Problem-First Thinking in detail

Problem-First Thinking is a revolutionary approach to problem design.

Our process mentors and supports you—up stream. To help you design and structure a deliberate, cogent problem—from the beginning. We use problem design to lower your risk and increase your impact—not for quick fixes but for long-term, effective outcomes that serve more people.

Here’s how

/acumen: the ability to make good judgements and correct decisions; keen, perceptive/

Problem acumen

You ask yourself: Will the work we do help lives get better?

You would like to be more thoughtful and diligent about the problems to which you dedicate limited resources and time.

But: The problem with problems is that they hurtle toward us. Or they drop on our head. Or we inherit them. These quandaries can lead to the questions like “Am I working on the right problem?” “Am I distracted by solutions-first thinking?”

And from the perspective of questions like these, you lose sight of the fact that beginnings matter. Really matter.

Now imagine we're working together

You are no longer compelled to leap toward a solution.
Instead you get the problem right. The Problem becomes your asset.

To help lives get better, we will

  • Develop the mindset to work the problem first
  • Identify and explore the problem that helps your team communicate effectively and respectfully
  • Define a deliberate and cogent problem with a clear purpose
  • Reassess your goals in light of The Problem

/craft: skill and experience in carrying out one’s work/

Problem craft

You ask yourself: Will we help the community flourish?

You want to help solve problems on the part of people affected by crises.

But: You haven't had the time to study the problem's history and language. You are not sure of its culture. You haven’t yet investigated who else has worked on or knows about your problem? And you are not clear about how best to talk this problem through with your community.

Now imagine we're working together

You understand the problem’s core logic, history and language. You understand the desires, needs and capabilities within your community. You craft a deliberate and disciplined problem that leads to much better results because you framed it to afford people greater autonomy, equity and resilience.

To help lives get better, we will

  • Interrogate your problem’s history and map the territory of your problem
  • Research who has or is working on a similar problem
  • Re-evaluate the integrity of the problem in light of your goals and subtract everything that is not essential
  • Discern whether the target community has the means and desire to benefit from your knowledge and assistance
  • Clarify the impact of a well-crafted problem on leadership, funding, project feasibility
  • Determine cost efficacy of the problem

/perspective: regard; point of view; true understanding of relative importance; sense of proportion/

Problem perspective

You ask yourself: Will we illuminate the path to common ground?

You are trying to situate the problem from an optimal vantage point.

But: You are unsure how the scope of the problem helps you forge instrumental partnerships, identify key opportunities and promote collaboration? Do you put the REs in motion? Or, ask the tough question: Is this the time and place to innovate?

Now imagine we're working together

You are able to evaluate the problem from various perspectives. You seize the problem in the right place. You envision the most productive route through the problem to a lasting, effective solution for the greatest number of people. You communicate your problem powerfully, with one voice.

To help lives get better, we will

  • Articulate the scope of the problem and value it correctly
  • Adjust and realign the problem with confidence
  • Decide where to take hold of the problem
  • Ascertain the benefit of strategic trade-offs and qualified solutions
  • Forge beneficial, collaborative, strategic teams and partnerships that lead to common ground
  • Plan to generate momentum with small wins
  • Design a captivating message and communication strategy

/impact: powerful effect or influence/

Problem impact

You ask yourself: Will we help more people?

You have a well-crafted problem that illuminates common ground and now you want to take it into the field.

But: Your success depends on being able to scale the problem correctly and leverage it into existing systems and networks. You want to avoid redundancy and market dilution. You are searching for a way to capitalise on common goals and shared resources. You are still unsure how to overcome obstacles among your stakeholders. You are worried about mission drift.

Now imagine we're working together

You are contributing to an ecosystem. You build trust despite disparate agendas. You enjoy a shared vision among team members, partners and the community you serve. You are prepared.

To help lives get better, we will

  • Create a system’s framework to effectively network related projects
  • Integrate recognised expertise as a critical component of common ground
  • Work effectively on concrete goals with a broad range of stakeholders that have diverse priorities
  • Prepare to attract serious long-term investment
  • Anticipate roadblocks
  • Measure what matters