What is SolveSpark?

SolveSpark is a social platform that welcomes all people to post and discuss any kind of problem or idea. Topics discussed can range anywhere from, "the lunches served at the school cafeteria are terrible," all the way up to, "how can we solve world hunger?" Traditionally, only the people in power get to solve these problems. Now everyone can play a part.

SolveSpark will feature robust and intuitive data analytics that will seamlessly integrate simple problem-solving tools to help users define the problem, dig to its root cause, define requirements, compare alternatives, and ultimately, find the best solution. This will enable users to "crowd-solve" problems together in a methodical, comprehensive, and transparent manner.

SolveSpark's data analytics will undergo continuous improvement to derive meaning from user feedback and optimize problem-solving guidance. Analytics will help users identify vulnerabilities, such as risks, information gaps, and flaws in reasoning such as group-think and biases. The underlying algorithms will be publicly available to foster transparency and continuous improvement. The interface will remain simple, yet customizable to reach the broadest audiences and maximize potential.

SolveSpark's goal is to include the entire world. We believe that everyone's insights and ideas are valuable, regardless of their race, gender, age, nationality, religion, creed, class, privilege, and even IQ. The more input we gather, the better our solutions will be. SolveSpark wants to be there to capture people's thoughts as soon as the moment of brilliance strikes, before the idea disipates into the ether, never to be seen again.

SolveSpark will give people a voice; not just a voice to those who are used to speaking out, but those who are often underrepresented, like young boys and girls in Afghanistan. Cumulatively, these insights will not only spark countless revelations, but inspire a philosophy of positivity, transparency, and empowerment by showing people that together, we will solve the world's toughest challenges.

What was the inspiration behind SolveSpark?

Back in 2011, I was out for a nightly walk and was thinking about current events. I felt an air of discontent across America. It felt as if people were blaming the president for not having fixed all of their problems. I was so frustrated-- I wanted to tell people that one person cannot magically fix the whole world. We have to get up off the couch and fix things in our own communitites. I reflected on the systems engineering classes I was taking. I was learning project management concepts that could teach anyone how to effectively solve any problem. It was so empowering. I wanted to find a way to share this with the world. And as soon as I had the idea, I knew that I could not let it go. It will be the idea that empowers the world. Humantiy is ready.

What are the key problems SolveSpark is trying to solve?

SolveSpark addresses several problems:

  • Incomplete approach to world problems
  • No voice for the under-privileged
  • Lack of transparency/accountability
  • Wasting precious thought capital
  • Slacktivism is not engagement
  • Unsound problem solving
  • Little coordination between efforts

Chasms exist between decision-makers working to solve critical problems and those actually suffering through crises. SolveSpark gives voices to everyone, including the under-privileged, introducing transparency, accountability, and more comprehensive decision-making.

Most initiatives only seek input from thinkers and philanthropists. By failing to capture everyone's insights, we waste vast amounts of precious intellect.

Two primary ways to support causes online exist-- donate money or click share. SolveSpark's alternative to Slacktivism is active constructive engagement.

Many idea sites put the cart before the horse; SolveSpark discourages skipping key steps before selecting solutions.

SolveSpark creates a centralized location for causes to raise awareness, encouraging causes to join forces, focus their efforts, and maximize impact.

Who is SolveSpark's primary customer?

SolveSpark aims to reach all people and spark positive change throughout the world. Specific groups impacted by SolveSpark:

  • Charity and non-profit organizations will see the general public voicing their opinions on issues that overlap with the organization's missions and may see an increase in awareness, support, and new ideas.
  • Governments worldwide may need to change policy and operations to accommodate changes that are demanded.
  • Researchers may contribute valuable information to SolveSpark, or use discussions as a source of information to drive analysis.
  • Entrepreneurs can capitalize on a new need once it has been identified.

What is the business plan?

SolveSpark will be publicly available for anyone to browse and post to the site. SolveSpark's primary source of income will be through paid monthly and yearly subscriptions for organizations. Organizations are encouraged to establish a profile page to raise awareness on their specific causes and missions, engage users, maximize efforts, and access a customized analytics and tools dashboard.

SolveSpark will likely offer a tiered pricing structure based on available features. Smaller organizations may be eligible for discounts to make their subscriptions more affordable. Trial subscriptions will be available to allow organizations to find the best option before committing to a plan.

