A roadmap to solving Today’s Biggest Challenges (Part 1)

Setting the Stage

by Michael Barnes

Many challenges from the past are being solved or reduced, although much remains to be done before we can be satisfied with our progress. Diseases are being cured that were once scourges of humanity, yet medicine has light years to go. Food is more plentiful than ever, but millions still die of starvation. And the list of advances and areas left for progress go on.

Many of today’s challenges seem insurmountable. Homelessness, hunger, poverty, human trafficking, etc. Even with all the awareness, money and resources directed at these issues, many often feel we are losing the battles to solve them.

Yet, simply ignoring these issues and hoping they will go away is not an option.

So, what is the solution? How can we make progress? Many are asking, “How do we get more money and resources from people or governments?”  “How do we get more people to care about our topic and open their wallets?”

Honestly, I think those are the wrong questions. Those questions lead to “more of the same.”

I propose that in order to make greater progress on these issues, we must be innovative. We must find innovative solutions to the problems we seek to address.

Yes, this means nonprofits need to embrace innovation and new ways of doing things, something that seems to come hard to many nonprofits.

When I talk to people in “nonprofit land” with the idea of change, I am often greeted with scorn. “How can we innovate when we don’t have enough money to do what we’re already doing?” “We’re under-resourced and can’t incorporate new methods and stuff.” “If we had as much money as industry, sure we could do that. But we don’t have enough money, so we can’t incorporate innovation.”

It’s always disappointing when I hear comments along these lines. It’s a mindset issue. It shows a “Let me find the problems, then stop” mindset. A better mindset would lead to the question, “How can we find and implement innovative ideas?” Or more generally and directly, “How can we make the progress that has eluded us?”

What if we realized that we can’t afford NOT to innovate? Our current progress is not sufficient.

What might innovation look like?

A great example is what is happening in the third world related to power. The traditional idea would be to build huge electric grids to supply electricity to a country. Instead, a variety of innovations are using innovative technology to address this issue. They are skipping the large expenditures in traditional power and leapfrogging directly to solar power. The costs are massively less, and the infrastructure produced is more resilient. That’s innovation.

Another example was micro-lending. Until Muhammad Yunus came up with Grameene Bank, the consensus was you couldn’t loan money to the poor around the world and expect to get paid back. He innovated and came up with a brand-new way to help people out of poverty.

What is your “cause”? What completely new and innovative ways could you employ and deploy to address that cause?


I’m looking for innovators of all stripes who want to identify unique and actionable solutions to today’s biggest problems.

All you need is: 1) A passion to find solutions to help others; 2) A willingness to “throw out the play book”; 3) An eagerness to be part of a pioneering team.

If you believe in the saying, “Don’t tell me why it won’t work, tell me how to make it work,” or “Those who say it is impossible should get out of the way of those of us who are doing it,” I’d love to connect and discuss possibilities. Let’s get together, build the ground floor and design this movement of catalysts to “Help others to help others.”


This was cross published at:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *