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It was at breakfast with a handful of colleagues at the ranch of former President Vicente Fox of Mexico while discussing the issues facing Mexico, when President Fox brought up with us the example of Haiti. His comments, paraphrased below, serve to explain the motivation for the present work.

“So many, perhaps thousands, of nonprofit organizations in Haiti, working for the betterment of that country over so many decades, and yet the well-being of that country has not improved appreciably. The efforts are massive but disordered, fragmented. Each works along the path of its own understanding of what needs to be done, sometimes doing double work unnecessarily, and sometimes even working against each other unwittingly. They often vie for the same funding and volunteers, reporting to their constituents with beautiful pictures and positive progress reports on their websites of the few whom they’ve been able to serve. But they haven’t really moved the needle.”

In this age of fragmentation, the present work is a proposal for a new approach and framework for solving large-scale, complex human challenges. These challenges are very hard to solve using normal methods because they involve too many moving pieces and are caused by too many factors—some interrelated—for normal problem solving to work. These are problems that seem so hard to solve that we often dismiss or even scorn the proposition that they may be solvable. If someone tells us, “I’m going to solve poverty,” we will generally congratulate their optimism and energy, forgive their naïveté, and hope that their efforts might at least have some positive impact.

The human mind tends towards the hope of finding silver bullet solutions, or in making a difference on a small scale with the expectation that success, or at least enthusiasm, will scale up. We at deliberately choose not to pursue that quest, with all due respect and support for those seeking silver bullet solutions, and instead focus on a different kind of solution approach that does not depend on silver bullets or massively scaled replication of a single solution.