Cluff (MAIEP ’14), Nereyda Montaño (MAIEP ’14), Nate Maynard (MAIEP ’14) and Malcolm Johnson (MAIEP ’14). In their view, Monterey County’s water problem, like most fresh water issues, amounts largely to a problem of communication.

The main goal of the group’s proposal is to achieve communication, collaboration, and coordination via the creation of a community-based organization called the Water Science Trust (WST). “By bringing all the stakeholders together and acting as a clearinghouse for sound science, WST tears down the lettuce curtain to create socially, environmentally, and economically sound projects without added government oversight,” says team member Malcolm Johnson. For more about the proposal, check out their presentation slides.

“I hope to make such ‘wicked challenges’ an annual feature here at MIIS,” says Professor Glenzer, “eventually opening up to participation from student teams from around the globe.”

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Jason Warburg

Eva Gudbergsdottir