Better Problems for Better Solutions

Bari Samad
See all of Bari Samad's blog posts

You got a problem with something? Great, because we want it! No, we’re not kidding.

These days the need for technical talent could not be greater in the social benefit sector. In tough economic times, many nonprofits trying to build their capacity remain in need of technology solutions that are beyond their budgets. Pro-bono services from technology volunteers are a great way to put some serious talent to work for you. 

At the same time, technology volunteers claim nonprofits often have a hard time framing problems that technologists can understand to create usable and adoptable solutions. On the nonprofit side, framing complex needs and issues in an actionable way for technology-enabled solutions is not always easy.  

Enter the Net2 problem definition template. At Net2, we want to help you define a problem formulation that a team of world-class technologists can use to create a solution that has the most tangible social impact.

Imagine this: You have access to a huge lineup of techie volunteers with all the time and talent in the world. They are eager, willing and ready to put their specialized skills to work for your project to create a better world.

The catch: Only the best problem formulations will make it to this pool of technical volunteers! In order to build the most impactful solutions, they need concrete and well-articulated problems.

Why is this important?

The simple answer is that crafting specific and compelling problem formulations can be a springboard for developing the most innovative solutions.

Inspired by our friends over at Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) we’ve set up a problem definition template to get you ahead of the curve! This December RHoK held volunteer events in the U.S. and across the globe to deploy practical open technology solutions and address challenging problems to make the world a better place.

Our problem definition template was designed to help you get your project ready for submission to pro-bono opportunities like RHoK. Once you have submitted a project, we’ll follow up with more resources and even some free project consulting. 

Recognizing that time is always scarce, we’ve put together a quick cheat sheet of key questions our team will ask about a submitted problem formulation:

  • Does the problem summary communicate the “essential” details of the problem?
  • Does it situate and contextualize the problem in an effective way? 
  • Will it “save” the technologist from the impossible task of developing solutions that are all things to all people? 

We’ll also take a human-centered approach focused on creating “empathy”. Bearing this in mind, do your problem’s user definitions and stories:

  • http://netsquared.org/sites/all/themes/net2v2/images/bg-list.gif); background-attachment: initial; background-origin: initial; background-clip: initial; background-color: initial; background-position: 0px 0px; background-repeat: no-repeat no-repeat;">Identify the “right” users to design solutions for?
  • http://netsquared.org/sites/all/themes/net2v2/images/bg-list.gif); background-attachment: initial; background-origin: initial; background-clip: initial; background-color: initial; background-position: 0px 0px; background-repeat: no-repeat no-repeat;">Help the technologist develop a “deep” understanding of your users?
  • http://netsquared.org/sites/all/themes/net2v2/images/bg-list.gif); background-attachment: initial; background-origin: initial; background-clip: initial; background-color: initial; background-position: 0px 0px; background-repeat: no-repeat no-repeat;">Are you concretely showing “how” solving the problem will change the user’s life?

Next Steps?

Once we get your problem formulation, a member of our team will follow-up with you to review and consider opportunities for refining the submission. Next, we’ll identify the most appropriate pro-bono channels for submitting your projects. 

And get this -- our 10 favorite submissions will be shared with our friends at RHoK. We can’t promise your problem will be chosen by RHoK to get solved but we’ll help hook you up with the people who can solve it!

Submissions close on December 15, so check out the template and send in your problem formulation right away.