Workshop 1: Identifying Problems

On February 18, from 5:30 – 7 p.m., DifferenceMaker held its’ first workshop series session of 2021! Over 70 people participated for this exciting virtual event. The focus of Workshop 1 was identifying problems.

Holly Lalos, Entrepreneurial Initiatives Program Director opened the event. She provided a brief overview of the agenda for the evening. Introductions of the guest presenters, Professor Mazen El Ghaziri, Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences, and Professor Tom Wilkes, Kennedy College of Sciences, also took place.

Then, Professor El Ghaziri presented. He asked the student audience – what do you think of when the topic of “problems” is mentioned. Even virtually, this event was interactive and experiential. A Slido poll was used, which allowed students to participate, while showing everyone’s answers in real time.

The answers that participants provided. The larger words came up most frequently.

During the presentation, a variety of interesting past DifferenceMaker team “problem” examples were showcased.

For example, Support our Students, Campus-Wide DifferenceMaker in 2014, noticed a problem on University campuses – Commuter students could not afford food while being on campus all day. On the other hand, students that lived on campus had meal plans that weren’t always being used. With these problems in mind, they created a solution which was a web platform that allowed students to donate meals to students who needed them, discreetly.

Professor Wilkes presented another example of a successful past problem pitch. The CAT MAT, presented by Katie Muise and Michelle Mailloux. They noticed a problem in the physical therapy field; there is no way for patients to relearn how to walk on various surfaces without having to leave the facility. With this key problem in mind, they were able to develop a solution that solved the problem; a mat that mimics various outdoors terrains.

Professor El Ghaziri, Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences, presenting the elements of identifying a problem.

In order to have a strong problem, statistics should be provided. Additionally, backing up the problem by showing its effects on people (showing the “pain”), is a great way to strengthen the problem. Market research, surveys, and interviewing people who could possibly benefit from the problem being solved (customers) are tips to showcase that the problem matters.

Then, an activity took place and breakout groups were formed with two DifferenceMaker Faculty Fellow facilitators in each room acting as mentors. Students chose a topic they were interested in, such as business, environmental issues, engineering related, and more.

This also served as a great networking opportunity for students to meet potential new teammates and gain connections. Each group was able to discuss problems they were interested in, and worked together to complete the “DifferenceMaker Problem Toolkit Worksheet.”

Afterwards, students were able to present their ideas. Issues related to the environment, loneliness while being an international student, food insecurity, chronic pain causing depression, and plastic waste infiltrating our planet, were just some of the problems presented.

Participants presenting their problems and sharing ideas!

Thank you to everyone that joined DifferenceMaker for Workshop 1! To view a video of Workshop 1, visit the DifferenceMaker YouTube Channel. If you are interested in learning how to further develop your idea, build-up your team, and have fun, please register for the upcoming workshops:

Workshop 2 – Assessing Opportunities and Value Propositions – February 22; 5:30-7 p.m.

Workshop 3 – Developing Business Models – February 25; 5:30-7 p.m.

Workshop 4 – Delivering Your Rocket Pitch – March 2; 5:30-7 p.m.