How do you typically solve a problem? From work to personal life, we are faced with situations and mysteries that we have to find an answer for. Some problems can be addressed in a straightforward way, and others can require research. More than that, there are some problems you can never solve unless you know one key detail that helps everything else make sense. When dealing with a problem that involves multiple sides, like a social impact problem, how can you find a solution that takes care of almost everyone?
Here’s why we say “almost everyone”: every person has their own idea of what the solution should be. Naturally, social impact problems call for some compromise when involving multiple stakeholders. However, the priority is to help the stakeholders who are impacted most directly and who are most vulnerable. Luckily, solutions can evolve overtime through conversations, feedback, and action to build a better balance for all the people involved.
Having a relationship allows you to uncover insights that aren’t easily known to someone outside of a problem. This also helps you unlock a certain kind of power. Not only will you know insights, but insights from different perspectives. Meaning, one of two things (maybe a bit of both):
- You know the solution since you understand the issue’s moving parts that can work together.
- You understand why the solution is complicated since you see the issue’s moving parts that conflict with each other.
In a scenario of building a better balanced solution, the only way to get to the answer is through the problem. You can solve social impact problems by regularly asking questions to stakeholders of the issue.
Why ask questions?
This is not sarcasm. We’re serious about questions and curiosity.
Asking your stakeholders questions regularly gives you a fuller understanding of what’s going on prior, during, and after the solution process. It’s a way to keep tabs on the latest happenings, revelations, and evolutions of the social issue you are monitoring. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know.
Things you know (consciously or subconsciously).
Things you know that you don’t know.
Things you don’t know that you don’t know.
If you never know, and never try to figure out what you don’t know, you’ll find it difficult to improve the solution you offer. Work instead on a human-centered design approach that gets real insights from real stakeholders.
Solution Process: Questions for Prior, During, and After
We’ll offer you general questions that you can edit for your specific social impact issue and solution. Even if you don’t use the exact wording, we encourage you to pay attention to the overall direction of the questions. Before you get to the next part, here are notes on reading the questions:
[x] = fill in
Example of shared perspective: teacher and teacher
Example different perspectives: teacher and student
(*where perspective refers to a person’s role in an issue, not their opinion of an issue)
Examples of timeframe: a number of days, weeks, months, or similar.
Issue: General questions about an issue before offering a solution.
- How would you describe the problem in your own words?
- If you could do it today, what’s the first thing about [issue] that you want to change?
- I noticed [describe an observation], have you experienced anything similar?
- I talked with [describe stakeholder from a different perspective] who shared that [describe person’s insight]. Does anything change for you when that happens for them?
- I talked with [describe stakeholder from a shared perspective] who shared that [describe person’s insight]. How much do you agree or disagree with that idea/ statement/ experience?
- Have you ever experienced a similar problem to this issue during a different part of your life?
- How frequently do you experience [issue/situation]?
- Who do you worry about the most when [issue] happens?
- Is there anything about [issue] that you feel no one pays attention to?
- What will you be able to do if the problem is solved?
Function: General questions about a solution’s functionality in the life of stakeholders.
- The [feature/aspect of solution] is meant to [describe purpose of feature/aspect]. Does this match the experience you had so far, and why or why not?
- Can you list one or more tasks that this solution positively impacts in your life?
- Does the solution have any negative impact so far?
- How frequently do you use the solution?
- Is there any part of the solution that is not easy to use in your life?
- Is there any part of the solution that takes more work than you thought?
- Are there any parts of the solution that you don’t need there?
- Did the solution help you in any other area of life that you weren’t expecting?
- How likely are you to recommend the solution to someone else?
- If you made an upgraded version of the solution, what would that look like?
Impression: General questions about a stakeholder’s feelings towards the solution.
- When the solution was first introduced, what did you think?
- Did you have any concerns about the solution before using it?
- After using it, did you have less concerns or more concerns?
- Can you list one or more emotions you felt while using the solution?
- Can you list one or more emotions you felt after using the solution?
- I talked with [describe stakeholder from a different perspective] who shared that they want to [describe person’s suggestion]. What do you think about this idea, and would it impact you?
- I talked with [describe stakeholder from a shared perspective] who shared that they want to [describe person’s suggestion]. What do you think about this idea, and could that impact you?
- What do you think is the strongest part of the solution: the idea, the use, or the presentation?
- What do you think is the most lacking part of the solution: the idea, the use, or the presentation?
- What movie would you choose to describe your experience with the solution?
Follow Up: General questions about the stakeholders and solution after time passed.
- I haven’t seen you in/since [timeframe]. Do you still consider the issue a problem, and why or why not?
- Are you still using the solution, and why or why not?
- If you found a different solution, what made the other solution a better fit for you?
- If you still use the solution, has anything changed in the way you use it?
- Has the solution become part of your normal routine?
- Did the solution give you consistent results and work as expected?
- Did you want to suggest any improvements now that you used the solution for [timeframe]?
- Can you share any tips to help first-time users of the solution?
- Have you recommended the solution to anyone you know?
- Are you willing to do another follow-up in [timeframe]?