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The diverse groups who mind meld at UAB's Edge of Chaos seek to fix Birmingham's 'wicked problems'

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama--The Edge of Chaos is a unique conference venue and meeting space located in the Lister Hill Library on the UAB campus.

The venue, funded by the UAB School of Public Health, is a place where diverse groups of people -- academics, students, entrepreneurs and area residents -- get together to share ideas, work collaboratively and look for solutions to some of Birmingham's problems.

"This space is designed to capture intellectual capacity, innovation, creativity within the university and do good things with it," said Edge of Chaos director David Hooks prior to a TEDx Birmingham salon at the venue in January.

It is a place where people discuss innovative ways to attack what the venue's web site calls the "wicked problems" that "plague communities" and are difficult to solve.

If you would like to see the venue and sample its atmosphere, you can attend one of the many events at The Edge of Chaos that are open to the public.

Today, the Sparkman Center for Global Health will mark its 35th anniversary from 5:30-8:30 p.m. 

On Thursday, March 20, Robert Thrower -- tribal historic preservation officer and traditional practitioner with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians - will present the Reynolds Historical Lecture, "Creek Indian Medicine, Past and Present: The Application of Traditional Cultural Knowledge in Today's World. The lecture will begin at 11:30 a.m.

The idea for the venue came from author Steven Johnson and his book, "Where Good Ideas Come From."

Johnson says that collaborative solutions to wicked problems occur in an environment that runs a fine line between order and chaos, according to Hooks.

Johnson's book "calls for total chaos meets total organization to meet those ideas happen... hence the name the edge of chaos," Hooks said.

The Edge of Chaos is located on the fourth floor of Lister Hill Library. It is open Monday through Friday, 7 a.m.-6 p.m., and other times by arrangement. For more information, including a complete events calendar, go to


Dispatch from the Edge