Providing services to organizations seeking private SolveSpark instances may create additional sources of revenue.

If these revenue streams prove insufficient, SolveSpark may sell ad space. The content of the ads must be highly-relevant to causes on the website, in order to improve, rather than detract from user experience.

Who are SolveSpark's competitors? What is SolveSpark's competitive advantage?

SolveSpark will challenge users to think critically before arriving at a solution. Many sites promote doing great things, but SolveSpark promotes doing great things responsibly by engaging all stakeholders, defining the problem, outlining requirements, assessing risks, and comparing top solutions.

It excites me greatly that there are a growing number of amazing sites geared towards growing ideas (such as ThinkItUp, IdeaScale, and Innocentive), project management services (such as BaseCamp and Pivotal), and crowdfunding sites. Although these sites can be seen as competition, I choose to see them as inspiration, and even potential partners. SolveSpark will close a gap in the problem-solving process and complement existing services. Partnering with other services would potentially create force multipliers, advancing every cause.

How will you measure social impact?

Social impact will be measured in a variety of ways on the SolveSpark platform. Metrics such as number of users, number of posts, number of votes, demographics reached, and number of problems solved will be gathered and analyzed in real-time.

Social impact in the context of daily life across the globe will be more difficult to measure, however, it is possible that solutions attributed to SolveSpark create enough positive change throughout the world to make a visible difference.

SolveSpark will soon help people tackle the world's toughest problems, including climate change, discrimination, poverty, war, and disease. Perhaps we will transcend the limitations of today's governments and forge a closer relationship between government and the people using SolveSpark.

A true utopia may not be a world where problems cease to exist, but perhaps instead, a world where everyone shows true empathy for one another and bands together to solve problems.

What is SolveSpark's key innovation?

In addition to bringing solid project management practices to the problem-solving process, SolveSpark aims to be a forerunner in data analytics. Analytics will not only process and provide insight into user input and but will also utilize additional user input, such as ratings, to help verify the accuracy of the results and improve algorithms.

Sentiment analysis will help summarize viewpoints, pattern recognition will help detect missing pieces and flaws in logic, and ratings input by users will help rank and organize data.

Analytics will produce infographics that are intuitive, meaningful, and insightful. Interactive simulations will allow users to manipulate and visualize data. Statistical analysis will help decision-makers select a solution.

SolveSpark also seeks to preserve freedom of speech and will explore creating anonymity for users who fear retaliation or other consequences from speaking out. This must be carefully balanced to prevent fraudulent activities.

SolveSpark's Founding Principles

SolveSpark will be publicly available for anyone to access. The qualities that the website will strive to wholly support are universality, transparency, truth, freedom of speech, positivity, and ease of use.

SolveSpark strives to include all people and thus, in design, will do its best to ensure that it is easy to use for people of all ages and education levels.

It is SolveSpark's policy to ensure that positive progress is made. Hateful and destructive messages with no merit are not permitted. SolveSpark will use a combination of user flagging, moderation, and analytics to enforce this policy and prevent the spread of hatred.

Any solution that involves any harm to humans in the short term or long term is not a solution. There will be cases where we are not ready for a valid solution because the technology may not yet exist or society is not prepared; and that is acceptable. However, this site will also encourage various types of solutions that can be temporary to help mitigate other problems in preparation for a real, long-term solution.

Freedom of Speech and Anonymity

SolveSpark aims to uphold freedom of speech worldwide and protect users from retaliation or other consequences. Users will be able to browse and post under an anonymous account that masks such identifying information as IP address, MAC address, and E-mail address from the public.

A limit of one or two anonymous usernames can be added to each account. The user may select from a list of system-generated usernames, containing the word "anonymous".

Because E-mail addresses can be used to identify individuals, we will mask this information from the public and encrypt the E-mail address in storage to protect users' identities in the event of a leak.

SolveSpark will need to explore the possibility of users using anonymous accounts for fraud. In the event that anonymous user input plays a major factor, some additional vetting may need to be performed to make the input count.

Usability

Simplicity is key; with the fast pace of life it takes time, courage, initiative, and frankly, a good memory, to post problems or ideas on a site. Today, smartphone users have an extremely short attention span. Google made it quick, easy, and convenient to do research. Facebook did the same thing for posting updates to a personal page. SolveSpark will strive to do the same by minimizing the complexities of logging a problem or idea.

