skip main menu skip submenu

Are we spending enough time on understanding our problems?

by Chad Lubelsky The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation

In our latest blog, RECODE Program Director Chad Lubelsky shares why we’re backing the first Canadian edition of the Global Challenge and why “falling in love with the problem” matters.


If you haven’t yet read Daniela Papi-Thornton’s article on Tackling Heropreneurship in the February 2016 Stanford Social Innovation Review, I highly recommend it. It’s a call to action on the need to shift our focus from supporting social entrepreneurs to creating more social impact and it provides some examples on how to do so.

One idea with strong resonance here at RECODE was the need to support aspiring social entrepreneurs in increasing their understanding of the problems they are trying to solve. Notwithstanding that a great way to better understand a problem is to try and solve it, we can’t help but think that before prematurely jumping to a solution, the pathway to better solutions includes spending more time immersed with the problem. Additionally, in spending time with a problem, we are increasing the chances of falling in love with the problem and not just the solution. This reinforces an outcome instead of an input mindset.
Yet, focusing on solutions and not problems is deeply entrenched in the way we address complex challenges. The preponderance of challenge weekends and events are but one symptom. And while demonstrating a deep understanding of a problem will more likely lead to robust and effective solutions, it is rarely sufficient enough to generate the necessary funding to get us to the next step. Sparse funding of the exploration phase clearly reflects what we value most. In this climate, how are social change agents supposed to develop their understanding of the problems they want to solve?
Enter Apprenticing with the Problem — funding for learning and not just solving. Skoll’s Global Challenge effectively turns the traditional challenge model on its head by funding the beginning of the social change process and not the end. Apprenticing with a Problem recognizes and builds from the time-honoured social innovation tenet that change is about the journey and the destination.

This is why along with our partners at the Skoll Centre and the Trico Charitable Foundation, we decided to launch the first national edition of the Global Challenge here in Canada.
In conversations with key stakeholders about Apprenticing with the Problem, everyone immediately understood its value and necessity—for me, an almost unique experience working in social innovation. Other key elements of RECODE’s work, such as supporting incubators, helping rewrite curriculum, launching change labs, etc. have all required background explanation and sometimes justification. Not Apprenticing with the Problem — I could literally hear people nodding their heads over the phone. This in-turn generated that wonderful I think we’re onto something feeling.
For all of these reasons, we hope that you are as excited to Apprentice with the Problem as we are! If you want to get involved and learn more, visit us here.

Sep 29, 2016 | Tags: , ,