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The Solutions Set: six must-read stories from the last month

   /   Mar 1st, 2014Solution Journalism


Here at Solutions Set, we search out exceptional “solutions journalism”: rigorously reported stories describing what works, what’s being tried, and what failed regarding tough social issues. Community development, poverty, education, economic justice — take your pick. We know these problems are solvable, and it is our mission to seek out the solutions.

Without good information about what works, communities around the globe get stuck “reinventing the solution” or, worse, sticking with the issue. Instead of skimming the news and seeing only the world’s problems, we want everyone to read stories of problem-solvers and their good work. Our monthly column highlights these stories from across the web. With help from the #SolutionsSet community (email us or tweet @DowserJosh), we put together six quick clicks that could transform the status quo.

In this month’s Solution Set: elderly community builders, better disaster response, a drop of blood (instead of a vial), military veterans serving at home, the future of the US post office (hint: checking accounts), and what we missed in January.


Can exercising seniors help revive a Brooklyn neighborhood? (National Public Radio)

Solutions Set places this story under the category “win-win situation.” Pam Fessler describes the convergence of two seemingly unrelated social goods—exercise for the elderly and community development.

Typhoon Haiyan disaster response: how the relief effort worked (The Guardian)

The UN “cluster system,” which first coordinated crisis response groups following the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan, is showing some success in the Philippines. Following the country’s catastrophic typhoon in November, eleven clusters were activated, including health, logistics, and nutrition. An emergency worker suggests the scheme supported effective disaster response, though political tensions have stalled some good work.

INTERVIEW: This woman invented a way to run 30 lab tests on only one drop of blood (

One pinprick + one drop of blood = 30 lab tests? Caitlin Roper interviews Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos, the firm trying to revolutionize standard medical testing. Instead of huge needles, long waits, and high fees, Holmes is pitching novel technology that requires less blood, less time for processing, and less cost than current standard procedures. This early-stage solution could be an economic boon for patients while also increasing their access to information about their personal health.

Veterans at home, on a mission of compassion (New York Times)

Tina Rosenberg chronicles the efforts of The Mission Continues as it tries to scale its impact by shifting its tactics. The organization, which supports soldiers’ transitions home from war by connecting them to service opportunities, is experimenting with a large-group model that differs from its initial focus on a small cohort of individual fellowship winners.

A couple that we missed:


In our January edition of Solutions Set, we highlighted everything from vegetable auctions in the Midwest to plans to educate refugee children in Syria. One piece we didn’t include was the “Gates Annual Letter,” which chronicles the Bill and Melinda Gates Foudation’s efforts on a wide range of issue areas and makes the case for their chosen approaches. It is a valuable contributor to the conversation regarding “who’s solving what and how” – so thanks for your feedback!

OPINION: The Post Office should just become a bank (The New Republic)

Should the mailman offer debit cards and check-cashing? A new report suggests the US Postal Service could save low-income families $2000 per year by providing access to the simple financial services banks won’t. Writer David Dayen notes that, given USPS’s history and current practices, these function are not such a stretch. Further, USPS could charge 90% less than today’s standard rates and still make a profit, offering support to the poor while still stabilizing its own shaky balance sheet. (We initially included this in February’s Solutions Set, but the piece was posted on Jan. 28– a few days too early. Our apologies!)

What did we miss this month? Get in touch via email or @DowserJosh, and you could see your pick in next month’s Solution Set.

Image courtesy of Michael Crawley.

2 Responses

  1. Sri says:

    nice info, thx…

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