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

   /   Feb 1st, 2014Solution Journalism


Start the month with six solutions to some of the world’s toughest problems.

Every day we learn more about who’s solving what and how they’re doing it. Sometimes these stories are brought to you by Other times we see inspiring, compelling reporting about people’s responses to social problems elsewhere.

Wherever they come from, the Solutions Set brings these stories to you! We present a roundup of the best solutions journalism we’ve seen in the last month: stories about creative solutions to social problems, groundbreaking works-in-progress, and even solutions that didn’t work out.

What you do with this set of solutions – get inspired, get curious, get involved – is up to you (keep us informed though!).

The Solutions Set is a collaborative project that relies on the input of all those who are passionate about social change. We’ll be back next month – but we need your help. If you think we missed something this time, or if you want to make sure a story gets to us before we finalize our selection for next month, leave a comment, email our Solutions Set editor or tweet @DowserJosh. We’d love to hear from you.

This month’s Solutions Set includes: commentary on the “war on poverty” – a bold statement from a former prime minister – new vitality (and vegetables) in rural America – a clear-eyed perspective on market-based solutions – the beginnings of a venture capital revolution in India – and why high school students could be setting aside their cellphones (or not) in the weeks to come.


1. In the long war on poverty, small victories matter (New York Times)

Fifty years after the United States declared a “war on poverty,” has the country made progress? Acknowledging the challenges, David Bornstein offers updates on several promising trends: rigorous impact assessment, investment in effective interventions (especially prevention), and wide-scale adoption of proven projects.

2. A brilliant scheme for making sure Syria’s child refugees get an education (The Guardian)

The conflict in Syria has displaced millions of families from their homes, and kept hundreds of thousands of children from classrooms. Former British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, offers support for a landmark UN plan to guarantee education for refugee children, and focuses on scaling an innovative local solution that empowers both teachers and students.

3. Dump your cellphone? High-school students to unplug for three days (Seattle Times)

Could you detach from digital technology for three days? In this dispatch from the Seattle Times’ “Education Lab” series, Claudia Rowe highlights a potential solution to the issues faced by tech-native kids. The most significant insight gleaned from the “technology fasts” so far? Without the ability to send last-minute texts, high school students must learn the skill of planning ahead.

4. How a fruit and vegetable auction in rural Ohio helps Appalachian farmers thrive (YES! Magazine)

“Go big or go home” is likely a familiar adage to the US farmers in Erin L. McCoy’s story – they just might not believe it. McCoy traces how fruit and vegetable auctions allow smaller-scale growers to interact with big-time buyers. These novel markets are a financial boon for farming families. They’ve proven similarly worthwhile to major chefs, discerning patrons, and even local students.

5. Somak Ghosh: A Contrarian approach to impact investing (Dowser)

In addition to assessing the state of impact investing, Somak Ghosh describes plans for his new investment fund and explains why impact investment focused on “superior returns” is what the market needs.

6. OPINION: How to build a market for eyeglasses (NextBillion)

In a short piece on NextBillion, Paul Polak and Mal Warwick argue for the central role of markets in solving tough problems – like the vision challenges of 700 million people.

The Solutions Set is a new project and we’d love to know what you think. What did you like? And what did we miss? Tweet @DowserJosh or send us an email.

Picture courtesy of Michael Crawley.

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