About Us

Solution Generators Network (SGN) is a nonprofit based in Durham, NC, that helps organizations and communities enact innovative and sustainable solutions to social and economic problems that hinder them from tapping into their collective potential. Our work is predicated on the idea that there are solutions out there but we lack the necessary networks and organized collective intelligence to put them into implementation. We focus on using cutting edge facilitation methods and new economic strategies to build receptivity to new ideas and bring resources to enhance the implementation of potential solutions

Ruth Backstrom – Executive Director, Engagement Strategist

ruth-backstromAs executive director, Ruth has worked collaboratively with other groups on community awareness building and strategic projects around local food, building worker owned co-ops, and community conversations.  After working with groups for several years, Ruth began studying and bringing thought leaders to Durham to address the issue of creating communication across diverse groups. Her work with TOPS facilitation, Jim Rough’s Dynamic Facilitation (DF) techniques and Rosa Zubizarreta introduced her to the power of self- emergent techniques for diffusing conflict, enhancing creative problem solving, and having groups tap into their collective intelligence.

Formal Education

  • BA in History, Beloit College, Beloit, Wisconsin, MA in Curriculum Design, Columbia University, N.Y.( elementary certification),  PhD in Education, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA (dissertation on the efficacy of small schools)
  • Trained in TOPS methodology (Technology of Participation Strategies), and Dynamic Facilitation, the Public Conversation Project, Life Coaching, and Conversational Intelligence as taught by Judith Glaser.

Relevant Experience

  • Recently co-facilitated training in DF and a Wisdom Council in Asheville, North Carolina. (A Wisdom Council is a day and a half facilitated session with 8-12 randomly selected people around a topic of concern to the community.) Below is a write up of the Wisdom Council in Asheville: http://mountainx.com/news/wisdom-councils-chart-new-pathways-to-direct-democracy-in-wnc/
  • Worked with the city of Durham to help use Dynamic Facilitation to create community listening sessions around budget priorities and issues related to poverty
  • Organized and attended three training seminars (two in Durham and the third in Asheville) in Dynamic Facilitation
  • Brought Birgitt Williams, world expert on system change to provide several mini workshops
  • Collaborated in creating and facilitating DNAGE (the Durham Network of Agriculture and Green Ecosystems Council) – a combined city and resident council working on creating a Food Strategy document for the city.
  • Coordinated and moderated a year-long community film series on food through Transition Durham (SGN is fiscal sponsor for Transition Durham).
  • Coordinated a World Café around local food issues, and another on local economic issues.Gave a TEDx style talk with local NPR host Frank Stasio on the value of local worker owned co-op.