Review of SSIR Sept 2014 article by Kevin Starr entitled “Getting Beyond Hype: Four Questions to Predict Real Impact”
A brutally honest opinion by Kevin on the human tendency to prematurely celebrate an idea based on its prestige, without due attention to systemic evaluation.
In the article, he advises, when evaluating any potential idea, ask yourself 4 fundamental questions:
- Is it needed? Do we have as solution chasing a problem or is there a genuine need? Answering this will lead to clarity of the problem and mission. Remember, impact is about systemic, measurable behavioural change; raising awareness and empowering people is not impact.
- Does it work? If the thing is deployed as designed, under the conditions it was designed, will it work (to solve the problem)?
- Will people use it as designed? Unless people use it in a way they’re meant to, no matter how incredible the product/service may be, it simply won’t work (e.g. western-style toilets in rural settings). Successful interventions usually adhere to local customs and culture; they’re easy to use right, hard to use wrong, and low maintenance.
- Will it get to them? How will you distribute it to the main user? This includes marketing, logistics, transaction.
Don’t get prematurely excited. Examine the issue and the proposed intervention critically (allowing for emergent strategies), and continue to answer these questions in an iterative way.
Many of us are guilty of having solutions to problems that, frankly speaking, are either misunderstood, or simply don’t exist. We then force a solution upon people and try and make it work for our own self-existence.