As we approach the end of Milestone 2 (“Needs Assessment”), you have probably noticed that Project Partners often do not respond to your questions according to our time frames, or have other, more important priorities, or often do not know the answers themselves. Remember that many times these are capable people who, like us, are trying to do good, but are themselves figuring exactly how. Add that often times they have developing country-related constraints, and if your are not careful, you could spend most of the semester “waiting for answers”.
Please recall what we mentioned in class last Wednesday: to avoid that stagnation, your team must set internal deadlines for receiving outside input, and once past that, you must leverage the insights gained from your own research of the problem at hand to make educated assumptions and move forward. As much an effort as NextLab makes to bring you interesting, on-the-ground problems to solve, do not, for a minute, make the mistake of thinking that they will come as discrete, clearly defined matters that you can quickly grasp and address as though it was a quantitative problem-set on a sheet of paper. These are mostly social, not technical problems, so you must think how to address them as such using technology, not the other way around. And learn to deal with the many shades of gray you will encounter, to make decisions, and to learn from them whether they turn out to be the right or the wrong ones. We feel that that’s one of they key skills you should develop at NextLab.
In sum, stop waiting, start defining. You must be readying yourselves for Milestone 3 by now.