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Brief Explanation Introduction

What is your solution?

Having defined the problem clearly, you should now address potential solutions to the problem. This needs to begin with an analysis of the root causes of the problem. Then consider what could be done to address those causes, including what solutions are already being tried (in business this might be called Competitors Analysis, although social entrepreneurs often want to work together to solve the issue and so welcome ‘competition’!).

Why are the existing solutions not working? Are they effective but just not at a large enough scale? Or are they ineffective? What is better about your proposed solution?

The aim here is not to set out a complete business plan describing everything that you will do. Rather it is to set out at a high level what is needed to address the root cause of the problem.

  • Problem: 60% of ex-prisoners re-offend again after leaving prison, at huge cost to taxpayers
  • Analysis: People who have been convicted are stigmatised by their criminal record. As a result they cannot get jobs after leaving prison. They often have little alternative but to return to crime to make ends meet.
  • Solution: Create businesses that directly employ ex-offenders. Run a campaign for employers to show that people with criminal records deserve a second chance. Demonstrate that in many cases ex-offenders are even more motivated to get a job than those without a criminal record.

There are lots of great tools for coming up with solutions that you can use to supplement this part of the toolkit. One of our favourites is IDEO’s Human Centred Design.


Case Study

SolaRise defines as its vision ‘the eradication of the use of dirty fuels such as kerosene from usage in sub-Saharan Africa’. SolaRise might brainstorm the following solutions:

Sell solar kits to replace kerosene

Run a public health campaign to advise people of the risks of using kerosene

Install re-chargeable batteries in homes; run stalls in the village where people can charge up their batteries each day

Sell products that don’t require conventional fuel; for example fuel-efficient cook-stoves that can be run on fuel such as compressed dung pellets (biomass) or recycled agricultural waste.


For the problem that you are addressing, set out the following:

  • What are the root causes of the problem?
  • Who are the key actors involved?
  • What solutions are already out there? Why are they not working? What is working that you can build on?
  • Who is executing on these solutions?
  • What else could be done to address the problem?


Don’t feel constrained simply by business solutions; also consider charitable or other options. Also don’t be limited to the solution that you are currently working on; in fact it’s better if you come up with as many different (ideally left-field) solutions, as possible. Come up with at least five solutions. Create a table with their pro’s and con’s and how they would influence the problem and the root cause of the problem.

Indicate if these solutions build upon the existing solutions and improve them or if it is a completely new approach.

What is special / different about the solutions?

Rank each of your solutions by cost and impact. Give them a rank from 1 (low) to 5 (high).

Select one solution with which you want to go forward.

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