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How You Can Improve Your Sustainable Urban Communities Solution

Are you applying to the Sustainable Urban Communities Challenge? The question we’re asking: How can urban communities increase their access to sustainable and resilient food and water sources?

Cities are big complex systems, but you don’t have to tackle all parts of urban sustainability at once. In fact, we’d rather see you tackle one specific aspect in a thoughtful and precise way. As we head into the last week of submitting and editing submissions, we wanted to provide some thoughts on how to present your idea to maximize its impact and its potential for selection for pitching at the Solve Challenge Finals. Beyond the mantra of ‘Do Less, Better,’ here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  1. Can you be more specific in describing what you do or plan to do?
  2. Do you provide a good? A service? A platform? What about your approach will lead to scalable social impact? For ideas at the research stage, how will you reach an initial population of users? 

  3. What specific problem within the challenge does your solution address?
  4. Emphasizing how you relate to helping communities access sustainable water and/or food is key, but be as specific as you can: local food and food waste, local water treatment, water infrastructure, food supply chains, and many more. Spend more time explaining your actions and business model than why the challenge is important. Our judges understand the motivation for why we chose this Challenge!

  5. How are you differentiating yourself from similar ideas? 
  6. Many ideas are similar—similar technology, similar business models, similar geographies. How are you different and innovative so that Solve should support your work through selection as a Solver? Some specific areas to think about:

    • Mention aspects of your local context that you have designed for or dealt with yourself. Great solutions will engage with local communities’ socio-political context in each new location. 
    • Be clear about your technology: What is under development, being piloted, or off-the-shelf? How are you managing those respective risks?
    • How will your approach lead to larger social impact for your target region or populations than other models?
  7. Are you being honest about your financial needs and time horizons?
  8. Be realistic in your timeline projections and financial needs, high or low, certain or not. Some solutions will know that they need US$160,000 while others will only have an estimate. Some solutions are ready now, others will take three or more years just to pilot. Solve does not select solutions based on funding needs or time horizon, but on whether the ideas have the potential for large, lasting impacts. So, you will not be judged for needing a large amount of capital—just on whether you’re able to Solve big problems.

We look forward to reviewing everyone’s solutions, as long as you hit submit by August 1st at 5pm U.S. Eastern Time. Create an account or log back in now to submit your solution to the Sustainable Urban Communities Challenge today.

Photo courtesy of Adam Schultz showing Alexander Dale hosting a workshop with Solve's Sustainability Community during Solve at MIT in May 2017.


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