Problems come in different shapes and sizes. Some may be very specific and relevant for a local community, others can outline grand global challenges. Once we define the criteria that make up the type of good problems we’re looking for, we start our research.
The aim of this research is not to do a thorough literature review of different problem areas, but to get a high level understanding of whether specific problems are worth pursuing or not.
Once we find a problem that seems to hold up to our criteria, we start researching it in greater detail. We try to understand:
- What is the problem in need for a solution? Why is this a problem?
- What are the barriers preventing progress? What kind of barriers are they (e.g. technological, social, political, economical)?
- Who does this problem affect? Who would benefit from a solution? Who are the users of potential solutions?
- How much interest is there in solving this problem? Are there existing initiatives looking at tacking this problem?
- What is currently being done to solve the problem? Why is this not enough/ not working?
- What are some of the emerging solutions that could help solve the problem? What are their strengths and limitations? How likely is it that they will solve the problem?
- What would an ideal solution took like?
We see this process more like investigative journalism than academic research. We want to know whether this is a worthy problem for people to invest time and resources in.
All the relevant materials gathered during the research process go into “The Canon”. This is made up of:
- Key literature on the problem and underlying causes;
- Key resources with relevant statistics to support the significance of the problem;
- Key materials about solutions being developed to address the problem;
- Key people and organisations who understand the problem and/or are working on solutions.