Welcome back (or to!) Ann Arbor—we’re happy to see you!

Allow us to (re)introduce ourselves: We’re the Center for Social Solutions, CSS for short, and we are a social and racial justice research center. Our four initiatives (Slavery and Its Aftermath, Diversity and Democracy, The Future of Work, and Water: Equity and Security) were created by our founding director, Dr. Earl Lewis, as the intersections of our Center’s expertise and the lived experiences of those locally, nationally, and globally. 

We envision a world without social inequity and systemic disenfranchisement, where opportunities and resources are more evenly distributed.

The mission of the Center for Social Solutions is to cultivate collaboration, leadership, and scholarship in order to create a more equitable and inclusive world. We seek to identify, develop, and implement scalable, data-driven solutions that address societal inequities. In this spirit, our four founding initiatives—diversity and democracy, the impact of slavery, water security, and the future of work—aim to redress systemic injustices through interdisciplinary research and educational outreach.

Learn more about our four research areas below!

Slavery and Its Aftermath is the Center for Social Solutions’ initiative that takes a historical and contemporary approach to forms of enslavement. “The Third Slavery” is a term coined by the Center’s experts to express that contemporary forms of slavery are a third iteration of an institution we have overcome twice: classical and chattel. Explore some of the topics we've covered, such as 20 Things Everyone Should Know about Slavery and A Look Back: The First Slave Ship in the U.S.

In addition to modern slavery, we are also currently leading a multi-site reparations project over the next three years. The project, 'Crafting Democratic Futures: Situating Colleges and Universities in Community-based Reparations Solutions', has built institution-community partnerships in nine locations across the country to develop culturally senstive, place-based reparations solutions. Part of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation's Just Futures Iniative, the $5M grant brings together humanists, artists, journalists, students, community leaders, and residents to combine the history of the specific site with the needs of the community currently. We anticipate—and encourage—a variety of reparations solutions.

Our Water, Equity and Security initiative focuses primarily on how low-income and economically fragile populations, communities, and neighborhoods are disproportionately harmed not only by flooding disasters themselves, but also the policies in place to alleviate physical and financial damages. Our reseachers take a sociological and environmental approach, collaborating with civil engineers and data scientists alike to develop scalable, affordable solutions to both disaster prevention and post-disaster repair. The insurance systems in place in the United States are complicated and skewed toward high-income, predominantly white homeowners; view the presentation slides given by two of our researchers to better understand the connection between flooding, federal aid and relief, and how redlining practices have placed minoritized populations at greater risk. We also sponsor the student organization Flint Justice Partnership which works with local Flint community groups to deliver clean, drinkable water to Flint residents. 

With the pandemic forcing many companies to shift operations—from remote work to reduced staffing to closing doors entirely—the "future of work" has been an especially frequent topic of dicsussion. When initially conceived as one of our founding initiatives, the Center for Social Solutions' Future of Work centered around dignity in labor and the consquences of automation, particularly from a sociological point of view. In the aftermath of the pandemic, we have shifted from fragile workers in the face of automation to minimally skilled workers classified as "essential" during the pandemic: gig drivers, health technicians, grocery clerks, and food services workers. We recently recieved a grant from The Russell Sage Foundation to interview socio-economically challenged African Americans who fall into these categories. 

Operations management studies have shown that diversity of all kinds leads to better solutions. The Center for Social Solutions sees diversity—and further, equity and inclusion—as necessary components for a better, more democratic society. Our Diversity and Democracy iniative is less related to democracy issues, though we highlight them in the course of our work, and more about amplifying the work of underrepresented practicioners, experts, and thinkers. We do this through two channels: Our Compelling Interests (OCI) is a book series, edited by Dr. Earl Lewis and Rutgers–Newark Chancellor Dr. Nancy Cantor, laying out the premise that for a democracy to thrive, diversity is critical; The Academic Leadership Institute (ALI), founded by Dr. Earl Lewis and The New School President Dr. Dwight A. McBride, aims to increase the representation of rising leaders committed to issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), including faculty of color, on track to becoming future presidents and provosts.

The ALI holds events throughout the year, culminating in a residential program for a select cohort of rising leaders in academia. OCI has published three volumes, with the next forthcoming.