Skip to content
The Innovation Process
Module 1.4

Challenge Brief

Bring together everything you've learned in the first innovation milestone

What is it?

With the results of the above activities, you are now ready to frame the challenge and put all of your hard work together in a narrative document, the Challenge Brief  a key milestone for your innovation project.

The Challenge Brief consists of:

  • a clear statement of the problem (root causes, key stakeholder groups, etc).
  • a discussion of why it matters (what’s at stake).
  • an articulation of what’s needed (prioritisation of gaps that need to be filled).
  • a set of strategic objectives for meeting those needs.

While you have spent some time assessing the state of affairs and diagnosing root causes, you will also need to acknowledge any core assumptions and hypotheses you may have about designing solutions to meet your strategic objectives.

This is the opportunity to develop a set of research questions to generate information critical to the ideation and design process, and be transparent about the assumptions, risks and key criteria that should therefore guide your endeavours.

Why should I do it?

The Challenge Brief transforms your recognition of a problem into an actionable project – a critical milestone. Practically speaking, a challenge brief is a valuable tool for:

  1. gaining political and institutional support around a demonstrated need or opportunity.
  2. building a team around a set of defined objectives.
  3. going after grant funding or early stage investment for the development of potential solutions.

But perhaps more important, by taking stock of existing knowledge on your topic, and making time to properly consider the information you have compiled, a more holistic and mature picture can emerge of the nature, scope and scale of your problem.

This ensures a responsible and informed approach toward innovation – one that is grounded in evidence and focused explicitly on the achievement of strategic impact. Such an orientation ensures that innovation is never taken up as an end in itself but is rather the means by which to achieve positive impact for crisis-affected populations.

How do I do it?

The Challenge Brief will draw from the Starting Point Assessment and Diagnosing Root Causes and Contributing Factors work you have done to date, aggregating the results of the exercises and activities into a comprehensive, cumulative document. This document will include:

  • Problem Statement: A clear and concise description of the nature, characteristics and scope of the problem you are dealing with, or opportunity you are responding to. Who is this a problem for? How does it play out? Where? Why? It also articulates What’s at Stake, laying out the case for action and the potential consequences of inaction.
  • Impact Goal: A clear and concise statement of the specific impact you wish to deliver, towards which all other elements in your endeavour are oriented. While you are not yet ready to develop solutions, now is the time to develop your vision of what an end goal for a solution would be. What is the ultimate goal that will guide an innovation team through the journey, and will enable you to get ‘buy-in’ from stakeholders? A good goal statement is expressed in terms of the change in conditions we wish to make.
  • Design Criteria: A set of measurable criteria that you can use to make a judgement on whether a proposed solution is viable and is likely to contribute effectively to you reaching your Impact Goal. Developing your design criteria helps you to ‘ground’ your goal. It provides those who will search for potential solutions, or look to invent a new solution, with a set of criteria that the solution should meet. What these criteria are will vary considerably from problem to problem. They may be very specific, or quite high level.
  • Questions: A set of questions that will guide the next phase of research. Even after your Starting Point Assessment and the work on Root Causes and Contributing Factors, you will find there may still be many unanswered questions. The next phase of work – where you search and then adapt or invent your solution – ought to be informed by additional, more in-depth research (now that you’ve honed in on your target).
  • Assumptions: A list of assumptions that have been made in your understanding of the problem. What assumptions have you made about the problem? Could you have made any about the potential solution, particularly in your design criteria? Tracking and testing these assumptions will be a major activity during the invention, pilot and scale stages of the innovation management process.
  • Risk: A risk matrix. Risk is a function of probability (likelihood) that an adverse event might play out, and the impact (or consequences) of that event. In humanitarian emergency environments, risk is compounded by the volatile nature of the operating context, and the vulnerability of crisis-affected populations (key stakeholders in your innovation journey). This requires you to think about the potential negative impacts on people; our staff; volunteers; and crisis-affected groups. Even at the outset of an innovation journey it is critical to understand as much as possible about the potential risks that may play out as a result of your efforts.

Let’s work through some activities to help you explore how this is done.

Activities

1.4 A Revise your problem statement
It's time to review and revise your draft Problem Statement.
1.4 B Set an impact goal
This activity is aimed at writing a clear and brief statement of the specific external impact you wish to create through your product, process or service.
1.4 C Define your design criteria
This activity will help you to define the attributes and outputs an innovation needs to achieve to be seen as a viable solution to the problem.
1.4 D Finalise your Challenge Brief
In the final activity of the Recognition stage, you can now complete your Challenge Brief. This is a key document to prepare you for the next stages of the innovation process.