Possible & Proposed Solutions

Possible Solutions

Identifying possible solutions is part of logical problem-solving* and, as such, is an important strategy in proposal writing.  Remember that the one solution you’re proposing may not seem obvious or feasible to the decision-makers to whom the proposal is addressed, so it’s good strategy on your part to show that you’ve considered many possibilities before choosing one.

*Look at a handout that presents a simple overview of The Logical Problem Solving Process and discusses the importance of possible solutions.

To identify possible solutions for your proposal, you may find the following process helpful:

  • Brainstorm all possible solutions to the problem.  Let your imagination range freely.
  • Hone your results to a few feasible possibilities.
  • List out the pros and cons of the feasible possibilities.
  • From the pros and cons, develop a list of criteria common to the feasible possibilities – and your proposed solution as well – so that you can compare solutions using those common criteria.
  • Write about possible solutions, analyzing them according to your common criteria.

For example, with the situation of the increase in the homeless population in a small city, and the desire to address the needs of the homeless, city residents and visitors, and local businesses with respect, possible solutions and pros and cons may include the following (and you can think of even more):

  1. provide a place for the homeless population to stay during the day – currently the shelters are only open in the evenings
    • Pros: could address the number of homeless on downtown streets
    • Cons: cost, length of time to implement, may not address the number of homeless on downtown streets since going to a day center is not compulsory
  2. re-locate the current shelter, which is very near the downtown area
    • Pros: could address the number of homeless on downtown streets
    • Cons: cost, length of time to implement, may not reduce the number of homeless on downtown streets during the day
  3. provide donation boxes for pedestrians, to discourage panhandling and to generate funds that will go directly to services for the homeless population
    • Pros: cut down on panhandling, make sure donations actually go toward services, relatively fast, easy, and inexpensive to implement, respectful of homeless and pedestrian populations
    • Cons: need for particular types of boxes (other communities have had theirs broken into), space needs, possible negative public reaction
  4. remove benches in front of local downtown businesses
    • Pros: easy to implement
    • Cons: takes a convenience away from downtown businesses who rely on visitor pedestrian traffic
  5. enact and enforce legislation about panhandling and loitering
    • Pros: no cost, relatively easy and fast to implement
    • Cons: not respectful of the homeless population, does not provide a service, increased cost to public safety department
  6. gather representatives of homeless services, local businesses, city government, and concerned citizens to create a working group charged with developing and testing two different solutions in the upcoming year
    • Pros: ensure representation of all concerned parties, respectful of all parties; no immediate costs
    • Cons: lengthier to implement, defers action

After developing this list and noting the emerging criteria for decision making – ease of implementation, speed of implementation, cost, respect – you might decide that the most feasible solutions are items 1, 3, and 6, eliminating the others. Based on these criteria, you can then write 1-2 paragraphs of possible solutions before getting to your proposed solution.

Try It

You are a health care worker with a problem – your counterparts on other shifts are not leaving the clear, detailed notes that you need in order to maintain patient care.  Your proposed solution is to provide training and specific examples of what needs to be recorded to ensure consistent delivery of services.

  • What are some other possible solutions, along with their pros and cons?
  • What criteria emerge from your investigation of other possible solutions?
  • Out of these possibilities, which ones may be the most feasible, according to those criteria?

Proposed Solution

Your proposed solution section should offer your solution specifically, with enough detail so that your reader understands exactly what you’re proposing. Indicate how your proposed solution will solve the problem and provide tangible benefits. Specifically, explain how it will meet the objectives and abide by the constrains outlined in the problem definition. Give concrete examples. Show the specific differences between “how things are now” and “how they could be.” Be as logical as possible. Emphasize the results, benefits, and feasibility of your proposed idea.

Also use your criteria, developed as you considered possible solutions, to anlayze your proposed solution against the other possible solutions.  This is where your pros and cons come in – you can use your brainstorming and idea development to create the evidence to back up your particular solution and prove that it’s better than the others.  Show that your proposed solution is more cost effective, easier to implement, etc. than other proposed solutions.

For example, with the situation of the increase in homeless in a small city, your proposed solution is to provide a free lunch program to reduce homeless population on the streets during peak business hours.  This solution would cut down on the homeless approaching local and visiting pedestrians and provide an additional service to the homeless population.  Using your criteria, this solution is easy and relatively fast to implement using existing service locations, and less costly than other possibilities, since homeless services can solicit food donations from local stores and businesses.  Even with some increased costs for food, electricity, and water, and with the need for some additional staffing, you consider that this solution is the best in terms of ease, cost, and maintaining respect for all concerned.

When writing your proposed solution for this example, you’d provide details on proposed increases in food and utility costs, proposed numbers of homeless served, and specific ways of staffing.  You would need to specify the days that this service would be offered – 7 days a week, Monday-Friday, or some other configuration. You would analyze and explain how this proposed solution is better than the other options in terms of your criteria, and provide details and evidence that support this assertion. Remember that your proposed solution is the heart of your proposal.

Last Word on Proposed Solutions

Make sure, in the proposed solution section, to focus on “what” your solution is and “why” it is the best.  The other sections of the proposal that follow the proposed solution will expand on the “how,” “who,” “when,” and “where.”