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From the President: Resolving to Solve

MIT’s problem-solving platform takes on pressing global challenges.

To help make sure the kinds of discoveries and ideas that spin out of MIT make a difference in the real world, the Institute is pursuing several novel strategies, from the “tough tech” incubator called the Engine to the ongoing initiative known as Solve.

Solve magnifies MIT’s strengths by focusing creative minds from many sectors and societies on urgent global problems where science and technology can inform potential solutions, but new funding models, reforms in government policy, or shifts in public attitude may be needed to help them succeed. Solve offers an ongoing mechanism for identifying global challenges that are “within the realm of solvability,” soliciting ideas from a community around the world, and then connecting those “Solvers” with people of influence committed to using their creativity and connections to help the solutions fly.

This spring, the Solve community gathered on campus for Solve at MIT. We were grateful for the insight of high-profile speakers, including former secretary of defense Ashton Carter, Xerox chair (and MIT Corporation member) Ursula Burns, and cellist Yo-Yo Ma. But in an important sense, the stars were our 29 Solver teams. Selected by Solve judges from more than 400 prospective teams representing 57 countries, these Solvers inspired us all with their creative solutions to the hard problems Solve defined.

They joined us at a time when humanity confronts a wide range of serious challenges. How to feed a future population of nine billion, on a planet that is not growing any larger. How to repair the lives of the 60 million human beings who struggle today as refugees. How to take effective action against climate change. How to make headway against chronic diseases. How to help make sure that technology continues to create more opportunity than it destroys.

Unfortunately, however, at a time of pressing global challenges, many of the mechanisms and institutions we count on to solve such problems are having serious problems themselves.

This leaves me more certain than ever about the value and potential of the collaborative problem-solving platform we call Solve. If you feel inspired to join us, there are many ways to get involved. Whether you’d like to propose solutions to the latest round of Solve challenges, participate in Solve-a-thons, or sign up for full membership, the problem-solving table has room for everyone!

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