A Roadmap to Solving Today’s Biggest Challenges (Part 1)

–setting the stage

Many challenges from the past are being solved or reduced, although much remains to be done before we can be satisfied with our progress. Diseases are being cured that were once scourges of humanity, yet medicine has light years to go. Food is more plentiful than ever, but millions still die of starvation. And the list of advances and areas left for progress go on.

Many of today’s challenges seem insurmountable. Homelessness, hunger, poverty, human trafficking, etc. Even with all the awareness, money and resources directed at these issues, many often feel we are losing the battles to solve them.

Yet, simply ignoring these issues and hoping they will go away is not an option.

So, what is the solution? How can we make progress? Many are asking, “How do we get more money and resources from people or governments?”  “How do we get more people to care about our topic and open their wallets?”

Honestly, I think those are the wrong questions. Those questions lead to “more of the same.”

I propose that in order to make greater progress on these issues, we must be innovative. We must find innovative solutions to the problems we seek to address.

Yes, this means nonprofits need to embrace innovation and new ways of doing things, something that seems to come hard to many nonprofits.

When I talk to people in “nonprofit land” with the idea of change, I am often greeted with scorn. “How can we innovate when we don’t have enough money to do what we’re already doing?” “We’re under-resourced and can’t incorporate new methods and stuff.” “If we had as much money as industry, sure we could do that. But we don’t have enough money, so we can’t incorporate innovation.”

It’s always disappointing when I hear comments along these lines. It’s a mindset issue. It shows a “Let me find the problems, then stop” mindset. A better mindset would lead to the question, “How can we find and implement innovative ideas?” Or more generally and directly, “How can we make the progress that has eluded us?”

What if we realized that we can’t afford NOT to innovate? Our current progress is not sufficient.

What might innovation look like?

A great example is what is happening in the third world related to power. The traditional idea would be to build huge electric grids to supply electricity to a country. Instead, a variety of innovations are using innovative technology to address this issue. They are skipping the large expenditures in traditional power and leapfrogging directly to solar power. The costs are massively less, and the infrastructure produced is more resilient. That’s innovation.

Another example was micro-lending. Until Muhammad Yunus came up with Grameene Bank, the consensus was you couldn’t loan money to the poor around the world and expect to get paid back. He innovated and came up with a brand-new way to help people out of poverty.

What is your “cause”? What completely new and innovative ways could you employ and deploy to address that cause?

I’m looking for innovators of all stripes who want to identify unique and actionable solutions to today’s biggest problems. All you need is; 1) A passion to find solutions to help others; 2) A willingness to “throw out the playbook”; 3) An eagerness to be part of a pioneering team.

If you believe in the saying, “Don’t tell me why it won’t work, tell me how to make it work,” or “Those who say it is impossible should get out of the way of those of us who are doing it,” I’d love to connect and discuss possibilities. Let’s get together, build the ground floor and design this movement of catalysts to “Help others to help others”. Reach out to me below ⤵︎


Michael Barnes
Michael Barnes
Michael Barnes is founder and CEO of Awakened Innovations, Inc. Awakened Innovations helps nonprofits to save time and money by connecting them with high-quality, vetted, service providers. Previously, Michael has been a business coach; Director of Lab Operations at, Assurex Health (a genetic testing laboratory); and built the Cincinnati Biobank and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Michael’s overarching passion is to help others succeed and fulfill their mission in life.

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  1. A really thought-provoking post, Michael. The idea of micro-lending has possibilities for certain areas. My current interest that pulls at my heart strings is dementia and the rising numbers found in the wave of baby boomers. I am intrigued by the vagus nerve connection and the brain. I would support knowing more of research being done and contributing as I could to those involved. Awareness breeds interests for all. As for innovative ways, I feel finding contract with unique partners in both the non-profit and profit strand is always beneficial. I appreciate this post today Michael. Much to think about!

    • I’m glad it has provoked thought and look forward to hearing some of the outcomes of your thought, Maureen.

      Diseases of age are certainly an area of growing need. We live longer meaning we are more susceptible to diseases that used to not show nearly as much. Because we were dead! I spent 20 years in biomed (grad school, academic research, genetic testing lab) and love all the progress we’re making. And know there are ways to do it better faster cheaper, still.

  2. A discussion well worth having, Mike! Having grown up in an era where everything I’m taking for granted today was the stuff of science fiction, I KNOW there are answers to most any problem, even if we haven’t come up with them yet.

    An old adage attributed to Henry Ford: “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t — you’re right.”