Posting a problem or idea will not require a login. One can still track the progress with the URL the system provides or a unique tracking number. Posts made by users who have not logged in, will undergo more scrutiny to ensure that the content is not spam.

Users who create an account and log in will be able to set preferences, such as following specific topics, search through their user history, and engage more in communities.

The interface will remain simple to reach the broadest audience. However, there will be a vast array of intuitive tools available for users who want to drive deeper. Users can further explore additional tools based on different customizable dashboard types. SolveSpark will feature a decision-maker's interface that presents facts, figures, and a host of statistical analysis and forecasting tools for authorities that must make the tough decisions.

Transparency vs. masking data

SolveSpark aims to be 100% transparent, however, will mask offensive content to protect minors as well as hateful content deemed meritless or destructive from public view to mitigate the spread of hateful and destructive messages. Masked content may still be viewed by users over the age of 18 if they decide to click the appropriate option. All content will be retained in the event that the information becomes important in decision-making, research, or federal investigations.

SolveSpark's analytics may produce a legitimacy rating for each problem-solution pair calculated based on a number of factors. Problem-solution pairs with low legitimacy ratings should not be executed.

Example use case: DC area commute

There are plenty of places on the Internet where people can vent their frustrations. Additionally, there are now a lot of wonderful places where the highly motivated can take their ideas and turn them into something great.

But what about all of those valuable insights that people have on a daily basis that never amount to anything, because there is nowhere to put them?

SolveSpark will be as easy to use as entering your thoughts into your device and clicking submit. A good way to pass the time while sitting in traffic or on metro may be to whip your smartphone out and post your thoughts, then see moments later that several other people are chiming in and giving constructive feedback.

By the end of the day, there may be a viable solution that can be implemented. You, and everyone else who participated just solved a problem.

SolveSpark will not only provide a place where people can easily vent their frustrations; and it will be more than the average idea-oriented site that implicitly only asks for genius's participation. SolveSpark will capture valuable day-to-day insights from people all around the world.

User types

  1. Unauthenticated User: these users have not logged into an account and may still browse content safe for minors and post their problems, ideas, and comments. Upon submission, they will receive a tracking ID and URL. Users have the option of entering an E-mail address and registering for an account.
  2. Registered Account: these users have registered an E-mail address, username, and password. Users may set preferences and track history. Users may only register one account per E-mail address. SolveSpark will use pattern analysis with information such as IP address and MAC address to reduce instances where users register more than one account to influence voting.
  3. Anonymous account: a feature available to every registered account. Identifying information is masked from public view to foster freedom of speech worldwide.
  4. Expert account: an official account registered to a domain expert. Expert input may have different weight than other users' input depending on the problem. Experts must be verified by a professional organization they are affiliated with and vouched for by other experts.
  5. Organization Account: an official account used to represent an organization. Organizations may be nominated to carry out the execution of certain solutions.
  6. Decision-maker account: a suite of tools and other resources that aid in making decisions. Intuitive, yet powerful statistical analysis tools should be available.

The Big picture and complexity of data

Breaking down a problem into its individual components may be simple, but world is complex and made up of a dizzying array of intertwined relationships. Solving one problem may have unpredictable ripple effects on other problems. Solving many problems at once may introduce a dangerous amount of complexity and uncertainty to the world. Part of the project management process involves identifying constraints, assumptions, risks, and other factors attributed to the problem scenario. With robust analytics we hope to capture the relationships between these factors and those of other problems. The development of simulators will hopefully help mitigate these risks.

Additionally, any assumptions and presumed facts that have the potential influence outcomes must be supported by credible evidence. SolveSpark will be strive to ensure that tough questions are addressed. (For example, many structures such as bridges and levies fail in extreme weather. When these structures were designed, it was assumed that such weather conditions would not occur).

Integrating with other apps

SolveSpark will do its best to integrate with the top social media apps as well as crowdfunding, and idea services to maximize impact.

SolveSpark would also like to partner with services such as Socrata, that makes open government data available to the public. This information would help users make more informed decisions.





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Beth Lee
beth-lee@solvespark.com

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© 2016 Beth Lee