Challenge #2 – Urban Violence

Posted on Jan 28, 2011

Stopping Urban Violence

in partnership with CeaseFire Illinois

Challenge Overview

Each day when we watch the news we’re assaulted with stories of shooting and killing. The flashing lights of police cars illuminate mothers weeping over the bodies of their dead sons and daughters. Most of us feel powerless to help reverse the epidemic of violence that plagues many of America’s communities where, according to the Centers for Disease Control, homicide is the leading cause of death for African American males aged 16-24. Every day CeaseFire, a Chicago-based violence prevention organization, receives phone calls, emails and letters from people around the country who want to help end the violence. On Friday, January 21, The Interrupters, a Kartemquin Films documentary by Steve James and Alex Kotlowitz, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. It will screen at select film festivals in early 2011 and air on Frontline this spring. All told, it is expected to garner significant media attention and create a marked increase in interest people from around the country who want to help CeaseFire.


CeaseFire hires and trains credible messengers—outreach workers and violence interrupters—who have “been there, and done that” and play an active role in de-escalating conflicts.  They serve as a new cadre of public health professionals who are exceptionally effective in working with those at highest risk for being involved in a shooting or killing (~1-2% of the community).  CeaseFire is guided by the theory that violence is a learned behavior that can be changed, therefore CeaseFire also works to engage the entire community (98-99% of population) through public education and community mobilization activities in order to shift social norms such that shooting and killing is no longer an acceptable way to resolve a conflict.

Your challenge is…

How might people who do not live in CeaseFire communities help key influencers—including CeaseFire workers and the friends, girlfriends, mothers, faith leaders, business leaders, among others—shift social norms and change behaviors?

Design Conditions

  • Solutions do not involve in-person interactions between CeaseFire volunteers and community members in a CeaseFire community; interactions could occur outside of a CeaseFire community.
  • Solutions should impact the men and women who most directly influence the behavior of the highest risk.
  • Solutions should be low impact (almost self-sustaining) on CeaseFire staff.
  • The impact should be something other than simply financial contributions.

Additional Resources

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