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Conversation With F. Haynes Lindley Jr. : Crime and Violence Have Reached ‘Crisis Proportions’

Times Staff Writer

F. Haynes Lindley Jr. is president of the Los Angeles-based John Randolph Haynes and Dora Haynes Foundation, which provides funding to study social problems. This year, the organization will provide $1.5 million for research on three of society’s major problems. Lindley talked to Times Staff Writer George White.

Question: What is “solutions-oriented research” and how might Los Angeles benefit from such a project?

Answer: Solutions-oriented research means academic research concentrating on solutions rather than causes--action-oriented research that is particularly useful to policy-makers and others attempting to address the problems that confront our society.

Local and regional social-science issues long have been the center of foundation-supported research. Our goal with this program is to attract the best researchers to focus on solutions to three of the critical problems confronting the Greater Los Angeles area--improving employment possibilities, curtailing crime and violence, and building community.

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By signaling the foundation’s interest in these areas, top-quality researchers will realize the probability of being funded if they develop good proposals for problem-solving projects.

Our organization is 67 years old. For the past 56 years, we’ve attempted to add to the knowledge and understanding of complex social issues by focusing on investigating and publicizing their causes.

In recent years, we concluded that we could have greater impact if we included a solutions-oriented component and become more pro-active. Accordingly, we developed the Solutions Research Program, adding it to our General Research Grant Program--through which we will continue to fund theoretical social-science research.

Q. Why did you select employment, crime and community as topics for funding?

A. It was an interesting culling process, which took place over a couple of years. These three seemed the most crucial. They kept recurring throughout our board and committee discussions as the Solutions Research Program was being developed.

Curtailing violence and crime is arguably the most critical difficulty we face. The problem has reached crisis proportions--and continues to grow, threatening lives and property throughout the region. The consequences of not reversing the trend are grave. The challenge is to abate the activity without eroding the individual liberties of our free society.

Equally complex and extremely severe, the problems involving employment and the work force are having a profound impact on the region’s economy and leading to a population that is demoralized and suffering hardship. Corporate downsizing, rapid population growth, a technological revolution and a labor pool lacking required skills are part of an intricate equation that must be solved if we are to avoid regional poverty.

The issue of community may be the central one. A significant portion of our population lacks any sense of common ground or common values. People at the margin feel isolated, politically impotent and cynical. Angelenos need to experience community, empowerment and its concomitant responsibility. Defining the appropriate public-policy response to this society-shattering alienation would do much to resolve many of our other major problems.

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Q. What kind of impact will this project have on companies and other foundations if you fund successful proposals?

A. Businesses should benefit. Reduction in crime should reduce the costs of doing business, while increased employment should stimulate spending. If the local economy is improved, new enterprises will be established and out-of-town concerns may be attracted to the area.

And if the research we support does point to meaningful solutions which subsequently do influence policy, other foundations may become interested in seeking solutions in countless other areas.


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